We’d toured their caves upon arrival here at Hawthornden Castle, more a great house built onto the remains of a castle, that had been built of sandstone on an impressive jut of stouter rock, in which last night the Picts may or may not have huddled in their caves out of the rain.
The Picts where short folk. For me, not so short, a tour of their caves meant dodging both the puddles of water and the stone roof. I spent the whole time stooped over with my hands on my knees. This is how they lasted for a thousand years, I reckoned. No one else could stand more than two minutes in one of their caves.
“It’s thought,” says my companion, “the Picts were covered with tattoos, or painted themselves blue. Imagine, running naked across the heather, painted blue.” Well that would be fine, it seemed to me. There’s room in the caves to paint yourself blue.
Living up in the house/castle has been something of a Pictish cave-tour experience in some ways. I can’t fit my knees under the breakfast table. The climb up the spiral staircase to the top floor is a little like feeding a long towel through a wringer washer. And if I want all of my body, including the top third, under the shower nozzle, I have stoop and squeeze, without extending my rear end through the shower curtain where it might drip water onto the floor and from there, as the sign says, go “underneath the lino and cause problems below”.
But the prize—richer than rain, brighter than fog, lead-glazed glory for a man’s rear end—is pictured here: