Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

'Achingly beautiful' Dunnottar is highlight of Scotland trip

Posted October 27, 2013

Some Scots call it the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Dunnottar is everything you can think of in a castle setting. These ancient ruins are perched high on a windswept cliff on the North Sea side of Scotland, south of Aberdeen. Dunnottar looks both haunting and invincible, and it inspired a song I wrote on my new album, “Scotland – Grace of the Wild.”

Dunnottar is a castle that played a major role in the history of Scotland. It is billed a place where legends come to life. William Wallace left his mark here as did Mary Queen of Scots and Oliver Cromwell in his failed pursuit of the Scottish Crown Jewels. Some 75,000 visitors soak up the history here each year.

dunnottar Dunnottar

It was raining the day I visited this ruined medieval fortress with my son, Will, and my wife, Cindy, but perhaps this is the best way to see Dunnottar. I took numerous photographs while visiting, but none could compare to the images on the Earthly Light web site of Scottish photographer Stewart Mitchell.

I asked Mitchell if he would collaborate with me on a Dunnottar video, and he agreed. He also agreed to talk with about his love for this iconic location.

Mitchell says “Dunnottar combines a tangible sense of majesty and drama with the barrenness of a unique location.” Filmmakers behind the movie “Hamlet” starring Mel Gibson felt the same way in picking this site for the 1990 production.

Mitchell goes on to describe the rugged beauty of Dunnottar: “To stand there atop the cliffs, drinking in this view in the cold pre-dawn light whilst waiting for the sun to rise is a powerful and emotive, if somewhat eerie experience. It is also one which inevitably causes the small hairs on the back of the neck to stand to attention – a sure sign of impending successful photographic imagery!”

Duke University Celtic Culture and Religion Expert Dr. Garry Crites reviewed the 14 tunes on the CD:

“My personal favorite was ‘Dunnottar,’ an achingly beautiful contemplation on a region of eastern Scotland, the site of a late ancient and medieval hold. In the interlaced whistle, keyboard and strings, one can hear the ghosts of St. Ninnian and William Wallace whispering mournfully among the crumbling battlements of Castle Dunnottar.”

Photographer Mitchell loves the marriage of music and photography in telling the story of Dunnottar and Scotland: “I often have a tune or a song in my head whilst setting up and photographing a landscape. Appropriate music only enhances the viewing experience adding presence to the sensation of actually being there.”


Learn more about the music of Bill Leslie and the photographs of Stewart Mitchell.

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  • Wilson Andrew Craig, III Oct 27, 2013

    can't wait!

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Bill Leslie