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Going to Scotland, through the Borders


Home -> Europe -> Scotland -> Travelogue Scotland -> 27 & 28 May 2007

Sunday 27 May, going to Scotland, through the Borders

Finally, we are on our way again, our annual Scotland trip! We're looking forward to it because we've been busy lately. But well, you get that when you go on holiday so much, it becomes more crowded in the intervening periods. This time we did not prepare anything except for the boat trip and a hotel for the first night. We have searched the last week for available accommodation, for example a holiday home, but everything was already full or incredibly pricey. But then, we usually find our way. With our friends in Beauly we have agreed that we will be there at teatime next Tuesday and then we'll see what we are going to do.
Statue of Cornelis Lely, Afsluitdijk (Closure Dike)Because we have all the time in the world (we have to be at half past five in the harbor of IJmuiden) we drive the route along the Afsluitdijk that will celebrate its 75th anniversary tomorrow, although the celebration was already earlier this week. At the Monument is now also a statue of engineer Lely, the Minister of Public Works who has made that the Afsluitdijk came into being. The statue was previously always at Den Oever but is now symbolically placed in the middle of the dyke with the face to the town Lelystad.
Meanwhile it has begun to drizzle and there is a strong wind that feels quite fresh. We are curious about what kind of weather we will have this year in Scotland. It is not a country where you go for the good weather, but in general we often have reasonable good weather and besides the occasional rain a lot of sunshine. Without the weather and the clouds Scotland would be less beautiful.
At the edge of the town of Winkel we suddenly see towers passing by, a building that looks a bit Arabic, but there are no stops along the road, so we can not go back for a photo. It looked nice when we passed by, but maybe we are wrong. On the internet we could not find nothing that looked like it. But it is niced to be surprised in the Netherlands, that doesn't very often happen to us, while that (for us as foreigners) happens in Scotland almost on a daily basis.
We are on time for the boat and the drizzle has turned into a constant rain. We have to wait a little, then check in and onto boat. The weather is now too bad to go outside. Just as we have settled, something is being announced. Usually we listen to it with half an ear, but now our name and hut number is really called. If we want to come to the information desk. You start to be alarmed, because what could be wrong? Just do not speculate (certainly not about the 'worst' possible things) and just walk to the counter and ask what is. And fortunately, it is not very serious: we only forgot to put the car on the parking brake, probably in the hectic to get our stuff from the car and to get off car deck. I am taken by an Asian-looking person to the locked car deck to put on the handbrake and there are a lot more that walk around. Someone must have pulled a can of Chinese or Koreans that you never see when you are sailing with DFDS!

Monday 28 May 2007, through the Borders to Stirling

After a very restless night (near the motorbikes and noisy neighbors) we are awakened by the intercom at 7 am, local time, that is 1 hour earlier than in Holland. We turn around one more time and only get up an hour later for a cup of coffee. We actually only eat breakfast in the holidays, but we do not need it today. We are already looking forward to the fried and scrambled eggs we will have the next 2 weeks. But first we have to be patient with the disembarkation because the customs seem to be very strict today and we are released in small groups on the mainland of Great Britain.
But after about 40 minutes we can finally get off the boat and soon the navigation leads us to the north. Driving on the left immediately feels like normal. Usually I have more trouble to drive right again when we are back in the Netherlands.
Smailholm Tower, at KelsoThis time we take a different route from Newcastle that takes us through an area that we do not know yet. Usually we drive quite quickly up to the Edingurgh-Glasgow line, but this year we would like to take a closer look at what the south looks like, the province that is called The Borders. At Coldstream we pass the border with Scotland and near Kelso we see our first monument: the Smailholm Tower, the work of a probably somewhat paranoid border inhabitant who wanted to defend himself well. The structure can be seen from afar and from all sides.
Selkirk House at YarrowfordOn the way (after the A697 and the A698 now the A699) we see the first typical Scottish houses and in the town of Selkirk we see a few in a row: masonry houses with turrets and curves that we have far too little in the Netherlands! The sky is still gray and it is not really warm, but at least it is dry. But a little later the sun is already coming out.
After Selkirk the landscape starts to change a bit, it gets a little bit hilly and the road along the river brings us past nice places, like this house at Yarrowford.
Tibbie Shiels Inn James Hogg monumentAt Mary's Loch lies the village Tibbie Shields Inn, where we encounter a rustic spot along the road. A lake, a beautiful inn and a monument, in this case for James Hogg, a Scottish writer who was born in the neighborhood (Ettrick) and friend of Sir Walter Scott.
St Mary’s loch, Tibbie Shiels Inn St Mary’s loch, Tibbie Shiels InnThe lake is beautiful, wedged between the hills. It also seems to be a bit warmer, so it's a great time for a short walk and a break. It is the largest natural lake in this province. Later we will encounter reservoirs larger than the Talla reservoir. The lake originated after the last ice age in which two glaciers encountered each other here and crashed into the ground due to their collision.
Lonely sheepAnd of course we have already spotted our first sheep! The number of sheep is decreasing each year and nowadays the sheep are in the minority in Scotland, 5.2 million compared to 5.5 million people. But we meet them more often in the remote areas than people, so there is a nice balance. What strikes us every time is the fact that the lamb season seems to start a few weeks later than in the Netherlands, that is probably due to the climate. If the Dutch pastures are already full of lambs, it is still empty in the Scottish meadows.
The Grey Mare’s TailSo far we have always driven quickly through the south of Scotland but on the map we see all kinds of areas with few roads and that often indicates mountains and inhospitable areas. And indeed, our preconception that Southern Scotland would be fairly flat and somewhat boring is not at all true, we drive through beautiful valleys with beautiful views! On the way to Moffat we pass the Gray Mare's Tale, a spectacular waterfall (61 meters) that enters the valley from across the mountains. It is a long walk to see the waterfall in its entirety and because Elisabeth is rather bothered by her back we do not make the whole walk.
Moffat MoffatAfter an unexpectedly beautiful drive through this area we arrive in Moffat, a small but lively market town with of course again the nice buildings. This place tries to be attractive for travelers, for example by telling which important writers and foreigners have spent the night in the village. We do not need that advertisement, we also like the place, especially with the surrounding natural beauty.
Narrowest hotel of the world, Moffat The Moffat ramThere is a very narrow building that claims to be the narrowest hotel in the world. The world wonder of Moffat. We do not know if it really is true because when we search on the internet we find more 'narrowest hotels in the world'
On the central square stands a fountain with the 'famous' Moffat ram, a statue of a ram from the 19th century as an ode to sheep farming which used to be the main occupation in this region.
Our car Talla Reservoir at TweedsmuirFrom Moffat we head north again and in this beautiful area we have to photograph the car with our new Scotland sticker, specially designed for our Scotland forum. From Tweedsmuir we drive back west along the Talla reservoir, a reservoir that is more than a century old. It is a narrow but well maintained road.
Victoria Lodge, Talla dam Victoria Lodge, Talla damWhen we cross a bridge we see a nice house in the distance. Only later we find out that it is Victoria Lodge, built especially when the construction of the reservoir began. It is now (obviously) private property and again one of those houses we would love to have.
Then we drive further north again and in Traquair we pass the house that claims to be the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, but we have seen this claim before elsewhere in Scotland. There would even have been 27 kings visiting here, but if we drive there to take a picture from the outside, we are told at the ticket office that we have to turn around. Or paying the full entry gees... We only want a photo from outside, but that does not happen and we turn around. For about 6 pounds per person, we thing one or two photographs are too expensive. It is also not a castle but a hunting lodge that from 1107 was mainly used by the rulers of Scotland.
Neidpath Castle, at PeeblesAt Peebles we get to see a small castle for free. Neidpath castle is a small but robust castle from the 14th century and is nowadays mainly used for group activities (to rent per 2 hours!). One of the things you can do is marry, as in many Scottish castles. We also think a photo from distance is more than sufficient.
Landscape near Biggar Landscape near BiggarIn the meantime, the rugged environment is turning into a lovely rolling area such as the market town of Biggar where nowadays druid festival are held today because of the Bronze Age monuments. We especially enjoy the landscape where the sunrays shine on it. It is green here, very green!
Landscape near BiggarWe feel completely at home again with all those beautiful landscapes and the clouds that hang so beautifully above the land. The Netherlands can not compete with this! We regularly stop for a picture and we rarely do that in the Netherlands. We admit it, we are just addicted to Scotland. And we are glad that we are back again.
LanarkWe drive to the town of Lanark where there is a festive atmosphere with all the flags in the city. It has been six o'clock and after a short walk we leave this nice town, it is time to drive to our destination, a Travelodge hotel near Stirling. This is a hotel chain that is getting more and more establishments in Scotland and that we personally like very much if you can not find local accommodation. It is usually not too expensive, and despite the proximity to highways or main roads not noisy.
We are tired after the sleepless last night and go to bed early. We have already had a great trip and we are especially surprised that The Borders is such a beautiful province, contrary to what we had expected. So you see, expectations and prejudices don't say anything, always check the reality! First a good night's rest.

 


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