The landscape of East Lothian is littered with the ruins of medieval castles. Just a stone’s throw from each other are Crichton, Dirleton, and Hailes (which I note from my archives we visited a while ago at exactly this time of year). But the most impressive is surely Tantallon, which, as we came out from North Berwick yesterday, made a fine location for a walk. It is obviously not a hill, but has challenges of its own. Shall we go inside?
Once the stronghold of the “Red” Douglases, the castle saw its way through many sieges, before Cromwell had a go at it in 1651. The damage was irreparable, but no artillery could destroy the drama of the place.
Positioned high on the headland above the Firth of Forth, Tantallon was protected on one side by masonry built 12 feet thick, and on the others, by the sheer force of the landscape. No one was going to scale those cliffs to breach its walls.
I love the wind-blasted, salt-weathered sandstone.
Within the castle walls, things are darker, cooler; the sound of the waves a little quieter. You can go exploring . . .
. . . and climb some vertigo-inducing stairs . . .
. . .to the top of the curtain wall. . .
. . . where you can enjoy the best view of the Bass Rock there is.
Medieval castles are clearly not built for those with mobility issues, but, I am happy to say, cause minimal problem for scampering dogs who must learn to be good on their lead. Still, I made it up and down those crazy stairways without sticks or a fuss or anything. (Mum – all I can say is remember the clock tower at Dinan – you get the picture).
I often get a thing about a landscape, and I have one for this part of East Lothian that I find quite hard to put my finger on. It is rolling and domesticated, with its hawthorn hedgerows (you only see these in lowland Scotland, of course), its villages and towns, its fertile farmland. But there is something stark and exposed about it too – ruined castles, blasted trees, stubble fields, lone standing stones, volcanic plugs, beating waves – something discomfiting. The landscape is quiet, but with an underlying turmoil, and the sense that the dead do not sleep easy here. But perhaps this is obvious, given its history. I once wrote a poem for Tom about it, but that is another story.
Ok, so enough of this waffling on about castles and suchlike, what about that hat?
You may remember that I wrote about contrast and shade a little while ago, and this hat is an example of how I’ve been testing out some basic ideas. It uses a simple peerie pattern to showcase six colours, in pairs. My main principle when selecting colours (apart from whether I liked them or not) was that there had to be contrast within each pair, and contrast between each pair. There is nothing fancy going on here: the peeries use the pairs in turn, and within each pair, the colours alternate as foreground and background. The diagonal lines of the x’s give the eye a sense of the pattern’s continuity between each peerie stripe, and the crown decreases are integrated into the pattern, though the right slanting k2togs ruined my diagonals in some places – I didn’t notice this till the blocking, and realise it can be remedied by using a skpsso instead. Must give this a try.
This was totally addictive knitting – the pattern is so simple and intuitive that after just one peerie, I didn’t need to look at a chart, and it came together very quickly. The brim uses the same method of a knitted-in lining and i-cord edging as this, making the whole thing very cosy. The funny thing is that it was meant to be a tam – and indeed could still be blocked out as one if I used some pins or a plate – but when I had finished, I became sort of attached to the slightly slouchy beanie shape, and found myself unwilling to tam-ify it. I am thinking that, once I have adjusted the crown decreases, and tested its tam-i-ness, that I might write up the pattern. It is seriously fun to knit, can be made as either tam or beanie, and might also look great using just 2 colours. I used a little bit of orkney angora for the brim lining, and, for the rest, the Alice Starmore Hebridean 2 ply in poppy, whin, selkie, pebble beach, solan goose and machair. I have called it Tantallon, of course, and ravelled it here. Anyway, I have caught the colour bug again, and am already embarked on a further design experiment – whose guiding principle is, like this hat that of keeping it pretty simple.
Last week wasn’t so bad, but had its difficulties, for reasons I may elaborate on tomorrow. I am hoping for a good one to come.