Scotland's Pittormie Castle, Home of The Eden Club
The ghost of Timothy Leary dissolved my melancholy at Pittormie Castle. And I was stone sober.
Pittormie Castle in Scotland was originally the home of the first Duke of Fife in 1593 before King James VI gave it to Ludovic of Lennox a few years later. I arrived in 2010 for an exclusive group tour while traveling on business. The castle and residences sat on a huge swath of land within a few miles of St. Andrews, the World Capital of Golf, a center of pilgrimage and a spiritual site for millions that make the journey. The university village of St. Andrews was just nearby, steeped in religious and esoteric history, going all the way back to when Christianity first arrived in Scotland.
Upon my arrival I learned that Pittormie appropriately served as the home base of the Eden Club, an elite, ultra-luxury, top-level international private club in which membership was strictly by invitation. The membership was drawn from individuals that belonged to other notable private clubs around the world, those who could prove they shared the vision and principals upon which the Eden Club was founded. The club could refuse membership to anyone it deemed unsatisfactory without providing any reason whatsoever. Upon acceptance, though, its members gained privileged access to some of the finest golf courses and accommodations across the globe. Pittormie was the cream of the crop, the crème de la crème.
For most of the 20th century, the property had fallen into decline, but a full remodel was completed five years earlier, elevating the castle and the grounds to standards rarely seen in a Scottish country mansion. As a result, Pittormie was morphing into the most exclusive private club in all of Scotland.
The gardens were manicured with the precision of a diamond cutter. Golf, tennis, fly fishing and falconry were just some of the available activities. Depending on the circumstances, guests could even get access to a nearby private airstrip.
Inside, the castle featured eight bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms, plus a variety of aristocratic lounges and rooms enabling club members to relax among top-of-the-line accoutrements. Four main dining areas operated under the supreme guidance of Michelin Star Chef Allan Donald. In my notebook, I scribbled down: marble, mahogany, taxidermy, Scottish whisky, Montecristo cigars, golf, ascots and $2500 Herringbone tweed jackets.
In addition to the castle, the estate featured separate two- and three-bedroom residences in the surrounding gardens, each residence between 1,300 and 2,890 square feet, all of which were furnished to the highest levels. One could purchase a residence in whole or in part, with a minimum stay of two weeks per residence and a maximum of 48 weeks. A fulltime dedicated staff, including an entire fleet of drivers, was available for guests and/or owners.
Yet none of this seemed to cheer me up. To begin with, Scotland already instilled a smidgeon of loneliness if one was sober, just since much of the population was inseparable from drink, especially if one was traveling on business. A gorgeous opulent place like Pittormie Castle only added to the frustration because despite a few intriguing story angles, there was no way for a freelance outsider journalist like me to land any successful assignments from real publications to write about the place. I’d been through this process a zillion times.
This was the story of my life. No matter how many years I spent trying to travel, network, take writing workshops, maintain editorial connections and pitch story ideas, it just never, ever seemed to work out. Magazine editors, or anyone else for that matter, were simply not interested in anything I wanted to write. It was a losing battle, a pointless way to even try to make a living.
So there I was, surrounded by leather furniture, polished wood and glass in the renovated lounge area of the Eden Club at Pittormie Castle, stone sober and unnecessarily isolating as always. It was ridiculous.
However, just as one meaningless little inconvenience can trigger a massive brownout of depression, so can one inconsequential dose of serendipity transform isolation into gratitude. And that’s what happened.
The lounge was dimly lit, a subdued wealthy man’s gathering room with antique furniture, ancient oil paintings and $100 bottles of Scotch lined up on the bar. At times, the television high up in the corner seemed to provide the only real illumination.
Standing there, I looked up at a Sky News program: A special report discussing which particular hard drugs were considered least harmful and most harmful to humans — heroin, crack cocaine, LSD and ecstasy. The imagery and text panels featured near-blinding-white hues, almost mystical in the way they beamed out into the dimly lit atmosphere of the bar. I was mesmerized by the glaring white light.
Somehow it all made sense. Drugs. White light. The Eden Club.
The scene reminded me of Timothy Leary’s blasphemous comedy routine about how the Garden of Eden was the site of the first drug bust. Supposedly told to him by Aldous Huxley during a psilocybin session in the early ‛60s, the routine claimed original sin was the intelligent use of drugs in the Garden of Eden. The forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge was the first controlled substance. That is, God established the first ever food-and-drug regulations. Adam and Eve were forbidden to partake because if they did, they might actually see beyond good and evil and achieve immortality. But they did partake. And they got busted. Which in Leary’s view explains why the church is hysterically anti-drugs.
That’s what I thought while viewing the mystical whiteness transmitting from the Sky News drug report, on the wall, in the bar, at Pittormie Castle, the home of the Eden Club. I have never done any of the drugs mentioned in the program, but I felt like someone somewhere was trying to tell me something, or just remind me as to what misery was out there waiting, should I relapse and start drinking again.
So I laughed out loud with gratitude. The others in the room did not understand why I was laughing and there was no point even trying to explain. They probably thought I was nuts. I didn’t care. I just kept laughing. My isolation began to wane and I felt a little more connected to humanity.
Like any sober person two years clean, the gratitude became clear. No matter how much I’d failed as a freelance writer, at least I was able to travel. And I hadn’t given up yet. Had I quit writing, I wouldn’t be here touring the finest country club in Scotland. Every phenomenon arose due to the coming together of previous phenomena. There were plenty of reasons to remain positive. I could forgive myself for isolating. At least for now.
I’ll say it again. The ghosts of Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley dissolved my melancholy at Pittormie Castle.
Author’s note: Portions of this anecdote previously appeared at TravelingBoy.com