I went on a bus tour today! We stopped at many different places including Melrose Abbey, Alnwick Castle, Berwick-upon-Tweed and Dunbar Harbour. I attended the tour by myself because Jackie had work, so I had to get to Edinburgh (where the bus departed) all on my own. I always surprise myself when I successfully navigate foreign cities and their public transportation.
Once on the bus to our first stop- Melrose Abbey, I learned the following interesting facts about Scotland.
-There are 5.2 million citizens of Scotland, and the majority live in the Central Belt (The narrow center of Scotland that houses Glasgow, Falkirk & Edinburgh)
-At certain times in the year, the total amount of sheep in Scotland double the population of people (sheep are their main choice of cattle)
-Haggas is one of the most traditional meals in Scotland; it is the meat of a small dog that lives in the mountains/highlands of Scotland (to find out more, look up Haggas online.. you won’t regret it!)
-In 2020, Scotland wants to be 100% self energized with renewable energy, using wind farms, solar power, hydropower and wave energy
An abbey is a monastery where monks live and are supervised by an abbot. Melrose Abbey is a gothic-style abbey built in 1136. It was built in Melrose because at the time, there was nothing else around. Monks strove for silence, so the isolated location seemed perfect. The Abbey is now in partial ruins, but the architecture is still noticeably beautiful.
Below is a floor plan of Melrose Abbey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Melrose.Abbey.ground.plan.jpg) , provided to help me better explain the parts of the abbey.
The entrance to Melrose Abbey, which is now in ruins, is to the left where it reads ‘ABBEY GATE’. The nave is split into two, shown by the thick black line to the left of ‘NAVE’, to separate the part of the abbey where the monks worshipped and where the boy workers of the abbey completed day-to-day tasks. As you walk through the archway of the wall partition, you can see a carving of Jesus in the stonework of the arch. The photos below show the short wall that separates the nave and the stonework of the arch.
John Morrow was a Master Stone Mason who did a lot of work on Melrose Abbey. Stone Masons at that time were the closest thing they had to an architect. True to gothic architecture, Melrose Abbey has many flying buttresses to help counter the thrust of the arches. I was able to get a nice view of the flying buttresses after climbing a narrow staircase in the wall of the abbey. You can see one of the abbey gargoyles in the top right of my photo.
Once we were all back on the bus, we crossed the border into England. Our tour guide/bus driver stopped the bus and allowed us to walk across the border!
Next stop: Alnwick Castle!! I really wanted to go see Alnwick Castle not only for the architecture, but also because Hogwarts was partially inspired by the castle and some filming of the Harry Potter movies happened there! Alnwick Castle (pronounced Alnick) is located in Alnwick, England and houses the Duke of Northumberland. I find it so incredible that an actual family lives in the castle… if I lived there, I would be scared to touch anything, it is all so beautiful.
There were multiple activities going on at the castle to participate in, I decided on the Harry Potter characters performance and the Battle Axes to Broomsticks tour. On the way to the performance, I watched some of the Broomstick training going on in the Outer Bailey of the castle. It was quite a sight seeing middle school aged kids run around with broomsticks between their legs during a relay race while ‘Hogwarts Professors’ shouted instructions. For the Harry Potter characters performance, Hagrid & Harry made an appearance.
After the performance, I went on the Battle Axes to Broomsticks tour. It was really nice because I got to hear about not only the filming of the Harry Potter movies but also some history of the castle. I got to see where the broomstick training in the movie took place: in the Outer Bailey.
When the students’ broomsticks fly up to their hands, it is done by a string attached to their broomstick that continues up their robes and is pulled by a hidden person behind each actor. When Neville is on his broomstick in the first movie before they are told to mount and his broomstick flings him around from side to side, the actor is sitting on a seesaw and there is a hidden person behind him who steps on the other side of the seesaw and moves him all around.
The Castle has ‘garden gnomes’ all around the external walls. They were placed their as collection pieces by the First Duchess. Once the castle was no longer in control by the First Duchess, the new Duke did not want these statues/gnomes around the castle, so he began to take them down a few at a time. That is, until a friend who was visiting was shocked to find out that the castle was preparing for war; he mistook the gnomes for real people in preparation. The Duke liked this image, so he decided to leave the rest of them up and they have been on display at the castle ever since.
Below is a photo of me ‘flying’ with the castle (and some of the garden gnomes) in the background.
After Alnwick Castle, our next stop was Berwick-upon-Tweed, the most northern town in England. The town has historically been a coveted area between Scotland and England. Within 400 years, it had changed hands more than a dozen times between the countries and in 1482 it made it’s last change to English territory. Berwick-upon-Tweed is home to the Old Bridge, a 15th century structure still in use. It is a 15-span sandstone arch bridge measuring 1,164 feet in length.
Finally, we headed back through the border and into Scotland where we stopped at Dunbar Harbour. Dunbar is a little fishing town on the east coast of Scotland. Right next to the harbour are the ruins of a castle, now overrun by seagulls.
I got to see two seals in the harbour, which was really neat. I’ll be posting some videos that compliment this post, so check those out!