“But I built this glorious burial place and they’ve had the cheek to move my body elsewhere!”
These are the words I imagine the tenth Duke of Hamilton utters from beyond the grave as I stand marvelling at his wonderful, and completely over the top, vision of a crypt fit for a king.
Hamilton Mausoleum is not what one expects to find on a trip to Scotland. Rolling green fields, castle ruins and someone eating haggis? Yes. A 36 metre high Ancient Roman-style crypt and chapel? No.
But the Mausoleum’s visionary, Alexander Hamilton, was a well-travelled - and very wealthy - 19th century Scotsman who made sure he, and his family, would be buried in extraordinary style.
And while it is absolutely certain the finished product looks a little out of place, reflecting the ego of a man from another era, it has left the town with a completely unique and admittedly breathtaking work of architecture.
Poor Alexander didn’t get to see the building finished, and only spent a few decades in its crypt as coal mining nearby caused the Mausoleum to sink slightly in the early 1920s, meaning he and his family’s corpses had to be re-buried elsewhere.
It is just one of the attractions worth visiting in Lanarkshire, a county less than 30 minutes from Glasgow.
The area has a close connection with the Irish - many emigrated there for work in the coal mines and iron works in the nineteenth century.
A glimpse at some of the facts dotted around Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life in north Lanarkshire evokes some deja vu - with references to culture clashes between the native Scots and new workers.
“Parades were flashpoints”, a fact written in one section of the museum dedicated to the growth of lodges in the area, could be a headline from today. The Ancient Order of Hibernians and Orange Lodges both flourished among their own communities, but tensions often came to a head when marches were held.
But while that aspect of society may still ring true in certain parts today, a tour of the tough working and meagre living conditions reminds me the similarities between the ages end there.
Standing in a dark, dank underground coal mine wearing a hard hat and straining my eyes to see what is around me might not have been on my list of things to do during this break, but it certainly made clear to me struggles faced by any ancestors who may have taken the trip across the Irish Sea in the hope of a better life.
The ten-minute tour gave a great insight, but made it all the more shocking when I was informed men used to spend up to 14 hours at a time crawling in the tight spaces, chipping away for coal in what was a dangerous profession.
Elsewhere a tour of some reconstructed coalminers’ cottages of the time showed that the women of the family did not fare much better - rearing large families in one-room houses with no heating or inside toilets.
The museum, while giving me flashbacks of trips to similar attractions during my schooldays, is well worth a visit for adults too.
The interactive element in the houses through the decades, the coal mine and a ride on reconstructed trams bring the historical facts inside the museum to life.
A visit to the county would not be complete without seeing the birthplace of one Dr David Livingstone - the missionary who helped bring the continued brutality of slavery in Africa to the attention of those back home.
The life story of the man who, as a 10-year-old boy taught himself Latin and saved for his medical training by working long, hard shifts in a mill, is told through a museum set in the very building in which Livingstone grew up.
A beautiful ‘Explorer’s Garden’ and grassy grounds surround the site, and visitors are greeted by a statue vividly depicting the scene Livingstone faced when, not long into his African travels, he was attacked by a lion.
From the heat of foreign climes back to the biting winds of Scotland, a trip to a castle is obligatory surely?
Bothwell Castle in the south of the county is a 13th century ruin overlooking the River Clyde.
It was a much sought-after residence - and can lay claim to having felt the feet of William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and that Braveheart ‘baddie’ King Edward Longshanks on its stone steps at various points.
Standing on its narrow, steep staircase and looking out through the narrow slits where the archers sat, one can almost imagine the soldiers on horseback approaching over the lush green fields preparing for war.
After travelling back in time to the battle-hardened medieval era and the struggles of the early twentieth century, there is no better way to savour the history you’ve learned about than to check in to one of Lanarkshire’s luxurious, modern hotels for a relaxing evening.
The Westerwood Hotel in the north of the county is just a short drive from the Colzium Estate where you can enjoy beautiful walks in the forest and gardens.
Set off the main road the hotel is great for golfers and also features tennis courts and a leisure centre.
After a delicious meal of corn-fed chicken risotto and duck with sweet potatoes in Flemings restaurant, a glass of wine by the fire in the bar-come-lounge provides a perfect way to spend the evening.
Further south the Hilton Strathclyde, not far from the delightful village of Bothwell, is everything one would expect from the renowned chain but provides a relaxed atmosphere with a restaurant, bar and lounge all-in-one known as ‘The Space’ on the ground floor.
Leisure facilities are also on offer to residents and staff are friendly and helpful.
So for history, homeliness and even a touch of ancient Rome, Lanarkshire is definitely worth a visit.
Easyjet flies between Belfast International and Glasgow.
Car hire is available from Europcar.