I was much anticipating our nutters tour – also known as The Da Vinci Borders Tour. My priorities being a) to see Rosslyn Chapel and b) to make fun of said nutters I was hoping would be on the bus with their tattered copies of the tripe disguised as a novel by Dan Brown, trying to give each other secret handshakes and muttering about Albinos.
If you want to read something interesting with conspiracy and Rosslyn Chapel, do yourself a favour and pick up Foucault’s Pendulum instead. But I digress.
Unfortunately, instead of enjoyable nutters, we got stuck with a touring group from Denver comprised of a gaggle of teens and their cougar escorts who did nothing to dispel the stereotype of American females for those who know them only from episodes of Wives of… and slasher films. The ersatz leader insisted that the tour guide read the oeuvre of Diana Gabaldon because she’s awesome! and her books are awesome! and historically accurate!
The only other people on the bus were a lovely couple from Cornwall who were equally horrified.
Also unfortunately, Rosslyn has been under construction/renos for quite a long time now so the outside was fully obscured by scaffolding, and once inside we weren’t allowed to take photographs AND the barrel ceiling was all covered up.
But back to the beginning. Our tour guide was a bit of a sprite with a nice lilt and the gift of gab, when he wasn’t giving us tmi on the troubles with his cousins on his father’s side.
We drove out into the lowlands and down to the borders first to take in Scott’s View over the Tweed Valley – reported to be one of his favourites. From there, we stopped on some back country road and followed a path through a small wood (trespassing on some poor farmer’s land, I’m sure) to “the original Wallace monument”, which our guide introduced as “Homer Simpson in a skirt and an abomination”. He certainly is a shambles: his kilt’s on backwards and it’s about as short as a Denver cheerleader’s, and he’s got a bit of a paunch.
We then headed into Melrose for some time to visit the Abbey there and have lunch. I quite liked Melrose Abbey – known to be the resting place of the heart of Robert the Bruce (only his heart, after it was taken on a grand tour to Spain on a botched pilgrimage to the Holy Land), and also boasts the only known gargoyle of a pig playing the bagpipes. I took a lot of pictures at the abbey, since it had much that I like – ruins in a peaceful setting, a graveyard, some dead knights, and remnants of medieval tile that are to die for.
While eating lunch in a little town square, we were visited by some rooks – like a bucolic cousin to the urban pigeon – who were pretty sure they were fooling us about their interest in our dessert.
Keeping with the templar theme of the day, we went to a small templar chapel outside of Rosslyn. In fact, I think it was called the Temple Chapel. Chapel is a ruin, but it was one of the most interesting graveyards I’ve seen in a while – wonderful folk art on the headstones. It was also in this little village where the guide related a story that there was a bell that chimed all of the time, but the villagers stopped it up with a rope once the famous “templar treasure” was found beneath the chapel. Heard later on the way back to the bus, “so they really tied up the bell? who found the treasure?” Sigh.
Finally, we made it to Rosslyn. It did not disappoint despite the tarps and scaffolding. I got to see the Apprentice Pillar! And the maize! And the green men! As well as the light spot on the wall where the Da Vinci hollywood types put some well-meaning props. I spent a lot of time reading through the plaques that highlighted some of the many wondrous things in the chapel. They are hard at work removing the grey slurry that was put all over the original golden sandstone in a misguided attempt at preservation – and it will be something to see in the sunlight once the original facade is restored. There is a scrolling picture tour at the official site if you want to see more.
We made it back to Edinburgh early afternoon and later headed over to The Grain Store – a mid-priced restaurant on Victoria Street off of the George IV bridge (which you wouldn’t know was a bridge unless someone told you, since it’s elevated and completely full of buildings – very cool). It specializes in local foods, and I thoroughly enjoyed the meal: awesome scallions with fresh peas and bacon, followed by a lamb ratatouille & potatoes.
On the way home, we stopped at The Malt Shovel–great name for a pub–for some scotch. Excellent thistle stained glass while we were enjoying our whisky.
My conclusion on this day? I could live here. No problem.