Friday, September 12, 2008
Scotland: Aug. 24- Aug. 26
After Bamburgh, Dad and I crossed the English border into Scotland. Our first destination was supposed to be Melrose Abbey, but first, we took a short hike to a statue of William Wallace, who was featured in "Braveheart." Wallace led the Scottish army of laymen into war against the English in the fight for freedom.
Next, we stopped at Melrose Abbey, which was built in the 1100's. Though most of the abbey is in ruins because it was pillaged for building materials in harsher times, what remains is intricately carved and shows that the abbey was once very prosperous and very beautiful.
The heart of one of Scotland's most famous kings, Richard the Bruce, was embalmed and buried under the stone shown at the left at Melrose Abbey. His body is elsewhere, but it was believed that the more places a body was buried, the better because then people could pray to the person at multiple locations.
After Melrose, we drove to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. The countryside is gorgeous!
While we were in Edinburgh, the annual Fringe Festival was just winding down. During the festival, thousands of shows are played around the clock for a month. Street entertainment was everywhere and we enjoyed watching the various acts. We also saw Circus Oz, an Australian circus show, and a Scottish bagpipe band. The photo on the right is of me and a street entertainer playing the bagpipes.
Scottish Pipe band:
A really creepy street entertainer... he followed me around without ever cracking a smile. He had contacts that made his eyes yellow and red. Yuck!
Our first night in Edinburgh, we went on a pub crawl. As we walked between pubs, the guide told us stories about the famous people who had made history in Edinburgh, including Mark Twain, Sir Walter Scott, and the author of Sherlock Holmes, who was based on an Edinburgh professor. Also, we heard about how people used to make their money: body snatching! Turning dead bodies into the research university was one of the easiest ways to make money. Gruesome!
One morning, we visited Edinburgh castle, which sits on the top of a hill in the very center of the city. This castle has been modified and rebuilt multiple times and it has a bloody history.
American prisoners of war were kept in the prison in this castle on multiple occasions, most notably during the Revolutionary War. On some of the prison doors still present, are the names and sayings that the prisoners carved into the wood.
The whole castle is extremely militant. There are two military museums on the grounds and possibly the largest building in the castle has been dedicated to Scottish citizens killed in war. The names of soldiers killed in Iraq are still being added today.
The photo at the left is of Dad in front of a display of weaponry in the castle's great hall. It is hard to see, but there are pistols, swords, lances, and an array of other weapons.
The photo at the right is me posing as a soldier in a guard shack at the castle. American guards must be so lazy. After all, they actually have chairs and spaces larger than 3x3'. What a bummer to stand in that box for hours.
Also at the castle are the Honours of Scotland. They are the Scottish crown, sword, sceptre, and scabbard. They do not allow photos in this room, so I nabbed this one off of the Internet. They also had the Stone of Scone with the Honours. It is essentially a large flat rock upon which the first kings of Scotland were crowned. In order to make a point to Scotland, the English king stole the stone from Scotland in the 1200's and stored it under the English coronation chair in Westminster Abbey. It wasn't returned to Scotland until 1996 as a show of good faith.
During a siege on the Edinburgh castle, the commander put all of his men, totalling over 100, in this tiny room in the photo at the left. Without ever moving out into battle, most of the men died of disease from living in such a small space. Needless to say, they surrendered and lost the battle.
The photo at the right is of Hollyrood Palace. It is the queen's own residence in Scotland and we were told that when the flag is flying, it means the queen is there. As you can see in the photo, the flag is flying. Unfortunately, we didn't see her.
When we left Edinburgh, we drove across the countryside until we reached Stranraer on the Western coast. From there, we took off for Ireland on a ferry. So... that's all for Scotland!