Scotland Part 2. Across the Scottish Border country

After a peaceful night’s sleep under the watchful eye of William Wallace, we headed downhill to Dryburgh Abbey.In a glorious setting, the Abbey was built in the 12th century by Premonstratensian canons, and in it’s heyday was home to a large community of religious and lay brothers. It was destroyed by the English in 1544, but remained a sacred, romantic place in it’s idyllic location by the River Tweed. It contains 2 famous, and contrasting graves. The first is a large grave and shrine to Scotland’s great author, Sir Walter Scott.The second is that of General Douglas Haig, commander of the Allied forces in World War One. His headstone is very simple, and is identical to the many, many headstones of his fallen troops in the tombs in France.In the grounds is an ancient yew tree, thought to be over 900 years old!Five miles away is the more complete, and imposing ruin of Melrose Abbey.Built in 1136 by Cistercian monks, it was again attacked by the English in the 14th century, and rebuilt. It fell into disuse around 1590, after the reformation. The architecture is elegant, and features some remarkable carving, including an impressive bagpipe playing pig!Another claim to fame is that the heart of Robert the Bruce is purportedly buried here. (His body is in Dunfermline cathedral).Also in Melrose, we visited Abbotsford, a striking house built by Sir Walter Scott as his family home. In a lovely setting by the River Tweed, it was set up as if he could walk in at any moment.He rose to the Victorian equivalent of megastardom with books like Ivanhoe, Rob Roy and The Lady of the Lake, but in later life was almost bankrupt. A poignant exhibit in the house was his desk and chair where, in later life, he describes being almost a prisoner for many hours each day, forced to turn out ever more books to pay his debts.We left lovely Melrose and headed west. We needed to reach the port of Ardrossan tonight, as we were booked on the morning ferry to the Isle of Arran.One more stop en route.. Traquair House, which is the oldest house in Scotland, continually occupied by the same family.Set in lovely grounds, the house was charming and full of interest. Started in 1107, the Stuart family have lived here since 1491, and their young descendants still do. Many Kings and Queens have visited, but pride of place goes to the fairly simple rooms that Mary Queen of Scots lived in, and the bed in which she gave birth to her son James, who would eventually unite England and Scotland as James I of England and James VI of Scotland. The embroidery on the bed hangings was done by Mary herself.This was his cradle, and these were other possessions of Mary herself.In order to keep houses like this viable, owners must be creative. The father of the present owner discovered an ancient brewery in the cellars. He tried it out and brewed a very good ale. The brewery is still in the cellars, and today produces 4 excellent ales which are exported all around the world…. a few made their way into Boris after some serious tastings!There is also an excellent full height maze that kept us occupied for a while!!The day of heavy rain that was forecast never materialised, although it was very grey all day, so apologies for the picture quality!Then we headed for the coast and our bed for the night on the quayside with a stunning view across to Arran.

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