PYTHON FANS PREPARE FOR PILGRIMAGE TO DOUNE
Monty Python fans from all over the world are preparing to make a special pilgrimage to Doune Castle in September for the 35th anniversary of cult comedy film, ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’.
Fans of the spoof movie based of the legend of King Arthur have been visiting Doune Castle since it was filmed there; it’s estimated they account for around a third of the 25,000 annual visitors to the 14th century stronghold.
On Sunday 12 September, Historic Scotland’s ‘First Farewell Monty Python Day’ will be the latest special event staged at Doune Castle for Python fans since the first in 2004.
Events manager Nick Finnigan said: “For this year’s Python day, we’re returning to the less structured, more spontaneous format of our early events, and of course, loads of fun and games. We’ve got some of the most popular comic sketches being recreated, prizes for the best costumes, a trail - ‘Monty Python and the Holy Trail’ - highlighting the various filming locations of scenes from the film, a quiz with prizes, singing, and of course, lots of coconut shells!”
Coconut shells have been a fixture at Doune since the Holy Grail film became a cult hit. Visitors use them to mimic horses’ hooves, just as King Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his faithful servant, Patsy (Terry Gilliam) did in the film's opening scene.
In addition to Gilliam and Chapman, who died in 1989, five years after the Pythons made their last film, the other Pythons who starred in the film were Michael Palin, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Terry Jones. Jones made a return to Doune – at least in voice - last year when he recorded the castle’s new audio guide. The tape begins: "Welcome to Doune Castle. I'm Terry Jones, and in 1974 some friends and myself made a very silly film here called Monty Python and the Holy Grail."
The Monty Python event on 12th September takes place from 4pm to 7pm. Tickets are in great demand so - with numbers restricted to 500 due to space limitations - fans who don’t want to miss the event need to secure their tickets without delay.
Priced £10 for adults, £8 for concessions and £6 for children –with a 10% discount for Historic Scotland members – tickets can be purchased from www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/shop. For further details, call 0131 668 8885.
For further information, interviews and images:
Ellen Drummond Ferroni, Historic Scotland Marketing, 0131 668 8734 / 07801 820757
Doune Castle’s starring roles:
• The Monty Python and The Holy Grail song and dance routine at ‘Camelot’ was filmed in the Great Hall at Doune Castle and the servery and kitchen appear as ‘Castle Anthrax’, where Sir Galahad the Chaste (Michael Palin) is chased by seductive women. The wedding disrupted by Sir Lancelot (John Cleese) was filmed in the courtyard and Great Hall.
• Doune Castle has featured in several literary works, including the 17th-century ballad The Bonny Earl of Murray which relates the murder of James Stewart, 2nd Earl of Moray by the Earl of Huntly in 1592. In Sir Walter Scott’s first novel, Waverley (1814), the protagonist Edward Waverley is brought to Doune Castle by the Jacobites. Scott's romantic novel describes the ‘gloomy yet picturesque structure’, with its ‘half-ruined turrets’.
• The castle was used as a location in MGM’s 1952 historical film Ivanhoe, starring Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor, and for the forthcoming HBO TV series Game of Thrones.
Doune Castle’s history:
• Doune Castle was built in the 14th century for Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, who ruled all of Scotland while King James I was held captive in England. After Robert’s death the castle, and the regency of Scotland, passed to his son Duke Murdoch. In 1424 the king returned. Not long after, Murdoch was arrested and executed along with his sons – James I believed his family had done too little to secure his release. Doune Castle was confiscated by the Crown and was used as a royal hunting lodge.
• The castle’s most striking feature is the keepgatehouse which included the splendid restored Duke’s Hall with its musicians’ gallery, double fireplace and carved oak screen.
• Doune Castle is in Doune, 10 miles north-west of Stirling off the A84; postcode FK16 6EA.
• Doune Castle is just one of 345 outstanding heritage properties and sites in the care of Historic Scotland. Ranging from prehistoric dwellings to medieval castles, and from cathedrals to industrial buildings, these include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country. Among the most popular are Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles, Skara Brae, and the Border Abbeys. For further details of all of Historic Scotland’s sites visit: www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/places.