• Julie Gallahue

Castle Couture

I took a holiday to Scotland this spring with my husband, our 21 year old son and my father and mother-in-law. We rented a van and my 79-year-old father-in-law was the designated driver. You wonder how the senior in our group was assigned this task with all the responsibility of driving on the left side of roads we would consider a footpath? Well, he volunteered for one and I don’t think any of us really wanted to do it, so there you have it.

This wasn’t my first visit to the magical land of friendly folks and endless fields of adorable four-legged, wool producing animals. I took a trip here 23 years ago and I liked it so much, that I was excited to visit again.

A few things have changed in the last two decades. The first thing I noticed was that mattress technology has made huge improvements. Where they once were bumpy, thin and back breaking, they are now quite firm and comfortable. But, alas, they are still built for humans that are less than 5’10 inches tall.

Being that I have a family full of exceptionally tall individuals, this could be a deal breaker if we were considering becoming permanent residents of the country.

My husband and I play that game whenever we visit a new place. The “Could we live here?” game. I know you do it too. It’s a part of the traveler persona. We go through the checklist of required necessities; gas station, grocery store, thrift store, restaurants and bars, outdoor recreation, opportunities to make friends and earn a living.

And, for me, because I live and work in a fashion dominated world, there must be a sense of style among the cohabitants and a means in which cool clothes can be added to the undersized closet that would certainly come with the stone cottage we would live in.

I wasn’t in Scotland to go shopping, but I was lucky enough to have one afternoon in Glasgow to score a Belstaff cotton shirt for my son. The store at 213 Ingram Street has some incredibly warm people waiting to help you find the perfect fit.

I was there to be with my people. It was about family. It was about making memories.

And as any good Scottish tourist does, we spent some time in Castles making those memories. I’m ashamed to admit that at some point, I was all castled out and my hamstrings ached from climbing so many stairs. Thankfully we did the standard museum/ historical site circuit and took some genuinely spiritual nature hikes between the turrets and stone walls.

Menzies Castle in Aberfeldy Scotland

This is where I discovered, that yes, Scotts are stylish folk and I can definitely wrap my head around what they bring to the sewing table.

If you've watch even one season of Outlander , you know this is a land of wools and knitwear and yes, we expect to see Men in Kilts. Who doesn’t want to see the men who made wearing skirts not only socially acceptable, but super sexy?

Kilt displayed at Stirling Castle.

I’m greeted by a sign at Stirling Castle that informs me that James V and Mary of Guise were reputed to take their fashion seriously and were credited for bringing a French touch to the scene in the mid 1500’s. I’ve got to love a couple that knows a thing or two about coordinating outfits and what makes the perfect power suit.

There were paintings of well-dressed ladies and fashion forward men all over the walls. High collars, gladiator sandals and decolletage? I can work with that.

Selection of Stirling Castle Royals in fashionable attire.

When I saw the curated collection of attire at Blair Castle in Blair Atholl, I thought it was for children. Perhaps children that didn’t play outside, but I’ve no way of knowing how much time a 16th century youth spent at recreation.

Archived collection of clothing at Blair Castle

I thought this because standing so close to them, it was clear next to my 6 foot frame, that these royals could not have topped 5 foot, even in stylish footwear.

The collection curated at Blair castle runs the span of a century from 1740-1844. And, here are some of the pieces that paint a picture of what was making fashion history.

Archived collection of clothing at Blair Castle

The fact that these custom created outfits were made on some of the earliest sewing machines is awe inspiring.

Skaill House Orkney

A fun fashion juxtaposition happened unexpectedly visiting Skaill House in Orkney. This beautiful estate built in 1620 was owned by the man that discovered his ancestral home sat upon a 5000 year old neolithic village buried under the coastal sand. Literally, the ruins of Skara Brae are in the backyard.

Skara Brae Orkney

You’re going to visit Skara Brae first. It’s naturally set up this way, because you'll want to see what the living conditions of these ancient people was like straight away. Being in a place like this puts things in perspective for me. My time on this Earth appreciated a little more, knowing it came with indoor plumbing and electricity.

At the end of the site, a path casually leads to the back yard of a slightly out of place Property. There are no other homes next to it, so it feels very isolated. Skaill house was built in 1620, so the low doorways that prove to be a concussion waiting to happen make sense. As the passageways get taller on the second floor, you stumble into a lovely collection of 1950’s attire worn by some of the woman that lived here. It isn’t lost on me, that 5000 years ago, under the foundation this house is built on, someone was making statements with their wardrobe choices as well, using quite different materials.

Fashion displayed at Skaill House Orkney Scotland

There’s something you need to know about Northern Scotland. They get some weather. And, it isn’t always nice. My crew's fashion choices, once we jumped from Mainland Scotland to Mainland Orkeny, were mostly highlighted by American brands like Refrigiwear, Duluth Trading Co., Arc'teryx and Land's End. But really, my most valuable player, was the scarf I picked up for 2 pounds in a village thrift shop. It saved me.

Author Julie Gallahue, son Ian and husband Dave in Orkney Scotland

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