Friday, October 20, 2017

The Great Adventure 2017 Part Seven

I know this will ruin the suspense, but we made it home!  Nevertheless, I will continue the posts so I will have a record of what we did and where we went and it will be here for whoever else is interested.  It was hard to update the blog from the road, as it's more difficult to post from the iPad that I had and also the WiFi wasn't the best always.  Now that the excuses are out of way, onward!

While we were planning, I happened to notice the little town of Berwick-Upon-Tweed on the map.  It rang a bell because my book club had read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce some time ago.  It's about a man who sets out to visit an old friend and ends up walking the length of England, ultimately arriving in Berwick.  I also read the companion book, The Love Song of Miss Queen Hennessy, also set to a large degree in the same charming town.  Since we were "in the neighborhood," I decided we should visit.  This is where our route got a little circuitous.  Berwick is the northernmost town in England and when we had taken the train from Edinburgh, we had probably gone right by it.  Our B and B host told us that Berwick has actually changed hands between England and Scotland several times.  We got into the car and drove north, actually crossing the border into Scotland for a time.

Berwick turned out to be a lovely walled city right on the north sea. We took a little walk on top of the wall to see the views and then found our accommodations.

We had a nice size room but the bed wasn't terribly comfortable. We were right near the water, atop one of the stone quays and looking out on the River Tweed.

We only stayed here one night and were charmed by the atmosphere and area.

Everything would have been perfect except for the coughing man at the restaurant.  Have to watch those germs!

The next day we drove south to County Durham and the town of Barnard Castle.  On the way, we stopped to see Bamburgh Castle, which turned out to be one of our favorite stops.  We had heard about this castle when we were waiting for our tour in Iceland and were chatting with a couple from Australia.  The wife was from Scotland originally, and told us if we were in the north of England, we had to see Bamburgh and so I wrote it down.  It turned out to be on our way to Barnard Castle, so we stopped by.

Bamburgh sits on a rocky plateau high above the Northumberland coastline and is one of the largest inhabited castles in the world.  Like most castles in this part of the world, it has been destroyed and rebuilt over the hundreds of years of its existence.  Now owned by the Armstrong family, descendants of the first Lord Armstrong, it was opened to visitors in the mid 1900s.  I think they had 14 furnished rooms to visit and the views (although windy) were spectacular here.  The castle sits right above a beautiful beach and looks out to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

The fireplaces in these old kitchens are huge, and there was a spinning wheel in here!

The furnishings were beautiful.

 A little bit of driving excitement:  Just imagine that this car is coming around the corner at 60 mph and you have to remember to dive for the ditch on the left side.  Keeps you on your toes!  And this was actually a much wider road than many we encountered.

I will stop this part of the adventure here, since we ended up visiting another nice castle before the day was over and that will keep for next time.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Great Adventure 2017 Part Six

Now we start our rather convoluted path through the northern part of England. I had found a really nice looking bed and breakfast near Hadrian's Wall early in our planning and reserved for two nights that were available. At that point, we weren't sure where else we wanted to go, so as we added destinations, we ended up doing a bit of backtracking, but it's worked out fine. 

From Edinburgh, we took the train to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, where we encountered our first rental car. The plan was for me to drive most of the time, but after the first day, that plan went out the window. 😜 Pat turned out to drive very well but it still required vigilance from both of us at all times to ensure that we turned into the correct lane, kept to the left, and made it out of the roundabouts as we travelled clockwise. Whew!  Anyway, we made it out of Newcastle, even though the two Sat-Navs we had were giving us opposite directions for awhile. We ditched one and got on better. We arrived at Lanercost successfully and found it to be as charming as we'd hoped, being an old farmhouse next to a Priory. There were chickens in the yard and sheep over the fence. 

Our room was fairly spacious for ancient house standards and the food and company here were excellent. 

We set off in search of a Roman fort built on a section of Hadrian's Wall the next morning. It is called Housesteads, known as Vercovicium to the Romans. The fort is the best preserved of all 16 forts on the Roman frontier of Hadrian's Wall. The fort was begun around AD 124 and was occupied for about 280 years by up to 800 soldiers.  We joined up with a free tour and learned some fascinating information about life in Roman times. There are just outlines of rooms and gates, so having an explanation of what we were seeing was very helpful. 

After the tour and a look at the museum, we walked up to the wall itself. It's not very high any more, having been taken apart by locals who used the stone to build walls and houses throughout the centuries. The wall remains are protected from this now. Where we walked is the only place you can actually walk on the top of the wall; it's under trees and over the years mud and leaves have strengthened the wall section. Otherwise, there are two sides of the wall and the inside area was filled     with rubble so it isn't strong enough to bear weight.  There were some great views from along the wall. 

Pat proved to be an intrepid driver but we had our share of adrenaline going most of the time!

The river near our B&B was lovely. 

We moved on from here and went back north, getting into our convoluted but very enjoyable route. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Great Adventure Part Five

Continuing with the Edinburgh portion of the trip, we booked an all day bus trip to the ancient golf course of St. Andrews and through the fishing villages of Fife. It was a rainy day so we thought a bus tour would be good. 

We started out by traversing Edinburgh to pick up all the other passengers. I was glad that we weren't driving! Rain, narrow streets, construction... and driving on the left. 

We headed out of town and stopped to photograph the new Queensferry bridge. It was opened in August (by the Queen!) and is the longest suspension bridge in the world and Britain's tallest. Unfortunately, the weather was still misty and we couldn't get a clear view across it. 

The excitement here, at least for me, was locking myself into a toilet stall during our brief stop here. My motto, "never pass up a restroom," could have spelled disaster. Luckily I had my backpack with me with a nail clipper inside and I was able to MacGyver the lock open with the file part. 

The next stop was Dunfermline, where we visited the Abbey, founded in 1072. There are a lot of old churches in The UK, many having been the scenes of conflict and destruction.

Another interesting thing about this town is that it was the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie, and the original Carnegie library is here. We looked in there and the museum briefly and they were great. One of the rare book collections in the library:

Then we drove farther up the coast and stopped in a little fishing village called Anstruther. It was a picturesque little place. 

The highlight of the journey came next. Pat had been talking about going to St. Andrews since we mentioned Scotland as a destination. It's the home of Scotland's first university, founded in 1413, there are castle ruins nearby, and there is the Old Course, widely known as the home of golf. It's a beautiful course, right on the sea. The beach here is the one used in "Chariots of Fire" and is impressive even on a cold day. 

Most golfers will be able to identify the landmark Swilcan Bridge at the 18th hole. While we were waiting for golfers to pass by so we could stand on it, we had to wait longer while the caddy took photos of all of them on the bridge, too. 

The University buildings were very picturesque, and the ruined castle was a ruined castle. 😉

The next day we visited Edinburgh Castle, which sits high on a hill overlooking the city. It's an impressive  structure indeed, too full of Scottish military history for us to absorb. There has been a royal castle on the site from at least the 12th century and the site was a royal residence until 1633. By the 17th century it was principally used as a military barracks with a large garrison. It was besieged many times in its long history. 

One of the cannons is fired every day at 1:00. We didn't stay for that. 

The last day we spent at the Royal Botanic Garden before catching our train to England. It is a massive garden and so impressive, even slightly past peak season. We were disappointed that the glass houses were closed for renovation, but there still was plenty to see. 

I especially liked the Queen Mother's Memorial Garden. The labyrinth is designed to form a series of interlocking 'E for Elizabeth' shapes. 

The hedges are massive!

This concludes the Scotland portion of our tour. We hope you've enjoyed it. We will continue to England on our next episode. 😊