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Today, I am Not Dead, efforts of the chill this weekend to the contrary notwithstanding. Because we spent this past weekend at A Castle.

The very idea thrills my little American heart to bits. Castles are thin on the ground in the US, even in the east, being limited to importations and follies. (We do have some rather brilliant forts, though, especially along the coast.)


Fort Popham, Phippsburg, ME. (source)

This weekend, we stayed and slept in Castle Bolton, in Yorkshire. Everything James Herriot ever wrote about the wind in the Yorkshire Dales appears to be 100% true. I was thankful for my tightly-woven cloak and capacious hood. Incidentally, I discovered that by pinning my hood to the same band I pin my veil to, I can keep the hood on my head despite the hungry wind. I went into the weekend indignant about the entire idea of wearing a hood so as not to tempt good men. I still object to the idea of it, but these scruples will not prevent me from wearing a veil when it’s cold out because it’s just too darn comfy. I also discovered that I could replace my head band with a warm woolen watch cap and just pin the veil on top without unduly imperilling my historical look.

You may have gathered by now: castles are cold. The main hall was all right (with a few layers of wool and flannel) owing to the immense fire we kept feeding. My layers of scarf, flannel houppelande, muslin shift, heavy flannel kirtle and modern wool long underwear (top and bottoms) even allowed me to go about without a cloak for a while, which was when I realised how heavy my cloak actually was to carry around all day. But the large sleeping chambers had no fires. The nights were cold, cold, cold. Medieval life without the amenities. During howling, rain-drenched gales at night, I discovered that the dips in the stairs were not caused by human feet alone, but by thousands of drops of water running down the spiral staircase from the third floor. On the other hand, the bathrooms had running hot water in working mix taps, which is a step up from most buildings in Scotland.

And in case you missed it the first time: we stayed in a castle. In Mary, Queen of Scots’ bedchamber, according to the plaque on the wall. It’s going to be hard to top that.