Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Showing posts with label Dunstaffnage Castle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dunstaffnage Castle. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Ghostly Stories Behind the Once Upon A Haunted Castle Collection

Happy Release day to wonderful collection mates! Today is the release of our fun anthology: ONCE UPON A HAUNTED CASTLE.


'Twas a dark and stormy night in the Highlands... 
5 Scottish Castles... 5 Restless Ghosts... 5 Epic Love Stories.


In our own words, check out a bit about the history of the ghost stories in our epic anthology!


Dunstaffnage Castle, the setting for Eliza Knight's LAIRD OF SHADOWS
A funny thing happened to me: two friends approached me with ideas that meshed perfectly. Ruth A. Casie wanted to do a ghostly Celtic collection and Madeline Martin wanted to write about Scottish ghosts that help a hero and heroine fall in love. Immediately my mind exploded with ideas! I’d worked with Kathryn Le Veque and Terri Brisbin and thought they’d be perfect for the project, too!

I love a good ghost story, and in my travels to Europe, I’ve often felt the otherworldly presence of those who lived in the past. One of my favorite castles in Scotland is Dunstaffnage Castle, and I was lucky enough to visit there on my last trip! The history behind it is fascinating and haunting. There is this tale of a glaistig, or green lady, who haunts the grounds of Dunstaffnage. She is called the Ell-Maid of Dunstaffnage, but no one knows who she might have been. She appears in green, gliding over the walls, and through the forest. Her appearances often were brought on by tidings of joy or sadness within the family. This gave me an idea—in fact, it sparked a whole series! LAIRD OF SHADOWS is the opening book in my new MacDougall Legacy series (and will be releasing with bonus/expanded scenes in January 2017). In this story, we learn the origin of the Ell-Maid of Dunstaffnage… It was exciting to write this story, and I can’t wait for you all to read it, and to see what happens as I follow the MacDougall family throughout generations in my new series!

In Eliza Knight’s LAIRD OF SHADOWS, a decade old vow and an attack of Vikings brings Lady Elle Cam’béal to Dunstaffnage Castle seeking the help of the new, handsome, provocative laird with a beastly temper—Beiste MacDougall. As battles and treachery rain down upon them, Beiste and Elle find an unlikely ally in a ghost, and discover that a few stolen moments of passion can bring light from the shadows… 

Find later Castle, the setting for Kathryn Le Veque's DEEP INTO DARKNESS

In my novella, DEEP INTO DARKNESS, I drew a huge amount of inspiration from one of my favorite poets, Edgar Allan Poe. This was also my first story set in Scotland and I really wanted to do it right - creepy castle + Poe = Delicious Eeriness! 

I've done novellas based on Poe's works before, so it's really my interpretation of his poetry. In this case, the 'host' that narrates one of Poe's most famous poems, "The Raven", is also the host in my story. He's an old Viking who takes in two travelers for the night. And that's when the fun happens. I loved my hero and heroine so much that I had to write a full-length novel for them - THE RED LION will be released October 4th so readers can see how Jamison and Havilland met. But the bottom line is that I had a great time writing about a highlander hero and a great time writing a Medieval ghost story. I hope readers enjoy!

In Kathryn Le Veque's DEEP INTO DARKNESS, Findlater Castle in the Scottish Highlands becomes a place of mystery and doom for Jamison Munro and his wife,Havilland. Traveling across the highlands one dark and stormy night, they stumble upon a lonely Host in Findlater Castle, a pathetic soul waiting for his wife to return to him. It is a terrible tale of a tragic love story that the Host tells the travelers but when Havilland becomes curious about mysterious tapping sounds that go on in the middle of the night, she soon realizes the danger that she and her husband are in. It becomes a race against time for Havilland to free a trapped spirit and save both their lives in the process.

Duntulm Castle, one of the castle's in Terri Brisban's UPON A MISTY SKYE


When invited to contribute to this collection, I was lost! LOL! All I knew was that it must somehow involved Duntulm Castle, which I’ve visited several times and is known to be haunted. Once I was set on that location, I looked at the clans in the area and knew that the MacLeods and the MacDonalds were rivals for control of the Isle of Skye for centuries. A perfect choice for battling families. . . and forbidden love!

    I kept hearing the opening line of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as I was planning out my story – “Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross'd lovers. . . .” Of course, I wanted a ‘happily-ever-after’ so I adapted my Romeo and Juliet to make sure that happens! I suspect I will revisit the MacLeods and MacDonalds of Skye again....

In Terri Brisbin’s UPON A MISTY SKYE, Alexander MacDonald and Isabel MacLeod were not supposed to meet or fall in love or marry. Now that they have, both of their parents plan to separate them, by any means possible. But the ghost of Duntulm Castle has other plans for the forbidden lovers and those who stand in the way of true love.

Castle of Park, the setting for Madeline Martin's A GHOSTLY TALE OF FORBIDDEN LOVE


I’ve always loved haunted castles and the stories behind them. When first starting coming up with the idea for A Ghostly Tale of Forbidden Love, I read through all the ghost stories in Scotland until I came to one about Castle of Park. There were two ghosts: one of a monk who had been walled into the castle and left for dead, and another of a woman in green who was a servant – she’d  fell in love with the laird, ended up pregnant and then leapt to her death after having been fired. Then I thought, what if I saved the servant? Don’t worry – there still ends up being a second ghost to placate history, but who will it end up being?  

I actually was fortunate enough to stay for two nights at Castle of Park while in Scotland a couple weeks back. While I didn’t see any ghosts, the stay was absolutely magical.

In Madeline Martin’s A GHOSTLY TALE OF FORBIDDEN LOVE, Gavin MacDuff is a laird with a cruel and bitter aunt he’s sworn to protect. Senara is the new lady’s maid at Castle of Park and has sacrificed everything for the betterment of her family. Their paths tangle and lead to a road of hidden longing and secret passion – all of which is threatened by the power of one ghost who is fixed on revenge.


Caerlaverock Castle, the setting for Ruth A. Casie's THE MAXWELL GHOST


When I wrote The Guardian’s Witch I developed a character, Jamie Collins. He’s the hero’s close friend, confidant and at times conscience.  I’ve wanted to give Jamie his own story I just didn’t know what it would be until we started planning this collection. Castles, highlanders, ghosts, these were the elements that screamed Jamie Collins to me. When I sat down the story almost wrote itself.

My story is about Jamie and Laura Reynolds, two childhood friends who find themselves trying to solve a double murder not only to bring the murderer to justice, but to put a ghost to rest. Jamie and Laura’s relationship turns from friends to lovers but their whole story couldn’t be told in a novella. I have so much more to tell you about them that I had to write a full-length novel for them - THE HIGHLANDER’S ENGLISH WOMAN will be released in December. Readers will be able to see how Jamie and Laura’s relationship is tested and who helps Jamie along the way. This was a fun story to write. I hope you enjoy reading about them.

In Ruth A. Casie’s THE MAXWELL GHOST, traitors, deception, murders and ghosts run rampant at Caerlaverock Castle. Jamie Collins, a man of reality not hocus pocus, serves Lord Herbert in exchange for a his own farm.  Laura Reynolds, the Herbert's distant cousin comes to the castle to solve the murders and put the ghost to rest. The two, long-time friends find their destinies intertwined with hidden passions, but all is in jeopardy when Laura becomes the murderer’s next target. Jamie will find he needs some ghostly assistance to save Laura and declare his love.




Want to read more? Check out our anthology, now available in ebook and print!



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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Castle of the Week: Dunstaffnage Castle by Vonda Sinclair

Welcome back to History Undressed, my good friend, Vonda Sinclair! She's sharing with us today Dunstaffnage Castle, where she visited recently. Fascinating post, awesome pics! Enjoy!

Dunstaffnage Castle
By Vonda Sinclair

Dunstaffnage Castle sits on a rocky promontory where Loch Etive meets the Firth of Lorn in Argyll, not too far from Oban.  The name Dunstaffnage comes from the Gaelic  dun or 'fort' and two Norse words, stafr 'staff' and nes 'promontory'. Staff may refer to an office-bearer or official. This castle guarded the approach from the sea to the Pass of Brander which leads to the heart of Scotland.

Those who visited the castle found good anchorage in Dunstaffnage Bay. It still serves this purpose and you will usually see yachts anchored in the bay.

Dunstaffnage Bay
Dunstaffnage was built around the year 1220, probably by Duncan MacDougall, grandson of the famous and powerful Somerled. At this time, Argyll was the dividing line between the kingdom of Scotland and Norway. Neither king controlled the area, and by 1150 it was ruled by Somerled, a half-Norse, half-Gaelic warlord. He seized the Kingdom of the Isles from his brother-in-law and ruled until his death. When Somerled died, his kingdom passed to his three sons. Dougall (spelled Dubhgall in Gaelic), the oldest, became Lord of Lorn. Duncan was his son.

Stone steps of the castle
Dunstaffnage is one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland and it served as residence for lords for over five hundred years. It was only abandoned in 1810.

The curtain wall and three projecting towers survive from the 13th century as does the nearby chapel. As you approach the castle, you will see a strong, forbidding fortification. It's easy to see how it would have intimidated those who might have wanted to attack.

The castle has a long and violent history. It served as a key locale during the 14th century Wars of Independence. Later it served as a stronghold of the Campbells, earls of Argyll. The Campbells earned the king's favor, and therefore power, by policing the region, especially the Western Isles, against uprisings of clans such as the MacDonalds.

Although trees surround the castle now, back when it was a fortified castle, it offered its residents expansive views over the Firth of Lorn and Loch Etive.

From inside the castle
The castle sits on high rocky promontory, and the walls rise more than 6 more meters. The original tops of the walls are gone, so it's unknown if they were battlemented or covered in a timber structure. Excavations show that the castle was originally surrounded by an eight meter wide ditch. The only openings in the landward side of the curtain were narrow arrow slits. After 1500 these were blocked up and even smaller gun loops inserted.

Another view inside the castle
The original castle had no projecting corner towers, just the massive 11 feet thick walls. The stonework would not have been visible. The walls would've been harled (coated with white lime render.) Harling provides a long-lasting weatherproof shield and was often used on Scottish castles and other buildings. Traces of the harling still survive at Dunstaffnage.

Duncan's son Ewen probably built the three round towers onto the castle, and constructed or enlarged the hall inside.

Gatehouse
The building above the entrance, which looks like a house, is the gatehouse. It was rebuilt in the late 1500s. When we were visiting, repairs were being made on it. I didn't take many pictures of the scaffolding and tarps. :) The Captain of Dunstaffnage resided in the gatehouse. The man who filled this role in the 1500s probably had this gatehouse built to replace the poor accommodation of the old donjon. The gatehouse is three floors with one room on each floor. We were not allowed inside nor near it with the repairs to the roof, etc.


Entrance
The entrance dates from the late 15th century when the Campbells took over the castle. The doorway is within a pointed arch recess. The stone steps leading up to it were built around 1720. Before that, there must have been a drawbridge over the huge ditch. Evidence of a drawbridge pit remains.

Donjon
The donjon is a dilapidated tower at the north corner. This is the largest of the three towers and was added around 1250. It was built to allow archers a better view of the outer faces of the wall and to furnish the lord with better accommodation. It was probably three stories high. The ground floor was a storage cellar with no stairs leading from it to the upper floors. It had three arrow slits. The upper part held the lord's hall and chamber. There is a spiral stair linking the two and in it a latrine, sometimes called a garderobe.

The wall-walk
From the beginning, the castle had a wall-walk around the landward facing walls of the castle. This allowed the garrison to keep an eye out and defend this vulnerable side of the castle. The wall-walk has been repaired so visitors can walk on it. There's a great view from up here.

The courtyard
The area of the castle wall below the wall-walk has several recesses which originally gave access to narrow arrow slits. Later they were altered for guns. There may have been buildings here in early times.

The chapel
The chapel ruin sits in a woodland behind the castle. It was a family chapel, serving the lord's household, instead of the parish. The remains show that it was once an extraordinary building which shows the wealth and sophistication of its builder, Duncan MacDougall. No other chapel of this date in mainland Scotland can match it for quality. It is 65 feet long and was at one time divided by a timber screen into a nave and chancel. The architecture was inspired by Irish churches but some features are similar to other churches in the area, such as Iona. It likely had elaborate arched doorways. The photo shows one of the paired lancet windows in the chancel. By 1740 the chapel was in ruins.



My Notorious Highlander: Chief Torrin MacLeod vows to possess and wed the spirited lady who stole his heart the previous winter. But Lady Jessie MacKay wants naught to do with the dangerous warrior, no matter how devilishly handsome and charming he is. When Torrin arrives unexpectedly at Jessie's home, along with Gregor MacBain, a man Jessie was formerly handfasted to, she is thrown off-kilter. She never wanted to see either man again, but now they are vying for her hand. Torrin promises to protect her from the devious MacBain, but how can she trust Torrin when she has witnessed how lethal he is?

The more time Torrin spends with the strong and independent Jessie, the more determined he is to win her heart. Once she allows him a kiss, he feels her passion flame as hot as his own. After she knows Torrin better, Jessie finds herself falling for the fearsome Highlander. But the odds are stacked against them. The sinister MacBain is bent on kidnapping Jessie, making her his bride and killing Torrin, while Jessie's conniving younger brother, Haldane, is determined to use Jessie to take over the castle in his older brother's absence. Jessie fears she can never be with the man she loves, while Torrin will do everything in his power to ensure they are together forever. In his heart, she is the only lady for him.




Vonda Sinclair’s favorite indulgent pastime is exploring Scotland, from Edinburgh to the untamed and windblown north coast. She also enjoys creating hot Highland heroes and spirited lasses to drive them mad. Her historical romances have won an EPIC Award and a National Readers' Choice Award. She lives with her amazing and supportive husband in the mountains of North Carolina where she is no doubt creating another Scottish story.