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BARBARA HENDERSON: Castles prove an inspiration for writers such as Outlander author Diana Gabaldon who is set to speak at Eden Court in Inverness this year – she was inspired by Doune Castle in Stirlingshire which features in the TV series as Castle Leoch

By Barbara Henderson

Barbara Henderson.
Barbara Henderson.

AS I write, I am sitting in a guesthouse in Dumfries, ready for weekend events at Caerlaverock Castle where one of my books is set. I can’t tell you how excited I feel at the thought of returning to the place which sparked The Siege of Caerlaverock in the first place.

Cast your mind back five years. It was April, and we were staying in the Galloway countryside, seemingly surrounded by an endless expanse of mud. Our youngsters were mutinous: a drizzly Friday at the end of a much-resented week without WiFi, and their parents were dragging them to a ruin.

Ah, but this wasn’t just any ruin – this was (insert Marks and Spencer advert voice) Scotland’s only triangular medieval castle structure. The siege of 1300 which took place here pitted the King of England and his 3000-strong army against only 70 castle dwellers, and the whole thing was captured in a contemporary heraldic poem. I was smitten. In the event, everyone had fun once we got there – especially me. You never quite know when a new story idea is going to assail you, but I can tell you, it happened for me that day.

How lucky we are. Scotland is home to between 1500 and 2000 castles, depending on what you count as a proper castle. It is extraordinary. And, before you berate me for not making this column about books as I should, let me bend it to the brief. Many of these remarkable castles have been used in the TV adaptation of the ubiquitous Outlander.

Diana Gabaldon.
Diana Gabaldon.

The reason I mention this now is that Diana Gabaldon, the creator of the successful books, has recently been announced to appear at Eden Court on Saturday, October 15, all organised by her intrepid and thoroughly lovely local fan club, the Inverness Outlanders. I’d recommend booking far in advance as it is sure to be very popular indeed. Whatever you feel about the Outlander series, I can think of no writer who has done more than Gabaldon to put the north of Scotland on the story-map in recent years, and for that reason alone I want to hear what she has to say.

Best of all, her stories contain a whole heap of castles – the best kind of story-backdrop in my humble opinion. Here are three suggestions for your staycation to whet your appetite:

• Doune Castle in Stirlingshire features in the TV series as Castle Leoch, worth visiting for its stunning location above the River Teith;

• Blackness Castle near Bo’ness, an impressive stronghold situated on a rocky promontory of the Firth of Forth. As a filming location, it is where Black Jack Randall is based and the hero Jamie is flogged in the courtyard;

• Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfries-shire, a wonderful baronial mansion. In the story, it is home to the untrustworthy Duke of Sandringham.

What are your favourite castles, and your favourite castle-set books? I would love to know.

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