Hawthornden Castle by Steve Mwase

Hawthornden Castle by Steve Mwase

'It would have been a step' by Steve Mwase

When I first heard of retreats for writers I was very much thrown in thought. First I imagined it for the like of writers who had made a big impact on writing - Bestsellers. Whatever made me think that way, most retreats gave residence to barely a handful of writers. With Holland alone having writers in their tens of thousands, the idea was compounded by the fact that the retreat I was sending my application gave residence only to five artists at a time. I received my reply as positive after a couple of months and shall be a Fellow at Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers in Scotland from the third until the thirtieth of March 2002.

As my people say: luck strikes in triplets. The Dutch Writers Foundation, my homeland organization from which I knew all about retreats would be footing my travel expenses to and from. Then comes the admission letter vividly: Hawthornden Castle is a historical sight admired by among others, Queen Victoria and Prince Phillip, King William of Orange (Holland) at the peak of his anti-Catholicism crusade, Robert the Bruce versus William Wallace the highlander campaigners and of course its architect - writer and poet: William Drummond. Having never been to Scotland before, not even to a residence, yet catapulted to a Fellow: I was over the moon.

Beyond me in residence was Alistair from Scotland and Tony from the Philippines. Introduction to Hawthornden's underground was rather scaring - medieval tunnel caves crucifix an open monumental well simultaneously. Even then, Hawthornden is the most conducive place for writing I have ever been to. Besieged by a gorge, Hawthornden castle overlooks river North Esk down a steep cliff. Passing vehicles are detached by dead grounds making bubbling waters of the Esk mingle singing birds with intuitive melody. Garden Room from which Sherries are drunk prior to candlelight-dinners faces the river-side. The main library takes the quietest upper-side.

With breakfast from eight till nine then lunch of what one ordered during breakfast brought upstairs onto writers' corridor at noon plus afternoon tea with an accompaniment also brought upstairs at two o'clock by gorgeous housekeepers, and lavish dinners served in courses from seven by the best cook - saw us in paradise. Despite the superb environment I didn't do much:  With my entire novel on a floppy, Hawthornden castle had no computers for us!