As amazing as Edinburgh is, I enjoy getting away every once in a while to a nice a quiet place in the country. On Sunday, I hopped a bus to the border country.
It was a long journey, but I started early and was in no hurry to get anywhere particular. I’m lucky I wasn’t because I got onto the scenic bus by accident. There is a limited stop service between Edinburgh and Galashiels. My bus made quite a few stops on the way out of Edinburgh: first in Liberton, then Penecuik, Roslin, Peebles, Caddonfoot, Galashiels and a few others before finally getting to Melrose. I’m not complaining though because I think my mistake showed me a lot more of the Scottish Borders than I would have seen otherwise.
In Melrose is one of the oldest (and formerly one of the richest) abbeys in Scotland. There has been a church on the site since the 12th century, and it was attacked and rebuilt a few times before it was eventually abandoned. King Richard II payed to have the abbey rebuilt after burning it down during one of the wars between the Scots and the English, apparently he was worried about how god would react and thought a little pennance was necessary.
The tour explained how the monks lived their daily lives, their role in the wool trade, the workers/laybrothers. I really enjoyed it.
From there I took a bus up to Abbotsford House, which was the home of Sir Walter Scott. Being a Sunday, and near the end of the day, it was extremely quiet when I arrived. When I walked up the stairs to Scott’s study and library, I think I was the only one on the floor. It was a little spooky being all on my own (he had a death mask in his study), but also really inspiring. This was the man who wrote the Lady in the Lake and Ivanhoe and dozens of other poems and novels. Looking around the library, there are thousands of leatherbound books. Some in English, but also in Scot, French and Latin. As you’d expect many of the books were non-fiction and most of those were history. And here was me standing where he read and wrote.
Scott also had a fascination with Japanese culture; his sitting room was decorated with a wallpaper that doesn’t really fit with the library or armoury.
I think I need to get back to the Borders a few more times. There are other abbeys in Kelso and Jedburgh that I didn’t get to see on that trip. Plus there is the Hermitage which is a really old castle that passed between English and Scot control about seven times.
I am putting my historic scotland membership to good use.