Medieval Monday:

You Can Create A Castle Too

In my office, I have a couple of photos of castles from Scotland and on another wall, a couple of prints of early 1800 lithographs picturing the English countryside–for that Regency I keep threatening to finish. Just looking at those visuals can inspire me when I’m working on setting for my books.

Somehow it’s not the beautiful still-inhabited castles or manors that give me the greatest push. It’s those fallen into disuse, disrepair –and basically fallen to pieces. Something about the solitariness of fragments of wall that remains silhouetted against the sky that fuels the imagination. I can rebuild that shell in my mind, surround it with walls and outbuildings and populate it with the people of my creation. In fact, I usually sketch a layout of the interior of the castle or manor and all the accompanying structures around the interior of the bailey — inner and outer. I can spend hours researching from the several books on castle design and layout that I have accumulated.

All this comes, of course, after I have the characters. Characters come first for me, then their stories, then the rest.

Today I want to share with you photos of a few of the ancient castle remains that have caught my fancy and never fail to set me to designing the setting for my next book.

Midhope Castle, Scotland

The first is Midhope Castle in Scotland. Originally a tower house from the 1500s, it was enlarged later. It’s located a handful of miles from Edinburgh

I haven’t been able to identify this second one which I found online. If someone can help me out with it, I’d greatly appreciate it. But the atmosphere of it really can generate ideas, right?

Unidentified castle remains.

The third one is identified in one place as Brough Castle in England, one of the earliest build after 1066. Obviously the remains below are of later updates.

As you can see, just beginning to look at–and look up–these old structures can set the creative ideas blooming.

Brough Castle

Thanks for sharing some of my passion in medieval surroundsing. Happy imagining.

Don’t forget to check out my fellow Medieveal Monday Authors:



Medieval Monday: Motte and Bailey–Early Castles

When we think of castles we usually picture a large stone edifice in the middle of an open space that’s surrounded by one or two stone walls. And that’s true of later structures. But early ones, even those built by William the Conqueror and his followers immediately after the invasion of England in 1066 were wooden. And ones that existed long before that in the pre-invasion British Isles–were made of wood.

Motte with stone castle shell surrounded by the open bailey and wall, with the gate to the right. Launceston Castle, England.

Originally defensive in nature, these places served as either a lookout/defense against invaders or as a home. The lookout /defensive towers usually were just that–a single tower. The structures that served as residences were usually somewhat larger. But still considered defensive in nature. Thus, they were usually surrounded by a wall. At that time, the walls were also wooden.

Of choice, defensive structures and castles were build on high ground. When no such high ground was handy, a high spot was created. These artificial hills were known as mottes. The living structure was built of wood on that motte or hill and surrounded by the open space (bailey) which was in turn bordered by a wooden wall. Thus the motte and bailey castles of old. Although most of the castles built immediately after 1066 were wooden, it wasn’t long before they were replaced by stone ones.

Although much faster to build, wooden towers and castles and walls were subject to obvious danger–fire and easy undermining only two. Still these early dwellings were used for hundreds of years before the Norman Invasion, and modern archeology has found that often the later castles replaced the wooden motte and bailey ones of centuries earlier. Many of the stone replacements remained on the ‘motte’ or earthen hill.

Here are a couple of photos of what a motte and bailey looks like–as we can see from today’s ancient remains.

Clough motte and bailey Castle,(stone shell standing) County Down, Northern Ireland.

NOTE: Be sure to visit my fellow Medieval Monday Roses (The Wild Rose Press) Mary Morgan and Anastasia Abboud . They always have something interesting planned. You can find them here:




One of the many things I enjoy about writing stories set in the Medieval era is finding out about how the people lived. Like most writers of historicals, I can lose myself for hours in research and must force myself to stop. (Even though I’m sure that in one more book, one more online learned site I’ll uncover a glowing gem of fact.)

St. Margaret pictured as a shepherdess when spotted by the Roman official.

One of the topics that provides endless research opportunity deals with holidays the ‘regular’ people of the Middle Ages observed. In addition to the obvious ones, people often celebrated church feast days.  At that time, the formal religion of the West was Christianity via the Catholic Church, and the church recognized many saints, who were celebrated on designated dates.

While two St. Margarets were celebrated within a week of each other in July, today I want to tell you about St. Margaret of Pisidia whose feast day is this week. According to tradition, legends, (and maybe a little imagination), she was an interesting if tragic lady.

Sources have it that she was born near Antioch during the reign of Diocletian. Her father was said to have been a pagan priest. When her mother died soon after her birth, Margaret was raised by her nurse, who was a Christian. Margaret, exposed to that influence, became a Christian and “consecrated” her virginity to God. When her father learned of this, he disowned her and threw her out of the house. She went to live with her nurse, who adopted her.

Legend says Margaret was with friends and minding her adoptive mother’s sheep one day when a Roman official came by. Struck by her beauty, he ordered her brought to him—to be his wife or his concubine, depending on whether or not she was already wed.

He ordered her to give up Christianity but she refused (some stories maintain that she tried to convert him.) He had her brought to trial and she was condemned.

St. Margaret of Antioch. Illuminated manuscript ca. 1440, Spain

Her persecutors first tried to burn her, but she remained untouched.

Next they threw her in a cauldron of boiling water, but she prayed, her bonds fell away, and she emerged unharmed.

In the third event, which one early churchman later admitted might be more symbolic than real, Margaret prayed to come face to face with her “enemy”. A dragon leapt before her (Satan taking that form, the story goes) and tried to swallow her. As he did so, she made the sign of the cross and the small cross she carried became bigger and bigger until it burst the dragon apart and she stepped free.

Finally, her persecutors beheaded her.

Ironically, the virgin St. Margaret became the patron saint of pregnant women (likely, it’s said, because of the dragon incident.)

According to her story told on the website St. Margarets Ilkley, “[H]er legend had been declared apocryphal by the Pope as early as 494,” and although she’s said to have died during the Diocletian persecution in the early 300s AD, the exact placement of her years is unknown. (Did she even exist? Some sources question that, but her legend remains.)

She’s one of the saints who appeared to Joan of Arc, and is recognized as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, a group of saints “known for their ability to petition for people.”

(A ‘calmer’ vision of St. Margaret and the dragon.) Figure in alabaster, made in France about 1475, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

It is said she was especially popular among medieval folks, likely because of her connection to childbirth. She was also patron saint “of women, nurses, and peasants” (St. Margarets Ilkley).

A popular lady of the medieval people, her feast day is July 20.


St. Margaret of Antioch (

Margaret the Virgin – Wikipedia

NOTE: Be sure to visit my fellow Medieval Monday Roses (The Wild Rose Press) Mary Morgan and Anastasia Abboud . They always have something interesting planned. You can find them here:



Scroll to Top