The Holy Grail of Scotland- Duone Castle

I’m happy to admit that Scotland is probably my favorite country I’ve ever visited. I’ve loved every trip there and almost as soon as I leave I start looking forward to the next opportunity that will bring me back to it’s rolling green Highlands and magical landscape. And most definitely my favorite site I’ve been to in Scotland is Duone Castle.

duone2

Gates of Duone Castle, 2014. c. Leah Putz

You see, I love Monty Python. I mean, I really love Monty Python. The first time I saw ‘The Holy Grail’ my mind was blown, and I was certain I had just discovered the funniest movie in all of human existence. I’m still of this opinion. There is nothing to me that makes me laugh so hard, even after seeing it a hundred times. Just quoting it (and believe me, it’s incredibly quotable) can have my friends and I in stitches. It is without a doubt my favorite comedy, and has been since I was probably about 8 years old.

Knowing this, it’s not a surprise that Duone Castle had me fangirling and squealing with excitement like nowhere ever had before, because Monty Python filmed a majority of the footage of ‘The Holy Grail’ in or around Duone Castle. The comedy group had little to no budget for the film, which featured several different castles in the script. They could only afford to rent out one castle, and thus filmed every castle scene in Doune Castle, simply dressing up different rooms to make it look like a whole different location in the movie. Nearly every room is recognizable for a ‘Holy Grail’ fan, and the Castle gift shop is full of Monty Python memorabilia (including a large bottle of beer cleverly called ‘The Holy Ail’).

duone4

Standing in the kitchen where Monty Python filmed many of the ‘Castle Anthrax’ scenes, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Since I visited back in 2014, the castle has become even more popular with tourists, attracting not only Monty Python fans, but fans of Game of Thrones (some Winterfell scenes were filmed there) and the Starz series Outlander, in which the castle portrays the MacKenzie home of Castle Leoch.

duone3 courtyard

Duone Castle courtyard, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Television and movies aren’t the only reason to visit Duone Castle, though. In remarkable condition for a building that over 800 years old (thanks to Historic Scotland), the castle gives visitors a glimpse into medieval life, and was formerly a hunting lodge for Scottish monarchs. One of the most striking aspects of the castle is the fully restored Lord’s Hall, which now appears just as it would have when the castle was inhabited nearly a millennium ago.

View of the serving room from a high staircase and Castle toilet, 2014. c. Leah Putz

So whether you’re a fan of Monty Python, Outlander, Game of Thrones, or Scottish history, you must put Duone Castle on your bucket list.

duone5

Top of Duone Castle and the Scottish countryside, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Advertisements

Top 5 Must-Dos in Chicago

Chicago is a hot spot this winter, especially after the Cubs won the World Series, and many people are scrambling to spend a few days there. I myself spent the weekend there recently visiting a friend and, though it was absolutely freezing cold, I had a wonderful time exploring and seeing bits of Chicago I hadn’t seen on my previous trips there.

joe-and-i

My friend Joe and I trying to stay warm in front of Willis Tower, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Now, after having visited the city three times, I’ve compiled a top 5 must do’s if you’re spending the weekend in Chicago!

  1. Stroll along the Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile is a stretch of Michigan Avenue that runs through the heart of downtown Chicago. Running along the mile are numerous historic landmarks (the Chicago water tower, Wrigley Building, and Tribune Tower to name a few) and high-end shops that make the area Chicago’s largest shopping district. Even if you aren’t a big shopper, strolling along the mile simply to take in the scale of the buildings and the architecture is quite an experience.

  1. Visit the Bean

the-bean

The Bean and I, 2013. c. Leah Putz

Okay, I know that technically this large sculpture is called Cloud Gate, but who actually says that? Everyone, tourists and natives, refer to it lovingly as ‘the bean’ because that’s what it looks like. A giant, reflecting bean. The bean is the focal point of Millennium Park and it has become a signature part of Chicago in the past 10 years that it has existed. It’s incredibly interesting and a bit surreal to experience, especially if you stand directly underneath it and look up to see your reflection warped by the irregular shape of the sculpture. The bean is definitely a must-see, especially if it’s your first time in the city.

  1. Willis Tower

willis-tower

Willis Tower, 2016. c. Leah Putz

With 110 floors, Willis Tower, formerly (and more commonly) known as Sears Tower, is America’s tallest building and the staple of Chicago’s skyline. The building has an observation deck with a clear floor that allows you to feel like you’re standing on top of the city with nothing beneath you, but this comes with a price tag. I haven’t journeyed to the top of the tower in any of my trips to Chicago because the $23.00 admission fee seems a bit too steep to me, but I’ve been told it is an incredibly surreal experience!

  1. The River Walk

river-walk

View of Chicago from the River walk, 2016. c. Leah Putz

One of my favorite things about Chicago is how beautiful the Chicago River is. In every other major city I’ve been to, the river is brown and looks really dirty. In Chicago, however, the river is alluringly blue. There are paths leading along both sides of the river, littered with cafes and restaurants, that allow an easy stroll taking in the sites of the city.  

  1. Navy Pier

navy-pier

Navy Pier, 2016. c. Leah Putz

Navy Pier is my favorite part of Chicago for a few reasons. One, it offers an extraordinary view of the Chicago skyline and of Lake Michigan. Two, it takes you out of the concrete jungle atmosphere of the downtown Loop area of the city and surrounds you with beautiful azul waters and a seaside-like atmosphere. There’s a lighthouse in the distance, an anchor sculpture, a ferris wheel, and a beer garden. What more could you want in an area?

 

Honorable mention: Don’t forget to try Chicago-style deep dish pizza and/or a Chicago-style hot dog. If there’s anything Chicago is known for- it’s food!

chicago-style-hot-dog

Chicago style hot dog, 2013. c. Leah Putz