Strange things happen to many a traveler while roaming the dark passages and chambers of Doune Castle. They are overcome with an irresistible urge to say silly things like...
Doune, Scotland Strange things happen to many a traveler while roaming the dark passages and chambers of Doune Castle. They are overcome with an irresistible urge to say silly things like “Bring out your dead!” and “We are the knights who say NI!”
The 14th-century castle was the location for much of the filming of the 1974 classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” considered by devotees one of the funniest films ever made.
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Doune Castle has become something of a shrine for Monty Python fans a holy grail of its own.
They walk through the castle reciting lines from the movie, and looking for sites where specific scenes were shot such as the battlement where John Cleese’s French soldier shouts down at King Arthur, “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!”
Castle manager George McWilliam recalls a group of Americans who came last year to re-enact much of the movie and shoot it as a home video. They used a toy cow the type you might find in a baby’s crib as a stand-in for the full-sized cow hurled over the battlements by King Arthur’s French taunters.
McWilliam is a good sport about this, even a co-conspirator. He provides visitors with coconuts so they can wander around the grounds making the “clop-clop” sounds made by the horseless King Arthur and his sidekick, Patsy.
“We had about 23,000 visitors last year,” said McWilliam. “I reckon 30 percent come because of the Python thing.”
McWilliam himself is a fan of the Monty Python movies.
“My favorite is the Holy Grail. I re-enact it nearly every day with my visitors,” McWilliam said, only half-kidding.
For the benefit of the uninitiated, here are some of the scenes from the movie that live on among fans as endless inside jokes:
Sharp-minded villagers deduce that a young woman is a witch because she is made of wood. In Camelot, the knights eat “Spam a lot.” King Arthur hacks the arms and legs off the Black Knight, but it’s only a flesh wound. Sir Robin soils his armor. A group of men, asked by Arthur to identify themselves, inspire terror by responding, “We are the knights who say NI!” They then demand a “sacrifice” in the form of “shrubbery.” Sir Galahad struggles to escape from a roomful of virgins. And the cutest bunny in film history reveals itself to be a serial killer.
But Doune Castle is not a silly place. It is a Scottish national treasure, dripping with six centuries of history.
Overlooking a picturesque river just south of the brooding Scottish highlands, the 14th-century Doune Castle is considered the best-preserved medieval castle in Scotland. For decades, Doune Castle’s haunting appearance and its rich history were the attractions for visitors. Monty Python’s Flying Circus has brought legions more.
While preparing to film their irreverent movie about the King Arthur legend, the British TV comedy troupe went looking for castles. They found two that were suitable Doune Castle and another in Scotland, Stalker Castle. A third castle seen in the film is only a model.
Fans of the movie started coming to Doune Castle after reading the script book, which disclosed the film locations. Release of a special DVD version of the movie two years ago has resulted in even more visits to the castle by Python devotees.
One of the DVD’s bonuses is a documentary in which two of the Python troupe Michael Palin and Terry Jones revisit the filming sites, especially Doune Castle.
Back at Doune Castle, McWilliam likes to think that Python fans learn a lot about Scotland and its history during their visits to the medieval edifice.
“I’ve seen about 60,000 people in the past few years,” says McWilliam.