Thursday 30 April 2015

Borthwick Castle to Reopen in July

One of the best pieces of news I picked up at Expo in Aberdeen was that the wonderful Borthwick Castle was approaching completion of its refurbishment and will be open again in the summer.

Of all of the refurbs going on in Scotland just now I cannot wait to see how this is going to come out. I have personal and very fond memories of this place as a student at Queen Margaret College when I was employed there over the summer on my first year placement.

And what an education.

I recall the total fear when I approached the castle (my little red Peugeot 104 having suffered a puncture en route as I recall) to be interviewed by the "chatelaine" Helen Bailey.

From the outside the structure was just awesome. A twin keep castle rising to 110 feet with long drive, old church and graveyard to the right and the wall and gatehouse entrance. This was amazing I thought and considerably more impressive than the Stakis Station hotel in Ayr where I'd spent a week chopping turnip for three hundred every night!

Up the stairs to the massive and very solid wooden door. You could not help but be impressed as you entered into the small entrance hallway that lead up to the rooms and halls, down to the dungeons and directly into the Great Hall.

It was one of those things that I learnt to build up to as I welcomed the almost exclusively American guests that summer; I learnt to build the expectation of opening that door. Hold them for a second while welcoming, let them take their breathe from the wonder of the outside, and then, and only then, blow them away by inviting them into the main hall.

The Great Hall was simply breath taking and remember no Internet or TripAdvisor reviews. These guys had NO idea what they were about to discover.

Huge vaulted stone ceiling - and I mean enormous, apparently the highest in Scotland - leaded windows, enormous fireplace (burning with logs cut by yours truly after breakfast that morning), huge dining tables set with silver goblets, crystal and cutlery (polished by yours truly that morning after breakfast and log cutting) and invariably Vivaldi's Four Seasons playing in the background from a Stereogram set in a traditional piece of furniture.

Then the tour of the rooms. Sorry bed chambers. Red Room, Scott, Borthwick, Bothwell and of course Mary Queen of Scots. That was the romantic one and I do recall catching a little kiss in that room from someone rather special some time later!

Wow factor? You bet.

So there was me at 19 witnessing all this for the first time and being interviewed underneath a six foot portrait of herself in the minstrels' gallery by the aforementioned Ms Bailey. Intimidated? Not a bit!

So I got the job. I experienced how to deliver personal customer care like never before, learnt how to recite horror stories and make up history (which really stood me in great stead for my subsequent student political life) and simply fell in love with a building like I had never done before nor ever will again.

For a summer it was my castle.

I look forward to revisiting and oh god, it would be so good to do some work for them again. Who knows.

Good luck Borthwick Castle, it's so good to know you're back.

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