Brrr, how cold it is again. It rains slightly when we set off but luckily it gets dry quickly. Teije has chosen mainly longer through roads on the map where we have not yet been. We still have a lot to drive in this area and I hope every time it's worth it because that is not always the case.
Near Falkirk we see two large horse heads, 30 meters high and eye-catcher for the Helix project that wants to create a large green space through which the local communities are connected. There is a visitor center where you can even enter the horses. We keep that visit to the Kelpies, a water spirit from Scottish mythology that usually shows itself in the form of an innocent horse, for another time. The being is not such a nice creature, because it eats people. If you are abducted by one try to grab the reins, then you have power over the Kelpie.
We follow the A905 along the south coast of the Firth of Forth, a wide seaarm that cuts deep into the country, passing several towns where we look around and of course see nice buildings such as the Bridgeness tower in the middle of a residential area. The tower was originally built as a mill around 1750 but was later used for habitation and after a thorough restoration it is now inhabited again.
Opposite this residential area is a lawn where there is an abandoned tower ruin. It was part of the wall of Antony which had to indicate the new frontier of the Roman empire instead of the wall of Hadrian which lies about 160 kilometers to the south. Every 2 miles a fort was placed of which this tower was part and 18 memorial stones were placed where the conquest of part of Scotland was commemorated in honor of Emperor Antonius. The wall did not serve as a border for long though, soon the Romans had to withdraw from Scotland behind Hadrian's wall. They were savages, here in Scotland!
We have skipped this area so far, usually we try to cross the Edinburgh-Glasgow line as quickly as possible on the way to the north or south. Nevertheless, there are many attractions such as Castle Blackness, the shape of which is triangular on the north side so that it looks like a ship. It is very busy and we are asked to park quite some distance away. But we have already seen so many castles from the inside that we drive on and when we see a tower on a hill in the distance, we go looking for it. It appears to be part of the House of the Binns (named after the two hill where the estate is located, not the trash can).
The current mansion dates from the 17th century but traces of earlier habitation have been found that go back to prehistoric times. The Dalyell family lived here for centuries and the most notorious resident was General Tam o 'the Binns. One storyo tells that he regularly played cards with the devil on a marble table. He usually lost but one night Tam won and the devil threw the table in his anger at Tam. He missed and the table ended up in the pond outside, where 200 years later a marble table was indeed found when the pond dried up. And like every old house or castle in Scotland has a few nice stories connected to it.
The house is still inhabited by the widow of the last Dalyell but a small part can be visited. However, we walk to the other hill where the Binns tower, that we saw from afar, looks out over the surrounding area. It is a folly (or a building without a function) and it is said that it was the result of a bet to see who from the neighborhood could make the most senseless but witty building for £ 100. And so Sir James Dalyell had it built in 1825 and with that consciously also irritated his neighbors who could see the tower from all sides. Nowadays the spirit of General Tam is still around and there is a malevolent water spirit in the pond. Just so you know.
From the estate we already saw the 3 bridges over the Forth of Firth at Queensferry and we now drive there. In the past there were only the Forth (Rail) Bridge and the Forth Road bridge, but since 2017 a new bridge has been opened, the Queensferry Crossing, costing more than a billion pounds. It replaces the old bridge that was opened in 1964 but which is now only used for public transport. Before that time one could only take the train to the other side or the ferry. Queensferry is named so because Queen Margaret (11th century) crossed regularly with pilgrims at this place.
The old steel railway bridge from the end of the 19th century is still being used and a team of painters are working at all times. With more than 2.5 kilometers in length it was quite a feat for that time to build this colossus in which no less than 7 million rivets would have been processed. However, more than 50 people were killed during their construction. The bridge is now a kind of symbol of Scotland and has been voted Scotland's largest wonder.
But we are also here because we want to go to Deep Sea World, an aquarium that is almost below the pillars of the railway bridge. We want to do more than only drive around. The leaflets looked promising but the entrance fee is quite high, almost £ 16. There is a 110 meter long underwater tunnel through which you walk through the aquarium. Or actually there is a moving floor, so we do not even have to walk. Around us swim the sharks, rays and other fish and especially children seem to love the spectacle.
There are also a number of special animals such as the biting turtle that looks like a prehistoric monster. I never knew that there were turtles with such strong jaws that they could catch and eat crocodiles. Every half an hour an information session is held or animals are fed. When we came in and after seeing the underwater tunnel we had the impression that it was quite a big exhibition but that is a bit disappointing, actually it is only just a few rooms and the underwater tunnel covers the biggest part.
A few seals are swimming outside, but that's about all. It is nicely decorated and set up (leave that to the English and Scots, they are masters in doing that) but after a little more than an hour we have seen it all. And we think it's a waste of time to wait another hour for a next show.
So we go to the restaurant but here it is made very clear that my electronic cigarette is not welcome and I enjoy that so much with a cup of coffee. Then only a visit to the toilet is left. Teije sees in the mensroom a special children's urinal, not a lower one, as you often see, but a normal one with a stool in front of it. Smart guys, those Scots.
It is drizzling when we come outside and we drive around for a while, with the map leading us to unknown places. For example, we pass Callander House, which you can surely call a big castle. The park around it offers all kinds of attractions such as activities for children and there is a piece of Antony's wall on display. In the kitchen of the castle there are costumed guides who tell about the (preparing of) food at the beginning of the 19th century.It gets darker and the rain is falling down harder now so we skip the park. Teije is now looking for some more smaller and unknown roads but it is not fun anymore to drive through the rain and we go back to our hotel after a while. There we have to switch on the heating to make it enjoyable, and then we have a quiet evening and lots of time to read our books.