Craig Box's journeys, stories and notes...

Scottish Border Abbeys and Castles

We could see a nice old building out our hostel window, so we wandered down to have a look. The building turned out to be the old Melrose Abbey, and the gentlemen at the shop convinced us we wanted to buy a Historic Scotland explorer pass. With this, you can visit all the attractions you like in a (3/5/7) day period. We bought a 3 day pass and decided we'd stop at everything we could.

Melrose Abbey was originally founded by the Cistercian monks in 1136. Richard II burnt the crap out of it, and then felt so bad about doing so he paid to rebuild it.

Just down the road was the Dryburgh Abbey, another Cistercian site - this one with less of the original ruins, but more of the rebuilt architecture intact. On the way to Dryburgh is the famous statue of William Wallace.

Crichton Castle was a wee way off the road, and a wee climb up a hill to get to. This was, in a wee way, reflected in the gentleman working there: a very friendly and unfailingly polite gent named Robin who seemed like he didn't have company all that often. It's unfortunate, because there's a lot of history in Crichton - Mary, Queen of Scots visited there, you know? (Don't worry, every castle can claim that.)

Robin very kindly gave us extensive hand-written directions to Craigmillar Castle (which Tom has kept as a souvenir). Craigmillar is in very good condition, but not all that old, and more of a stately home than an actual military castle. More well preserved latrines, also. It also has a prison just for midgets, and a pizza oven for their use.

The point of going to Edinburgh on that particular night was to see James play at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange. A very friendly bus driver was prepared to wait for me to go buy a 40p chocolate bar so I had exact change, the pick-up of the tickets went without hassle, and Tom and I settled in with some drinks.

Didn't take the camera (no "pics or it didn't happen" call from Drew, please), but I can report that the band was in fine fettle (as they say in Scotland). About two songs in they played "Sit Down", which inspired me to begin in a reasonably trouble-free run to the front, where I stayed on the railing for the rest of the show. A number of new songs were played, and some older ones I didn't know so well, but a good mix, great times, lots of cups of water from security. Dancers picked to go up on stage during Gold Mother - I wasn't interesting enough, it seems, but I did get to rub Tim's head after he sang She's A Star from the front railing, held up by security.

Our bus broke on the way home (what was it with us and public transport breaking?) but a friendly couple who'd been to the gig kindly allowed us to share their taxi.

We went out seeking free Fringe festival jazz, but some weird-ass experimental theatre group ran for longer than they should have. A friend of the group members came out of the performance early saying "I'm embarassed to know them, it's painful".


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