Today looked to be a good day for a field trip. The weather was predicted to turn colder but we had a chance to stay ahead of rain and we took it.
The night before I had pre-booked tickets to visit Rosslyn Chapel. If you are a fan of the Dan Brown novel (or the movie) “The Da Vinci Code”, you may recall that Rosslyn Chapel was featured heavily in the dramatic climax of the movie. Rosslyn Chapel was only around 8 miles from our lodging; however, I expected it would take at least 30 minutes to get there.
We loaded into the car chilled from our walk to the parking garage. I was really looking forward to getting all toasty warm in the car … until I didn’t. Our drive took us past Holyrood Palace and around a large hill called Arthur’s Seat about a mile east of the castle. By the time we arrived at Rosslyn Chapel it was quite evident that we no longer had heat in our car. We sat in the parking lot and fiddled with the controls as the windshield began to fog over. A quick call to Arnold Clark and arrangements were made for us to exchange cars after our visit.
Rosslyn Chapel was founded in 1446 by Sir William St. Clair. He had intended to build a cathedral at the site but upon his death, construction ended. The exterior of the chapel is gothic in design and interesting.
Oh – but the interior! Wow. The interior is intricately carved stone. We sat for a short presentation explaining the history of the chapel and also pointing out some of the most interesting features. It was very frustrating that photos were not allowed of the interior. They seemed to welcome visitors and I believe would generate more interest if folks knew what the chapel held inside. I did stumble upon this YouTube video recorded by a rule-breaker and though I hesitate to share it, perhaps you will have a inkling of the awe inspired therein:
We also wandered down the path to the remains of Rosslyn Castle before returning to the frigid car and task of car exchange. If there’s one thing I’d learned from traveling it was the need to be adaptable. Shit happens my friends. I had planned this day to include things I thought Sally and Bill would enjoy, as well as myself. Exchanging our car took close to an hour and a half from our planned day of adventures. All was not lost, just some were omitted.
Sally had never visited Rosslyn Chapel in her previous visits and Bill dearly wanted to see Hadrian’s Wall (more on that later). Since Rosslyn Chapel was neatly tucked into our memories, we plugged in the coordinates (on our new, less-than-stellar GPS from Arnold Clark) for a site on Hadrian’s Wall with remnants of a large Roman fort. Along the way we approached signs for “Scott’s View”. Up a steep hill one eventually comes to a rest at a viewpoint overlooking the valley of the River Tweed across the lovely landscape to a large hill beyond. It was said to be a favorite view of Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish author and poet who penned “Ivanhoe” and “Rob Roy”. The weather was quite perfect for us and the view soul nourishing.
We considered taking a hike into the woods to find the William Wallace monument but decided we should push on to Hadrian’s Wall instead. Just for the record, I thought Hadrian’s Wall marked the border between England and Scotland. Nope. It was another 30 miles beyond. But this was Bill’s quest for the day and by golly, we’d make it happen. We crossed into England in search.
Hadrian’s Wall formed the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire from 122 – 410 A.D. Yes, the Roman Empire stretched all the way up into the British Isles! I had selected to visit the wall at a place called Housesteads. At this location there were remains of the best preserved of all the forts along the way. The Romans called this fort “Vercovicium”. The fort was reached by about a half mile uphill slog from the carpark. Though it was quite chilly upon arrival, we all generated some good body heat with this exercise. Once up the incline, visitors were directed to the museum to purchase tickets for entry into the fort.
At one time, 800 soldiers were housed at Vercovicium. There were barracks, a hospital, administrative buildings, awesome lookout points, and some of the best group toilets ever designed! The Roman toilets were perhaps the most interesting feature of this site. We roamed around for some time … imagining … exploring … discovering. It was moving to me to think that the stones I was touching had been laid nearly 2000 years before. How many other hands were placed there throughout the centuries?
Around one side of the fort there was access to a portion of Hadrian’s Wall that visitors were encouraged to actually walk atop for about several hundred yards. We hiked to that spot and took our place on top as had thousands before us. It was an inspiring walk with occasional precipitous drops on one side. The sun even came out for a while. Unfortunately, once we reached the end of this portion we encountered a sign urging people NOT to walk on top of the wall! We took the ground-level path and found our way back to the car. My step-counter reported that I walked over 12,500 steps and my “glutes” assured me many of those were uphill!
It was a long drive back to Edinburgh but the destination had been quite worthy of the journey. The sky was lovely, as evidenced by Bill’s out-the-window picture, and the castle loomed large over the city.
We had greater difficulty finding a place for dinner as many were already full. We finally settled on the Whiski Bar where I enjoyed Cullen Skink for the first time. Cullen Skink is fish chowder made with smoked fish. I have hesitated to try it because I wasn’t convinced I’d like it. It was delicious! We were happy to rest after this long day.