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Storm Arwen

The recent storm (26/11/21, d/m/y) which blew over the UK was particularly damaging in Aberdeenshire. At Lickleyhead Castle the effects were pronounced though not as bad as they could have been. The castle itself was structurally undamaged. I'm sure the building has seen worse weather through the centuries and with walls several feet thick in places, it would take quite the wolf to blow this house down.

Rather unfortunately however, we lost a lot of trees, including one especially beautiful and enormous copper beech which may well be as old as Lickleyhead itself. The fallen tree avoided the hedges of our walled garden as it came down, which is a small blessing. It will take a long time to fully clear it; hundreds of years for its like to return to the grounds.

There were no guests staying at the castle during the storm, and the owners, Kathy and Mark, decided to shelter in the castle rather than in their own cottage. The storm caused widespread power outages across the county, including at Lickleyhead Castle, but the castle has a number of advantages over more modern buildings when it comes to disasters. The two main ones in this case were a wood burning stove for warmth and the oil-fed Aga for cooking. These features, which seem redundant or atmospheric under normal circumstances, become real life-savers in emergencies.

At the time of writing this blog the power has still not been restored, illustrating just how much damage was done to the grid and other infrastructure by Storm Arwen. We can only imagine how others must be faring at this difficult time, with no heat and the bitter cold of Scottish winter setting in. Hopefully the situation will be resolved soon.

The following is an account of Kathy's experience of living without electrical power or the internet for three nights.

19th Century living at Lickleyhead Castle- By Kathy Davies

During a recent three day power cut at the castle, caused by Storm Arwen at the end of November 2021 ( windspeeds of 80mph along with snow blizzards) with major disruption to transport and power we were forced to live in a way which would have been standard before the advent of electricity. One finds oneself imagining the soft tread of a scullery maid as she lays and lights the fires in the bedrooms as the family quietly slumber. Or getting up in the cold predawn to boil and carry water up the spiral staircases to the rooms above for the laird, his family and guests to perform their morning ablutions, (not to mention dealing with the servicing of the closed stools!)

Anyway, as we shiveringly undressed for bed in room temperatures where one’s icy breath was clearly discernible, it was very easy to understand why our ancestors would not have wanted to change out of a good few layers of undergarments for bed.

We have become so conditioned and take entirely for granted the miracle of instant light and heat that when faced with the absence of electric power it very quickly becomes apparent just what a hard life our forefathers endured.

So, with the all the romance that a candle lit room inspires, as we sat toasting our feet by the woodburning stove we raised a glass to the past. Playing the piano by the light of my Grandmother’s candelabra, and with the so evocative magical scent of wood smoke, I suddenly felt the contours of the present and the past start to blur. While outside under a starry, starry sky, the grandeur of the Milky Way was clearly visible. It’s hard not to love Lickleyhead.

Keep safe and stay warm out there, wherever you are.

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It's a shame if that's the copper beach between the gates and the brig

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