We billed it as â€œScotland â€“ The Returnâ€, eight years on from when we last visited.Â It was a trip to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.
Linlithgow Palace near Edinburgh appeared to be exactly as weâ€™d left it all those years ago, right down to the iron candle stands and red carpet, which are left in the Undercroft and used for occasions such as our wedding. But for the poignant absence of our families and friends (we felt their ghostly presence) and our wedding outfits, it could have been ten years ago.
One thing had changed; work on King James Vâ€™s elaborate, three-tiered fountain in the centre of the courtyard is now complete. When we got married the fountain was in the process of being repaired. We remembered how the workmen put down their tools during our wedding ceremony, so as not to make a noise. Now the fountain is resplendent with its mermaids and unicorns and other figures.
The ancient royal Palace, the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, is a gift for any photographer, steeped in history, romantic and characterful. Indeed, we re-traced our steps and snapped away with our camera at each of the locations where weâ€™d had our wedding photographs taken, from the courtyard and the four ranges, to the great hall, to the sublime Linlithgow Loch beside which the Palace sits; new photographs, old memories.
I envy the locals who can walk on the open parkland or rather, The Peel, every day if they so choose. Imagine having a ruined but majestic Palace and a loch on your doorstep. As I gazed out towards the loch, and then back at the parkland, I remembered my mum doing an impromptu jig. How we laughed.
We couldnâ€™t leave without a memento and so off we went to the gift shop, where we found ourselves telling the assistant about our anniversary, and that weâ€™d got married in the Undercroft. She was gratifyingly interested to hear how we felt to be back and whether we thought much had changed. Our chests puffed up with pride, our hearts with love. Weâ€™ve had a happy ten years together.
Whilst we were in the area we couldnâ€™t resist a visit to the MacDonald Houstoun House Hotel in Uphall, a 16th Century Tower House. We held our wedding reception in the Library there, and had some more wedding photographs taken in the surrounding woodland. Walking in the grounds, everything seemed amplified; senses, emotions, colours. Once again it felt like our wedding had taken place just yesterday. We stood, arms wrapped round each other, under the old oak tree, the leaves beneath our feet like Natureâ€™s red and gold confetti. I have pictures of our wedding confetti scattered amongst the leaves.
A passing member of staff stopped to chat, happy to spend a few minutes reminiscing with us. We donâ€™t normally blurt out details of our personal lives to strangers, but we were feeling nostalgic. Itâ€™s good to talk, donâ€™t you know?
Helen Edwards is a freelance writer, now based in Milton Keynes. Â As well as real-life stories, she concentrates on travel and historical features, baking and crafts. Â Helen can be followed on Twitter @heedw.
Headline image credited to Natural Weddings, Suzanne Hodgson Photography