Castle of the Week: Caerlaverock, Dumfries, Scotland, with Blythe Gifford
When I started work on CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, I knew I wanted to take my 16th century heroine away from her beloved Scottish Borders valley to “a castle by the sea.” Lo and behold, I found the perfect one: Caerlaverock.
Caerlaverock, on the coast of the Solway Firth, is the only triangular castle in Britain. Still surrounded by a moat, it is the epitome of the imposing medieval fortress, one that “feared no siege.”
Feared or not, the castle was besieged numerous times over the years, by Edward I of England, by the Scots trying to reclaim it, and after the Union of the Crown, by the Covenanters.
The first castle on the site was probably built around 1220 but the foundation of the current castle was built around fifty years later. The ancestral home of the Maxwell family, it was modified several times over the years, and at the time of its final battle, in 1640, it had been turned into more of a home than a military fortification. Alas, most everything was stripped and part of the castle destroyed in the aftermath of that siege. It survived, in ruins, for years, still owned by the Maxwell family. Today, it is under the protection of Historic Scotland.
My challenge was to recreate for myself and the reader how the castle might have looked in the early 1500’s, before the impressive residential wing was added. Fortunately, I had lots of help. The floor plans are accessible online, as are many views of the castle.
Now open to the public, the castle sits adjacent to a Caerlaverock National Nature Preserve. The marsh which helped protect it from assault in olden times now protects swans, ducks, geese, and a myriad of other wildlife. It is a photographer’s paradise, which meant I had lots of visual fodder for my imagination. I think this is one of the most photographed corners of Scotland! I could see not only the castle, but the surrounding area, which was so different for a heroine who had lived in a landlocked valley.
But in some ways, I loved the images in the old postcards best. They took a more romantic view of the towers, hinting how they might have looked in days of yore, when my heroine came to a castle by the sea.
And here’s a bit about the story.
TO MARRY HIM WILL BE TO BETRAY HER FAMILY
Bessie, the selfless sister of the powerful but stubborn Brunson clan, has sacrificed herself for her family’s honor and is at the mercy of the court of King James. Ill-suited to court life, she must confront their mortal enemy, Lord Thomas Carwell, dressed in nothing but borrowed finery and pride.
Underneath the relentless gaze of her captor, she’s enticed not only by him but also by the opulence of a world far removed from her own. When the furious king demands her brother’s head, Carwell is the only one to whom she can turn. But she must pay the ultimate price for his protection….
Blythe Gifford has been known for medieval romances featuring characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. Now, she’s launched a Harlequin Historical trilogy set on the turbulent Scottish Borders of the early Tudor era: RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, November 2012; CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, January 2013; and TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL , March 2013. The Chicago Tribune has called her work "the perfect balance between history and romance." Visit her at www.blythegifford.com, www.facebook.com/BlytheGifford, or www.twitter.com/BlytheGifford.
Cover Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited; Cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.