The King's Old Building or The King's House at Stirling Castle

The King’s Old Building At Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle.

When I traveled to Scotland with my mom and aunt at the beginning of June, one of the day trips on our list was traveling to Stirling Castle. I’ve written a little about that day trip in this post.

Stirling Castle is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland, which preserves historic properties across Scotland. They care for over 300 properties whose histories span 5,000 years.

One of the buildings at Stirling Castle is the King’s House. We had seen the King’s House, now known as the King’s Old Building, perched upon Castle Rock while we were walking along the Ladies’ Lookout. If you’d like to have some bearings as to the layout, I’ve linked the castle map here.

Cliffside of Stirling Castle - Stirling Scotland

The King’s House or King’s Old Building.

The King’s House, or King’s Old Building, was built upon Castle Rock for James IV around 1496.

It is believed that a 12th-century timber castle probably once stood here. It is also likely there were even earlier fortifications.

Inner Close.

Coming in to the Inner Close, you can see the front of the King’s Old Building.

Housed inside the building is the Regimental Museum, which traces the history of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from 1794. Among the many artifacts and exhibits are uniforms, weapons, soldier’s personal items, and even a drum belonging to Drummer Kennedy which saved his life by deflecting a bullet during the Boer War.

Entrance to the museum is free, after having paid for entry to Stirling Castle. However, the museum is maintained through public donations and some funding from the Ministry of Defence, so do consider donating what you can.



Douglas Gardens.

Towards the end of our visit there we meandered toward the Douglas Gardens.

In the map, it is in the walled area below the photo of the Chapel Royal (whose arched windows you see in the photo of the Inner Close).

Tradition holds that after the 8th Earl of Douglas was murdered by James II in 1452, his body was flung out of a window near here.


North End of The King’s Old Building.

This end of the King’s Old Building was rebuilt after a fire in 1857.

Robert William Billings, the Victorian architect who restored St. Margaret’s Chapel at Edinburgh Castle, was enlisted to complete the restoration.

Not everyone was happy with the baronial style that he chose.

In fact, in 1893, Sir Robert Rowan Anderson, the architect of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery described it as a ‘very pretentious building… utterly out of harmony with all the surroundings, and a great disfigurement to the castle.’ (source: signage on the castle grounds).

Not to be disenchanted, I climbed the stairs for a closer look at the architecture.

I am enchanted by symmetry in architecture and felt this segment of the building held plenty of symmetry.

…and the door! I knew that I had to share this door that was hidden in the Douglas Gardens with all the Thursday Door folks.

Castle Wall.

Located on this north end of the building is also a stairwell that leads up to a section of the castle wall.

The wall walk leads beside the roof of the Magazine, which was built in the Douglas Gardens and dates back to 1681.

From the wall, there is a view of the Nether Bailey and the surrounding countryside.

From these heights, with views spanning as far as the eye can see, you can certainly see why Stirling Castle was built upon Castle Rock.

Given its location between the Highlands and the Lowlands, it’s easy to imagine how it came to be such an important stronghold.

Know before you go:

  • The castle opens daily at 9:30 a.m. Closing times vary. Be sure to check their website before visiting.
  • Ticket prices through March 2018 are £15 (ages 16-59), £9 (ages 5-15), concessions (a word I learned the meaning of while in Scotland) £12, and under 5 (free when accompanied by an adult).
  • Last admission is 45 minutes before closing.
  • Castle admission tickets also include a tour of Argyll’s Lodging, a 17th Century townhouse. (at the time of writing, it’s closed for maintenance, but if it’s open, I highly recommend taking a tour. I enjoyed the furnishings and architecture).
  • It is recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance. We purchased ours at the tourist information center in Stirling. You can’t get a discount on the tickets this way, but you get fast-track admission. The line to get inside Stirling Castle wasn’t long when we visited, but I’ve heard as the summer progresses, the lines get lengthier.
  • Be prepared for all types of weather. It rained for most of the time we were in Stirling.
  • If you take the train, be sure to know what time the last train leaves.
  • Also if you are walking from the train station, bear in mind that the walk is steep.

Every man dies. Not every man really lives. -William Wallace

Let your light shine!



wpc: ascend

Visiting a Christmas Tree Farm

Visiting A Christmas Tree Farm

Visiting A Christmas Tree Farm.

(Or how to choose the perfect Christmas tree).

Ok, that second part might be a little far-fetched. Is there such a thing as a “perfect” tree? And isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder?

I was born, raised, married, entered motherhood, and lived for 36 years in Florida. Christmas trees are trucked in from parts north and set up in tents amongst the parking lots and fields around the towns in which I’ve lived. Picking out our Christmas tree as a family is something that we have always done.

When we moved to Roanoke, I really wanted to visit a tree farm and choose my Christmas tree from its habitat. We moved to Virginia in 2013 and closed on our current home around 10 days before Christmas. A jaunt out to a tree farm was not in the cards. The following three years, I advocated going to a tree farm, but was outvoted by those wanting to hop down to the local tent stands (we did purchase from a tree farm that also trucks trees in to a lot closer to our home).

This year, I adamantly insisted planned our trip to a Christmas tree farm.

Next year, Big Mr. will be away at college and I don’t know if we will choose our tree as the entire family.

…and that is how we came to travel to Slaughter’s Tree Farms this past weekend.

Lest you be mistaken into thinking everyone was joyous about my plans, I am raising teenagers. Two of them drive and like to make plans with friends. All three of them like to sleep when they’ve stayed up too late the night before.

But after grabbing some breakfast, conversations lightened (as in grumpiness fell away) and amongst the conversations were talks of concerns behind AI…which somehow brings up Elon Musk’s warnings against it…to which I always chime in that I swear Elon Musk has figured out time travel and is from the future (perhaps he’s already seen the “rise of the machines”).

The tree farm that we visited is located at 4864-4906 Floyd Highway N in Floyd County, Virginia. The drive across Bent Mountain and a few other locations is extremely winding. I wish I had photos, but I was in the back seat, bracing myself around the curves.

I had a general idea of where it was located as I’d seen signs for it before on the few times I’d driven to Floyd from Roanoke. I knew that it was after Check and before Floyd proper. I needn’t have been concerned about finding it. As we got closer, we passed car after car with a Christmas tree strapped to its roof. The location itself was very obvious.

After finding out how it all worked (find a tree and then flag down a four-wheeler hauling a trailer)…we were off.

We were looking for a rather tall tree. Miss Sunshine had proposed a new location in the living room that could hold a taller tree than we’ve had in the past.

A tree in its own setting creates an optical illusion of being much smaller than reality. Miss Sunshine and I repeatedly pointed out trees whose circumference probably would have encompassed a large portion of our living room.

There are poles to carry that will help you estimate the height of the tree. As you can see, Miss Sunshine had lofty goals in relation to the height of the Christmas tree that she was searching for.

The walk to the top of the hill, seemingly went on forever. There was even another hill covered with tree after tree. I loved watching the memories being formed. Mr. D often prefers his solitude when he is home, but when he settles in to conversations, he has a lot to say. The hubby and he chatted for much of the search.

We did not travel to the second hill. Big Mr. was coming down with a cold and even though he was a trooper, soldiering on for all the hunting that we did, I felt bad knowing he should rest.

I think Miss Sunshine would have looked at every tree (if I’m honest, that’s my tendency too), but we decided on this tree. You can see that Big Mr. is slightly uphill compared to the tree and he’s 6’6″, so Miss Sunshine got her wish for a tall tree.

The view from this part of the hill was beautiful. That tiny red and white spot in the photo is the monstrous inflatable snowman in the parking lot. And this was only a fraction of the amount of acreage covered in Christmas trees.

We waved the pole a little to gain the attention of the workers and they came with a chainsaw, ferried the tree down to be baled, and then tied upon our roof.

We meandered back down the hill to complete our purchase.

They also had a trailer covered with lovely wreaths. I had meandered down more slowly than the others, stopping to take photographs along the way. I probably would have purchased a wreath as well, but the hubby had already paid.

The Slaughter’s Tree Farms location we were at prefers cash or check, but will take a credit card. We are notoriously cashless and so we used a card. Floyd proper isn’t that much farther, and we would have ran to an ATM there had that been necessary.

We weren’t quite the Griswold’s on our drive home, but it still always feels like there’s an element of that with a tree strapped to your roof.

We moved all the furniture around to make a place for the tree.

After the hubby strung the lights, he placed our first ornament, the Christmas Nail. Last year, I wrote about its placement on our tree in this post.

I watched as the teens placed the ornaments. I watched the thoughtful way they found a home for each and every one. I listened to conversations of the meanings or the age behind almost every ornament.

Miss Sunshine started with the Grinch. He requires a place that forms a seat. He holds a special place in my heart. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is my favorite show. Not the movie…the cartoon. And only the original…voiced by Boris Karloff. That stuffed Grinch was the Christmas tree topper for the hubby and my first Christmas together…and it has held a place on the tree ever since.

We played Christmas music loudly. We laughed. We reminisced. We talked about the year the tree fell over…twice! We lost many bulbs and once it landed on our poor aging Golden Retriever (she never lay in its shadow again).

Each piece a different memory.

Perhaps I should give you a tour of my tree…but that is for a different day.

The entire process of choosing our tree from a Christmas tree farm has created new memories.

Memories that will enter into our holiday remembrances.

Do you have any special holiday traditions?

Preserve your memories, keep them well, what you forget you can never retell. -Louisa May Alcott

Let your light shine!




wpc: serene

The Queen's Hamlet at the Palace of Versailles

The Queen’s Hamlet

The Queen’s Hamlet.

Place d’Armes, 78000, Versailles, France.

Also known as Hameau de la Reine, the Queen’s Hamlet was the place I most wanted to see when we toured the Palace of Versailles.

We purchased the Passport ticket which included admission to the entire estate at the Palace of Versailles. While the gardens are free to visit (except on days with there are musical fountain shows or musical gardens), the Passport ticket allows you to visit the Palace, the gardens on musical days, and the estate of Trianon (which includes the Queen’s Hamlet).

One thing that I appreciated while traveling in Europe is that many museums and places of interest (such as the Palace of Versailles) have free entry for visitors under 18 (under 26 if you reside in the EU). This saved us quite a bit as we were traveling with three teenagers. I would recommend that if your teenage looks questionable as to whether they are under 18, that you make sure they have I.D. This only happened at the Louvre in Paris. My seventeen year old is 6’6″ and at one checkpoint they asked his age and at another they asked for proof. I did assume that we’d come upon this at some point. I used to carry his birth certificate in case we were ever questioned when we’d travel to Disney World (we never were).

I’ve shared some of my photos of the exterior of Versailles and from the inside of the Palace. In yesterday’s post, I shared a serene view across the lake found in the hamlet

Today, I thought we’d walk around some of the cottages found at the Queen’s Hamlet.

The estates of Trianon and hamlet are a somewhat lengthy walk from the gardens at Versailles. There are trains available for a fee that leave near the Palace and bikes available to rent farther into the gardens.

Things tend to add up quickly for a family of 5, so we decided to walk.

When we visited Versailles in April, the Queen’s home was under restoration. They cover the buildings while work is in progress (something I witnessed throughout my European travels). The restoration is being sponsored by the fashion house Dior, hence the covering. According to the website, restoration will be complete in 2018.

The Queen’s Hamlet was built for Marie-Antionette between 1783 and 1787. It was a model village built around an artificial lake.



The cottages are set in a crescent formation along the eastern side of the lake.

Contrary to popular belief, Marie-Antoinette did not “play at being farmer”. The model village was a working farm at her insistence and served as an educational place for the royal children.



She hosted small gatherings of her friends at the village.

She took relaxing walks through the gardens.

Marie-Antoinette used the village to escape from the rigors of court life.

The Hamlet was designed by the French architect, Richard Mique. The cottages combine Norman, Flemish, and French styles.

Marlborough Tower stands overlooking the lake and adding to the fairytale ambience of the Hamlet.


The Moulin was a watermill. The wheel was driven by a stream from the Grand Lake, but was used for decorative purposes only.


Not only was the architecture intriguing, but cottages meant a plethora of doors.

To see more doors around the world be sure to check out Norm’s blog where he hosts Thursday Doors.


It was easy to feel at peace while strolling along.

The area is spread out and there were not throngs of crowds (unlike the Palace and Gardens) as we walked at a leisurely pace.

While I don’t live in the stressful world of being scrutinized for being royalty, I do live in a world that rushes along at a frantic pace.

It’s nice to slow down sometimes.

I can see why the Queen loved it so much.

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. - Henry David Thoreau

Let your light shine!



Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare and Company.

37 rue de la Bûcherie. Paris, France.

Shakespeare and Company is an Independent Bookstore in Paris. From the moment that Helen commented that I should visit there while in Paris, I knew that this was one of the destinations on my “must see” list.

As I mentioned, after our visit to Sacré Cœur, we decided to head to Shakespeare and Company. Somehow I managed to navigate us getting off at the wrong Metro Station. I’m still not sure how that happened as Google and Apple maps were very reliable during our travels. Since I would need a few minutes to gather our bearings and somebody needed to use the bathroom (this is an inevitable, frequent occurrence when traveling in a party of 5), we decided to head into a nearby restaurant for lunch.

We were somewhat surprised by the service, or lack thereof. This is also the restaurant where I obviously did not understand what they meant on the sauce description. When it said egg, it wasn’t part of the sauce. It was actual raw egg, placed on top of the pasta. I ate around it the best I could and ate whatever leftovers the teens still had on their plates.

As we began our journey toward Shakespeare and Company, we discovered that while we had felt confused by where we exited the Metro, we were in fact very close to the Louvre.

It occurred to us at that point that we were probably eating at a touristy restaurant, which would explain the high prices combined with lack of service.  Next time I visit Paris I will actually look at Yelp reviews and try to find restaurants loved by Parisians. I’ve specifically not shared certain names of the places in which we ate because I don’t like to add to negativity, but they were ranked in the lower third of reviews.

Since we were passing by the Louvre, I decided to experiment with capturing a panorama. Of course that would be the moment that vehicles would pass through!

A second try was much more successful and we then continued on our way toward Shakespeare and Company.

If I had been a person with a pre-planned itinerary, we would have visited the bookstore on the day that we visited Notre-Dame. It is located on the Left Bank opposite Notre-Dame.

Shakespeare and Company was founded in 1951 by the American, George Whitman.

The building it’s housed in was constructed in the 17th Century and was originally a monastery.

When the bookstore first opened it was called Le Mistral. Whitman changed it to its present name in April of 1964, on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth.


He did this in honor of a bookseller he admired, Sylvia Beach, who’d founded the original Shakespeare and Company in 1919. Her bookstore had been a gathering place for expat writers at that time…such as Hemingway and Eliot.

He endeavored to carry on that spirit. Allen Ginsberg and Anaïs Nin are just a few of the literary expats who gathered here.



Shakespeare and Company is considered one of the most famous independent bookstores in the world.

An estimated 30,000 aspiring writers have bunked at Shakespeare and Company.

I knew that I had to walk along the floors, smell the scent of old paper, and touch the worn bindings of the old books.

So after capturing some of the doors for my Thursday Door friends, I entered.

The hubby and teens decided to rest their weary feet and sit outside while I perused the bookstore.

Inside, there are new books as well as old.

They request that no photos be taken inside to respect the privacy of the patrons. As much as there were places inside that I would have loved to photograph, I chose to respect their request.

A google image search of the staircase will show you one such photo that I was tempted to take.

It spoke to me because upon it was written so much of what I believe to be true.

I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being. -Hafiz

The red stairs are well worn. I wonder how many feet have walked up that stairwell. I pause and look at things pinned here and there… and words…everywhere are words.I ponder the magnitude of how many written words are contained in this space.

As I meander about the rooms at the tops of the stairs, my mind travels to the writers who sat here pouring out their thoughts. I run my hand along the spaces. If there is any magic here, I want it travel through my fingertips. I want it to take residence in my brain and then find its way back out and through my fingertips into written words.

I am conscientious of the fact that I have left my family waiting for me. I know they are tired and we still want to see the Eiffel Tower from its base.

I want to stay here and soak up this magic.

To breathe in the creativity.

But I must go.


I leave, but I know that I will return again someday.

Once again, I slowly ascend those stairs, and this time I will sit upon the chairs.

I will breathe deeply in that creative space.

And I will think on those whose written words have made it from their fingertips and on those whose words are still waiting to be written.

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple. - Jack Kerouac

Let your light shine!