I hope you enjoy this little companion to your New World reading – a reveal of Hermitage Castle!
Firstly, let me just assure you that there are no spoilers here for anyone who has already read REROUTE (book 4).
I thought anyone who might be working their way through REMAINS (book 5), or will be, you might like a look at the ruins of Hermitage Castle that feature in both books. Should you get chance, it’s a beautiful place to visit in the real world (wherever that is!), and very moody. Put it this way, I wouldn’t spend the night in there alone!
For some of you, the Scottish Borders are a world away, of course. This is very humbling for me, and I thank you for your interest in my stories. However, by virtue of the fact that my books are read all over the world, it occurred to me that some of you might love to see this place as much as I’d love to share it with you – a picture being worth a thousand words, and all that.
Welcome to Hermitage Castle, set in the beautiful hills of the Scottish Borders. See what I mean about moody? You can certainly believe it was the seat of Sir William de Soulis and where he practised his dark arts. The place has story enough, without my intervention! You can read a little more about it in my author’s notes, at the end of REROUTE and REMAINS.
And yet, on a sunny day…
How beautiful a location. Seen here from the north-west, the huge arch that had Gleeson worrying about the size of the man they were after (he saw the eastern arch first), is actually a support for the fighting platform and later, battlements, that ran around the top of the castle. There’s a similar arch in the eastern edifice for the same purpose. In the lower wall, just right of the corner, you can see a horizontal slot with rounded ends. This is one of the two gun loops on that side, in use during Elizabeth’s time. De Soulis’ henchmen were able to fire a couple of shots at our heroes’ backs from there, as they made their way towards the Chapel where Sir William was in the middle of practising his fluid religion, and praying for help!
The small doorway (bottom, centre) was the main entrance during the time elements of my books are set (AD1558). This gate, along with the corridor and entrance court behind, becomes very important to Captain Douglas and later, Commander Gleeson.
The beautiful chapel remains, just a short walk west of the castle, are such a place of peace now, with some wonderful views along the river valley. Sadly, they’re no more than a metre high these days, but this is where fact gets entangled in the thicket of fiction. I like to think of these ruins as what was left after Commander Gleeson blew the roof off! The simple, yet beautifully carved stone windows where De Soulis made his escape from the flames, can be seen far right. They would, naturally, have stood in the eastern (altar) end of the building before Gleeson’s remodelling (that’s the righthand end of the ruin shown in the photograph). The APC was parked bottom right of the picture when things went very badly wrong for Captain Baines!
There are few plans for Hermitage, regrettably, and little or nothing that shows exact layouts for the upper floors (now missing), so I was forced to fill in for real life with a little imagination. The guidebooks produced by Historic Scotland flesh it out a little, with artists’ impressions, but it’s largely guesswork. On this sketch you can clearly see the Douglas Tower (bottom left and for some reason unnamed), where the great hall would have been; the Well and Prison Towers (right, bottom and top, respectively); and the main entrance with accompanying cellars – all of which are important to elements of the REMAINS story. I draw your attention to the Prison Tower – the most dreadful of places that, apparently, consisted of a basic room for high-ranking ‘guests’, presumably a torture chamber, where De Soulis and his lackies enjoyed themselves, and lastly the Pit. This last, was where De Soulis would have thrown the prisoners he wished to forget about – or possibly stowed the poor, during their stay at his convenience. It must have been horrific beyond imagining. A sobering thought!
I hope you have enjoyed this potted tour, and if you haven’t already, you get to visit for yourself someday.
Thank you all for reading,
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