Last Friday Kathryn and I caught the train to Edinburgh. It left Kings Cross station at 8 am so we had to get up very very early. As it turned out we got up a little too early so we had time to enjoy a cup of coffee at the station. Mmmmmm. Can’t you just taste it? Of course you would expect a cafe to start the day’s trading with no notes in the till, so I didn’t mind when the little Indian man behind the counter gave me 17 pound coins change. With my pocket jangling pleasingly we boarded the intercity train for a pleasant ride up the East coast of England. Painted on the side of the carriages was a little emblem that said “Route of the Flying Scotsman”.
The sun gradually rose higher in the sky the further North we went. Take this moment to picture the scene in your mind (if your imagination has been destroyed by television go and get one of those glossy picture books of Britain): Green fields, the sun just rising casting a golden glow over the land and giving it that peculiar texture of long shadows and bright highlights, us sitting in a rail car speeding and gently rocking our way northwards. Ah.
Carl met us at Edinburgh station and after a sandwich at Food Plantation on the Royal Mile we visited St Giles’ Cathedral, a lovely church with very different architecture to Curch of England cathedrals. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Edinburgh Castle. It is an imposing structure and dominates the landscape around it. It really looks solid, impregnable.
It has a lovely little medieval church inside; tiny and beautiful in it’s simplicity. It has a few little stained glass windows and a little plain altar. Definitely one of my favourite churches.
The castle also houses the Scottish National War Memorial, a very fine monument with a portion of wall devoted to ANZAC.
After checking into our B&B we caught a bus into town to look for a meal. We ended up at a curry house that had an intriguing menu on the door. The food was very nice and the band was good too.
The next day, after our bacon and eggs at the Kenvie Guest House, we went to Tantallon Castle. It is a ruin that sits on the coast. When I say on the coast, I mean right on the coast. It is surrounded by swirling water on 3 sides; a very dramatic position which no doubt saved in the building costs as they only had to build one defensive wall or ‘curtain’ as it is called. It faces open fields and lush grass. It was the first time in weeks I had been in a wide open space and it felt good. As I walked along the old tower it was easy to imagine myself a noble surveying my land.
After the castle we drove to St Abbs, intending to go to St Abbs Head. After discovering that would entail an hours walk in each direction in cold windy weather we settled for the tiny village of St Abbs. It was an impressive view nonetheless. As Carl said, it felt like the edge of the world.
We had dinner at the ubiquitous Pizza Express (new store opening near you soon!!) and over did it by having coffee and cake at the very good Elephant House on King George IV Bridge Rd.
Sunday was again cold and wet. We headed North, stopping first at the Bannockburn visitors centre where we learned all about Robert Bruce’s glorious victory over the English dogs. Then we headed to Stirling Castle. Whereas Edinburgh was a fort, Stirling seemed more of a home, as indeed it was. It is in the process of being restored to it’s 16th century glory. It is very impressive what they are doing and the castle should look magnificent when finished.
After a picnic in the car at the castle car park we went to the William Wallace Monument. This is an amazing building. Built in the 19th century it is a huge gothic tower. It is on the top of a mountain and can been seen for miles around. It really is stunning. I could live there.
We climbed to the top. Twice. It is a very interesting monument (it beats The Monument in London hands down) with 3 rooms to look in (and catch your breath) on the way to the top. The top was VERY WINDY and quite damp. The view was stunning but as I was filming I kept thinking of the money I could make by selling my amateur video footage of the six year old girl being blown off the top to her spectacular death 200 ft below.
Dinner (sorry, supper)
We decided to just keep driving north until it got dark, maybe stopping for dinner at a pub. On the way we stopped at the beautiful Loch Lubnaig. Just wait until you see your first real life loch. Your heart will stop and your lower jaw will land in the mud with a wet slapping sound. There is no point trying to describe it. Go and get the picture book again. It was only 5pm but already it was nearly too dark to see.
We kept driving until we reached Strathyre. We ended up at a little pub called the Ben Sheann. If you are in Scotland, go there. I think it could be the nicest pub in the world. The proprietor was very friendly and treated us like old friends. We had a tasty and filling meal in the (non-smoking!) dining room as the rain fell gently against the big bay window. It doesn’t get much better. We were the only people in the dining room that Halloween night; the few other patrons wee watching the soccer at the bar. Whenever a goal was scored one enthusiastic supporter would break into a little song. The pub was also home to Ben, the 9 month old giant dog. It was a lovely end to a lovely day.
I wish I was there right now.