When we planned our trip to John O'Groats, we had no idea that a royal residence was located just twenty miles away in the town of Caithness.
The Castle of Mey was bought by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, in 1952, after the death of her husband, King George VI. When the Queen Mum visited The Castle of Mey, it was in ruins. She fell in love with the fixer-upper and purchased it, making it the only piece of property that she ever personally owned. She spent summers at The Castle of Mey and the royal family still owns the property. Prince Charles spends a week at the Castle every summer and he had his yearly vacation just a few weeks before we visited in September.
The price is only eleven pounds for a guided tour of the castle. The tour group was very small, less than ten people and the guide was extremely knowledgable and great about answering questions. Photography was not allowed inside, but I took some pictures of the exterior.
Visiting The Castle of Mey was just like going to grannies house, if your grandmother was royalty and lived in a castle. It was filled with knick-knacks, antique furniture and had a slightly musty odor. The rooms were small and cozy with low ceilings. Although comfortable, this is not a lavish palace.
It's clear that the Queen Mum had been very much loved by the staff of the castle. Our guide told us the story behind all of the stuffed animals and small toys in the parlor and various sitting rooms. People always wanted to bring the Queen Mum presents and she preferred to receive small gifts, especially joke gifts. Her ladies in waiting did not approve and when she would receive something, they would try to hide it. It became a game and some of the gifts ended up in high spots (sitting on curtain rods) so that the ladies in waiting couldn't remove them. My favorite is a Loch Ness monster stuffed animal!
She also loved having nightly cocktails and on her bar, she has a huge, rather tacky, apple-shaped ice bucket that she bought in New York City. From the stories that the guide told us, she came across as a real fun-loving woman. The castle still continues a tradition that she started of making an elaborate christmas themed cake for the local village elementary school every winter.
The Queen Mum had a big affinity for animals and after the tour of her castle, we walked to the nearby Animal Centre to see the castle's animals.
One of the queen mum's favorite animals was donkeys!
We recorded another Donkey too.
My favorite part was the pen with the chickens, ducks and geese. They were so interactive. We watched them for several minutes before realizing that we could buy food to feed them. They were desperately hoping that we would feed them.
This may very well be my favorite video of our entire trip. I love the crazy hen that comes speeding up behind the two hens. The video doesn't capture how crazy that hen was, she wanted food and she wanted it now! She was very hyper and aggressive.
And here I am feeding the birds.
There was a small shed with baby animals and more birds. I have no idea what animal this is, some sort of squirrel...in any case, it's really cute and you should take a look at the video. If you know what it is, please write in and fill me in.
We found two happy pigs sunning themselves.
We visited the paddock to see the castle livestock.
One last cute animal video..this time of the goats.
I highly recommend visiting The Castle of Mey. It's very different from any of the other castles that we visited in the UK. It's down-to-earth. Click on the link for official information.
On our way back to John O'Groats we took a scenic drive to see the lighthouse in Dunnet Head.
On the way, we saw a classic red phone booth in the middle of a field.
When we reached Dunnet Head, there were three things that we discovered.
First, there is a cool lighthouse that was engineered by the grandfather of author Robert Lewis Stevenson.
Second, there is an amazing cliff with birds flying all over the place. A stunning view.
Third, there is an unmanned sign of the real "Most Northernly Point on Mainland Britain". It was free, no one else was there and we took pictures!
Coming soon to this blog, still more Scotland!