Category Archives: great britain

The Scottish Borders: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne



We’ve made it. Scotland. Ah, breathe in that air.

We never made it as far south as the Scottish Borders last time – Glasgow was as far south as we went – so this is completely new territory for me. We’ve just driven three hours from York, and I expect the kids are restless, so we’ll probably stay somewhere in the Borders overnight, do some sight-seeing, and then push on to our temporary home in the Trossachs tomorrow.


Melrose Abbey


Apparently this is the most famous in ruin in Scotland – and yet I never heard of until this year, when my hairdresser urged me to visit.


Apparently what’s remarkable about the abbey is an elegance not found elsewhere in Scotland. It was built in 1136, and then largely destroyed by the army of King Richard II in 1385. That’s 249 years – well, it stood for longer than Australia has yet existed! It must have been rebuilt at some stage, as the present surviving ruins are actually from the 15th century.


The exterior of the church is unusual for its collection of statuary, including – wait for it – a bagpipe playing pig! Other sculptures include hobgoblins (right down my alley) and cooks with ladles…. Hmm.


Supposedly the heart of Robert the Bruce (he of Braveheart fame and King Robert I of Scotland) is buried at the abbey. This is marked with a carved stone plaque. Why only his heart?


Caerlaverock Castle


If you’ve been following this blog for any time you know that Caisteal Aingeal an Bhais, the castle from my novel In the Company of the Dead (release date unknown) was substantially inspired by Caerlaverock Castle. How could I be in the vicinity and not visit?

The name of this castle may mean ‘fort of the skylark’ and what’s most remarkable about the castle is its triangular design. I’d love to know why it was built this way, but the reason is lost to history. It features three defensive walls of pink limestone joined at each corner by a tower. The north tower is in fact a double-towered gatehouse, and originally housed the lord’s personal suite until the construction of the Nithsdale Lodging in 1630.


Caerlaverock had its fair share of sieges but had two of particular significance. In the first, King Edward I himself besieged the castle. The castle surrendered after only two days – but famously held out for that period with only 60 defenders against an army of 3000.


The other siege of note was Caerlaverock’s last. After holding off besiegers for 13 weeks in 1640, the castle was looted and stripped and the southern wall destroyed.


Walking these ruins will be like stepping into my own book!


Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

 

Ciara Ballintyne is visiting Scotland in 2016 – join her on a virtual tour of Scotland and other parts of Great Britain as she plans her trip. Somewhere you think she should go or stay? Please comment!

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To York By Train: Enroute to Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne




It’s time – we’re boarding a train for York on our second day in London. The decision to travel by train was prompted by the fact I’m told that:
  • Traffic getting out of London is hellish; and
  • The immediate scenery is bloody boring anyway.
Or so I’m told.

We could get the train all the way to Edinburgh, but we want to drive up through the Scottish Borders, so instead we’ll get off at York, do a little sightseeing, stay overnight, and drive on tomorrow.

While we’re in York, I absolutely want to see Jorvik, but other activities will probably depend on time and how we feel. In my experience, optional activities are great to fill in time when you feel like it and to skip when you don’t.

Jorvik

Viking woodturner at Jorvik

Apparently this is a must-see – or again, so I’m told. Or at least so the website says. It could be biased.

This is a reconstruction of 1000 year old Viking streets, I think based on actual excavation at Coppergate, and including finds from the dig. You can travel around the Viking-age city to see its houses and backyards and experience a bit of their everyday life, including blacksmithing and cooking. I imagine it’s a little like visiting Pompeii but with additional experiences. I could be wrong. In any case, it seems worth a look.

York City Sightseeing Bus


This seems like a good optional experience for if we’re tired but have some time to burn. No walking, just a drive on an open-top bus for an hour checking out the city sights. Great for tired kids who don’t want to walk anymore.

Castle Museum 

Recreation of Victorian Street

I would really like to see this, but it will be dependent on time and the goodwill of my children. If I haven’t previously mentioned, we’ll be travelling with our (then) 6 and 3 year old daughters, as well as my parents.

The museum includes recreated Jacobean dining rooms, information about famous Victorian criminals and exhibits all the way through to the swinging Sixties – which, truth be told, interests me less.

The museum has a particular exhibit designed to ‘take you back in time’ with recreated Victorian street ‘Kirkgate’ which allows you to experience victorian shops and their goods, including luxurious fabrics, traditional sweets, and children’s toys. Luxurious fabrics. Mmm. The flip-side shows you Victorian life in the poverty-stricken back streets.

A nice bonus is that kids go free with a paying adult.

National Railway Museum


Possibly a good family outing, as we can take the kids to see trains through history, including ‘the Mallard’ the world’s fastest steam train, the Japanese bullet train and Queen Victorian’s luxury train.

For the kids it features an outdoor play area and a miniature railway ride. We recently did something similar here in Australia and the kids loved it.


Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne


Ciara Ballintyne is visiting Scotland in 2016 – join her on a virtual tour of Scotland and other parts of Great Britain as she plans her trip. Somewhere you think she should go or stay? Please comment!
 

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter in time for the July newsletter. Check out my May Newsletter if you missed it.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this. 

Thanks for stopping by and visiting!