Last night I dreamt of a ruin.
Not only does my fascination with ruins pervade the waking hours of my life, so too it occasionally seeps into those intoxicating night time wanderings of my subconscious. During my latest slumberous hours I slipped into that realm of intrigue, and found ruination pervading my nightly thoughts.
The peeling white harling of a familiar decrepit highland hunting lodge beckoning from the distance, part hidden by a small cluster of evergreens as I stepped across stones in a dancing stream. My mind had conjured the most glorious summer’s day, with gentle sunlight beaming down and warming my skin, dancing across the surface of the bubbling water in shimmering figurations as I took my own steps across its course. I felt a great sense of contentment, and resolution to reach the building I remembered fondly. Yet before I could cover any further distance towards the ruin beyond, the fleeting moment vanished.
As with many of the best and most memorable dreams, those involving ruins are for me often so tantalizingly short and unresolved. I have never kept a dream diary as such, but can remember fragments of many a dream which sees me skirting the walls of a building I long to enter.
During these nocturnal journeys, I have on occasion walked through an abandoned entrance hall and heard a knock at the door, traversed a debris-strewn staircase accompanied by an unknown figure, and encountered the former inhabitants of a decaying mansion.
At times my dream space has been filled with visions of ruins I have actually visited, sometimes taking me further into a building and showing me rooms I didn’t experience in reality. On other occasions I have dreamt of places which feel associated with a real house, yet upon closer inspection, appear visually unrecognizable in comparison to their physical entity. Sometimes the empty halls and crumbling walls my mind conjures in the night seem pure imagination.
Only once has one of these assumed imagined buildings crossed over into reality, and transpired to actually exist in the physical world.
A few years ago I dreamt of scrambling up a steep overgrown incline, the sound of a trickling stream below me. After every few steps I would look up ahead through the trees to what was pulling me onwards; the tall dark walls of a ruined castle atop the hillock.
Imposing yet enthralling, it taunted me with its brooding presence as I attempted in vain to reach the summit on which it sat. This was another fleeting dream, and again the moment passed without my ever having reached the castle I so longed to discover. Despite its ephemeral nature, I could vividly remember the dream when I awoke, and the memory of it stayed with me.
Some time later while conducting general research into various buildings, I unearthed an image which transfixed my eye and caused my heart to skip.
Here was that tall dark house I had dreamt about, perched atop a steep slope just as I had envisaged. In an oddly surreal moment, I realised the place I took to be imagined was in fact real.
The house was Redcastle; noted as one of the oldest continuously inhabited residences in Scotland before its abandonment in the 1950s. I knew of the Castle but had never before seen it depicted from this vantage point. I had only previously surveyed photos taken from its eastern perspective, which suggest a level site, and had no knowledge of the contrasting gradient to the rear before my subconscious placed me there during that night time excursion. As I took in the slightly unnerving significance of this fact, I realised that my dream was no longer a dream, but a premonition.
Another period of time lapsed, before the day arrived when I could fully realize the journey my sleep had disallowed me. There was an undoubtedly surreal atmosphere surrounding my visit to Redcastle one summer’s day on the Black Isle. There seemed no real way of convincing myself that I wasn’t in fact dreaming on this occasion too, given the strange relationship with reality this whole experience had fostered. I resolved to trust in my senses, and entered the old Highland estate.
I walked, as if somnambulant, down a wide grassy avenue. Reaching a small stone bridge, I crossed, descending the bank and tracing my way along the stream below. Just as in my dream of months before, I could feel the brooding presence of the Castle towering above. I took a moment to compose myself, and set forth to complete the long awaited journey.