Monday, June 26, 2017

Castles, Castles everywhere

We had a spare long weekend but the weather forecast wasn't great in any direction.   Given the propensity for the East to be better than the West we decided to head towards Berwick-upon-Tweed as it looks very picturesque from the train.

Planning trips like this is fun, cross-referencing various websites, travel guides, national history organisations, etc.  In the end the trip became quite castle-centric and we duly started on a grey, drizzly Friday morning at Craigmillar Castle.  It's an interesting and accessible ruin:


From there we visited first Seton Collegiate Church:



And then Dirleton Castle:


Dirleton is very impressive and again accessible and explorable:


The staff there keep the grounds in excellent order too and there's a fascinating Doocot in the grounds:


In the afternoon we headed to Tantallon Castle:


This is spectacular both in terms of the castle itself:


And it's location, on the coast overlooking the magnificent Bass Rock, home of the largest Northern Gannet colony on Earth:


We really enjoyed our visit and marked it down as a place we'll definitely be bringing visitors to.  From Tantallon we headed to St Abbs Head as I wanted us to see our first Small Blue butterfly.  Alas we couldn't find any information on the specific sites and no one to talk to about the Nature Reserve,

We made do instead with a lovely walk around the reserve, taking in some of the cliffs along the coastline, the lighthouse, the loch, etc.:


From there with the evening drawing in we headed to our B&B in Eyemouth, which was very reasonably priced, good rooms and a proper veggie breakfast.

There's a lovely beach too at Eyemouth:


The harbour was very still as we walked about looking for somewhere to eat.   The building reflected in the water was apparently erected to conceal smuggling activity therein and beneath as this harbour was used extensively for this given its location, apparently: 



As we walked back from dinner a fishing boat had returned and the fisherman was filleting the pollock he'd caught, throwing the remains into the harbour... where a large male seal was waiting to grab everything he could:












That was a fascinating fifteen minutes.   Apparently there's a group of them who mop-up after the fishermen.

The next morning we decided to try and avoid the worst of the weather by heading out to Norham castle, another accessible, explorable ruin, though very wet underfoot still worth the trip:


From Norham with rain all about we headed into Berwick-upon-Tweed.   The town has a real sense of history and in fact we'd be getting a sense of the history of the area building-up form each of the sites we visited.   So much so that Helen bought a history book for Scotland which is really bringing this to life.

Berwick-upon-Tweed changed hands a number of times for example.

We walked around the city visiting various sites and then headed for the castle ruins, passing this rail viaduct on the way: 


The castle had a train station built on half of it so there's not much to see now and it's inaccessible.   We enjoyed our visit to the town though better weather would have made it more enjoyable.

On the Sunday morning we visited Crichton Castle, another fantastic, accessible ruin:















You get a real sense of the passage of time and taste inside:


Our final stop on the way home was at Hailes Castle, completing our circle:


There's a lot more to see in the Borders, time to plan another few trips me thinks....

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