After a two hours drive along the west coast of Scotland, past Largs, Kilwinning, Irvine, Troon and Ayr, on a journey through Inverclyde and the north and south Ayrshire, Alan, both Eddies and I found ourselves at the end of a lonely country road, in a car under the trees, on the shore of the Firth of Clyde, a location that was called, as far as I knew, Glenside Burn.
A walk among the pebbles and rocks strewn upon the sandy beach brought us in view of the Culzean castle, a sturdy stone structure set on the top a a rugged cliff, a lonely sentinel over the vast expanse of water.
Considering the castle position, I would have assumed that its purpose might have been, in some remote period of Scottish history, to stand guard over the Firth of the Clyde against any foreign invasion (Perhaps to prevent Viking forays into the land).
However, as is often the case with an imagination ran wild, let alone one from a French who is not particularly privy with Scottish history, this assumption was proved false by the fact that the date of the earliest edifice erected upon the site, a stone tower belonging to the Kennedys (incidentally, an ancient Scottish family descended from Robert the Bruce), is estimated to be from the 16th century.
We had reached the walls of the castle after a long climb up stairs from the beach. The place was already teeming with people, tourists from all over the world. They congregated around the old stables which had been converted to an art gallery or towards the coffee shops in a nearby courtyard, they flowed towards the botanic gardens and the orangerie and then, further up, in direction to the pond and the woods, they passed through the Adam’s archway and walked towards the Home farm.
It was a beautiful day for a fair. And, indeed, a fair it was. Excitement was in the air, an effervescence that was only associated with big summer events.
Culzean Castle was hosting a military re-enactment on the field adjacent to the estate. There were the troops of red coats from the Napoleonic era in their resplendant scarlet uniforms ; there were the adversaries of the U.S. civil war, soldiers from the Union and from the Confederacy, standard bearers, skirmishers, pipers; there were the German soldiers from World war II, as well as British soldiers, men in uniform, women in uniform; there were the warriors from the middle ages; there were the suffragettes from the turn of the century.
Incongruous as they were, they mixed together, they interacted with each other. It was as if each group had inadvertently sprouted from malfunctioning time machine.
They had scheduled demonstrations, they had arranged disciplined military maneuvers and mockup assaults. Standards of different nations or factions were raised. Gunshots resounded loudly and the smell of powder spread through the field. It was as close as one could get to a battlefield. It was mesmerizing. It was frightening.
As the sounds of gunfire died away amidst an explosion of clapping and cheers from the crowd, the air carried the fragrant smell of cooked meat, signaling, perhaps, time for lunch.
We left the martial grounds to follow a path through a narrow section of woods that led us to a wide enclosed pasture field bordered, on the farther side, by shrubs and trees of all sort. We had reached the deer park.
Apart from photos and a well known Disney feature length animated movie and TV nature documentaries, I had never seen a deer before. How could I not be impressed by the magnificence of theses noble creatures ? It was feeding time and a ranger girl had arrived. As she started to pour pellets over the fence, the animals approached and crowded around for the delight of all.