Hawthornden Castle is the base of an international writing retreat and I was very privileged to spend the last month there, thanks to the generosity of Mrs Drue Heinz. Here are some pictures to show you what it was like. These photos are of the castle itself, a warm red sandstone castle built on a rock jutting above the River Esk which meanders through a glaciated gorge and once the home of William Drummond. You can apply to go there too! But please don’t apply in 2021 as I want to go back! (Fellows have to wait five years before you re-applying)
Here are the beautiful grounds:
Inside the rooms are beautifully laid out and yet cosy. Pictures of writers crowd the walls.
Fellows are very well looked after and we had a soup and sandwich lunch left outside our door every day. Supper was a delicious home-cooked meal and I had porridge in a pewter bowl for breakfast.
The view of the Pentland Hills can be seen from various vantage points although I never made it there. Here is Wallace’s cave upstream on the Esk and Mavis Bank, downstream of Hawthornden. Such a treasure trove of stories! I did get to Rosslyn Chapel and to Edinburgh where I loved the National Gallery and did some reading in the Scottish Reference Library and in the Scottish Poetry Library. But the Hawthornden Library is crammed with books and I studied many new and old poets. With very little internet signal and no television there are few distractions except for fun and games with fellow Fellows but only after supper. From 9.30-6.30 there is a rule of silence (but we left each other notes).
Hawthornden is pronounced with the stress on the last syllable. Very few people locally seem to know where it is and indeed, while walking about, I often felt completely baffled as to my direction and position in the landscape. Hawthornden is a strange pocket in time and place and is built on top of a labyrinth of caves. So many layers!