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Crichton Castle stables © Robin Simpson

June 28 – Maybe I'm A-mazed
Crichton Castle (Continued)

It has grown late; it's nearing closing time. We walk out to the stable, with its horseshoe shaped doorway, behind the castle. The grass here is at least two feet tall and ripples like waves in the breeze.

Alistair points out the way to the quarry where the stone came from to build the castle and a pang of guilt strikes me. What's done is done though, and I tell myself that it's as if the castle somehow knew the emotions it evokes in Robin. A little piece of it wanted to go home with her.

Back down the long dirt path we walk toward the car park, asking Alistair all sorts of questions which he seems very willing to answer for us. This must be a lonely place to work, I say, out here atop this hill all day with only the occasional visitor. There's no electricity and no bathroom, he replies. I notice that he's carrying a laptop computer. "No phone line either," he responds to my question as to the presence of a modem in his compact system.

He tells us about his childhood in nearby Gowkshill. I had seen the sign to Gowkshill the day before on our way from Stirling to Melrose and it made me laugh at the time, knowing that "gowk" means "fool." But Alistair is no fool on the hill. He is a man with deep, passionate feelings for his homeland. Forced into early retirement from his position within an international insurance agency, he now tends to Crichton during the summer months.

Crichton, where as a boy he and his friends played among the ruins and later, as teenagers, rode their motorbikes through the grassy track of the moat. He gestures out over the valley, telling us that he lives three miles in that direction; always has and always will; he's never felt the desire to leave this place. Crichton Castle has been, and will always be a part of his life.

Robin offers him a ride home, but he replies that his wife is picking him up. She pulls into the car park just as we arrive and we all bid him a fond farewell.

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