Deadset easy for a tough bush girl from Australia’s Northern Territory, right?
That’s what Nori thought.
But that was before she met the bagpipe-playing ghost, not to mention the distant relatives who wanted the castle for their own…
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Five years ago I inherited this castle in Scotland from some Uncle Iagan Bowland who I’d never heard of until I got the lawyer’s letter in the mail.
I was nineteen at the time, frustrated at not being able to find a better-paying job in our little bush town than checkout chick at the local Woollies. So I decided to go check it out, since part of the condition of inheriting Castle Bowland was actually going to Castle Bowland and staying in it for one week minimum.
Weird. But hey, it’s a castle, right? Who wouldn’t want to spend a week in a genuine Scottish castle, and inherit the thing as well? Who knows, I thought, I might even meet a cute Scottish laird.
So I gave my car to my half-sister, who was a bit pissed that it wasn’t her who’d inherited the castle (Uncle Iagan was related to me on my mum’s side), on condition that she drive me the one hundred and fifty k’s to the nearest airport in Darwin. From there I took two planes, three trains, a bus and a rickety old taxi that was probably built in the nineteen thirties and finally arrived in Braithewaite Cliffs, population about six hundred and temperature, to a Northern Territorian bushie like me, about a hundred below zero.
From the lawyer’s office, where I’d got the taxi to take me, I could see my castle. It was up on the hill which overlooked the village and the sea. From there, seen through a screen of trees, it looked like a fairytale castle. Greyish stone, tall, narrow windows and a tower at one end. I imagined vast stretches of mown lawns and colourful flowerbeds and maybe a horse stable (without the horses of course, it had been three years since Uncle Iagan died) out the back.
Outside the huge wooden front door of the castle, where Mr McGregor dropped me and my two suitcases off, it looked a lot different. The stone was covered in moss halfway up its three storeys, some of the windows were boarded up, and the grounds were a mess.
Castle, not. More like a big stone house with delusions of grandeur.
‘Afraid it’s not been looked after well since old Mr Bowland died.’ Mr McGregor said. ‘It took a while for us to find you. Your great-great-grandmother was Mr Bowland’s grandfather’s younger sister. We had no idea we’d have to look as far as Australia.’ He handed me a pile of envelopes. ‘Here’s a copy of the will, which I advise you to read as soon as possible. Our fee has already been paid by the estate. However,’ and here he at least looked sheepish. ‘as I stipulated in my letter, Mr Bowland’s will requires you to stay in residence here for one week before I may hand over the deed to the castle and the balance of the monies left to you.’ He held out a key, a huge old-fashioned iron thing that matched the huge iron hinges on the door and near froze my fingers to it when I took it from him. ‘I look forward to seeing you in a week, Miss Graham.’
‘I’ll be there,’ I assured him. What I didn’t tell him was I’d suddenly been hit with the realisation that it was going to cost huge amounts of money to fix this place up, and the will didn’t specify how much money Uncle Iagan had left. So I figured I would collect my deed – after all, how hard could it be to sleep in a castle for a week? – then decide what to do when I knew how much money I was looking at.