Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Castle of the Week: Ardvreck by Vonda Sinclair

Castles of the Week are back, and we're kicking it off today with a post by my good friend and fellow Scottish romance author, Vonda Sinclair! Awesome post and beautiful pics! Enjoy!

                    Ardvreck Castle by Vonda Sinclair

One of the places that inspired several scenes in my book, My Brave Highlander, was the Assynt area of northern Scotland in what is now Sutherland. Ardvreck Castle inspired my Munrick Castle which I placed on Loch Assynt. The MacLeods are the occupants, just as they were in the early seventeenth century.

The first time I saw Ardvreck Castle in person, I was on a tour bus going sixty miles per hour and the driver said something like, “Oh, by the way, there’s Ardvreck Castle.” I barely had time to take a blurry photo from the opposite side of the bus between other tourist’s heads. LOL Since this castle wasn’t on our itinerary, there was no time to stop, even for a minute, to get a good photo. I had to go back!

As you can imagine, when I was driving and saw this castle in the distance, through the mist with the mountains all around, I was in awe. What a spectacular and mystical setting.

Ardvreck Castle is a ruin which sits on a promontory that juts into Loch Assynt. This is one of the most hauntingly beautiful areas of Scotland. The MacLeods had control of this area from the late 14th Century. The castle is said to have been built by Angus Mor III of Clan MacLeod in the last half of the 1400s. Then, it was only a simple rectangular block, three or four storeys high. In the late 1500s, Donald Ban IX added a tower, vaulted cellars and a vault over the great hall on the first floor. The castle was small and required several buildings around it to house kitchens, servants’ quarters and stables.

The circular part of the tower contained the stair and the square caphouse above it contained two rooms, each with a fireplace. The inhabitants reached the upper floors by stairs in the small turret set in the angle between the tower and the main block.

The most famous tale relating to this castle involves James Graham, Marquis of Montrose. He was a Royalist fighting on the side of Charles I against the Covenanters in 1650. Having lost a battle nearby, he sought refuge with the MacLeods. Neil MacLeod was away and apparently his wife Christine had Montrose captured and imprisoned. Later, he was taken to Edinburgh and executed.

Ardvreck was attacked and taken by the MacKenzie Clan in 1672. They took possession of all the Assynt lands. They lived here at the castle until 1726 when they built a manor house nearby, Calda House, which also now stands in ruins after a fire in 1737.

Ardvreck is said to be haunted by several ghosts including the weeping daughter of a MacLeod chief who drowned in Loch Assynt after marrying the devil in a pact to save her father’s castle. She has been seen on the beach. A ghostly man in grey is often seen in the ruins.

Do you enjoy learning what inspires authors and finding out the history or background behind a specific setting? I will give away a copy of My Fierce Highlander (first book in the Highland Adventure Series) to one commenter. Thanks!

My Brave Highlander: Battle-hardened warrior Dirk MacLerie isn't who everyone thinks he is. He's Dirk MacKay, heir apparent to the MacKay chiefdom and Dunnakeil Castle on the far north coast of Scotland. When he returns home after a long absence, will his clan know him and will the duplicitous enemy who tried to murder him twelve years ago kill him in truth this time?

Lady Isobel MacKenzie is a beautiful young widow betrothed to yet another Highland chief by her brother's order. But when her future brother-in-law accosts her and threatens to kill her, she is forced to flee into a Highland snowstorm. When she runs into a rugged and imposing man she thought dead, she wonders if he will turn her over to her enemy or take her to safety.

Dirk remembers the enchanting, dark-eyed Isobel from when he was a lad, but now she is bound to another man by legal contract—an important detail she would prefer to forget. She wishes to choose her own husband and has her sights set on Dirk. But he would never steal another man's bride… would he? The tantalizing lady fires up his passions, testing his willpower and honor at every turn, even as some of his own treacherous clansmen plot his downfall.


Renee Vincent said...

Vonda, you have the most amazing castle/Scotland photos! They are just amazing....words cannot explain how awe-inspiring they are. It makes me long even more to visit Ireland and Scotland. LOL

As always, I cannot wait to read the next in your Highlanders series. Best wishes to you!

And to you Eliza! LOVE this site!!!

sheryl said...

I love Scotland. The pictures are beautiful. I love the historical part of a story. I think it's neat that you can use a real place and reseach it and find amazing facts about it to put in a story. Thanks for the chance

sheryll1974 AT netscape DOT net

Roxy Boroughs said...

Gorgeous. And what a great story to go with it.

Pepper Phillips said...

I really like that drawing of the castle showing the inside as it would have been used centuries ago.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks tons, Renee! One of my absolute favorite things to do is taking pics of castles! :) You would love Scotland (or Ireland) I'm sure. Hope you get to go soon! Thanks about my books also!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks Sheryl! The whole Assynt area was such an inspiring and stunningly beautiful place. I decided to put my characters in a snowstorm as they traveled through the area. LOL

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Roxy and Pepper! The drawing was part of an information sign at the site. It's great for research.

Willa Blair said...

Wonderful photos. I can't wait to go! And I'm glad you included the drawing. It gives scale to the structure. Thanks!

Alexa said...

As always, beautiful pictures and GREAT history retelling! Thanks!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Willa! Take lots of pics when you go. I want to see them! :) The drawing was really helpful in seeing how people lived there.

Alexa, thanks! I'm so glad you liked it!

Vanessa Holland said...

Amazing photos as usual, Vonda! I love reading about the history. It really makes the pictures come alive.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Vanessa! I'm so glad you liked it.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Another castle to love, Vonda. What great photos. I so look forward to seeing it someday. You always find the best places to photograph. Thanks for sharing.

Waving to you and Eliza. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving. :)

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Paisley! It's an amazing place. You will love it!

Barbara Bettis said...

Loved the post and the pictures. You always have such great ones--they always make me long to go back to Scotland and see more of these great castles. Thanks!!

bn100 said...

Thanks for sharing. I like finding out about the inspiration.