Walking in the World

Tag Archives: 2015 Scotland Tour

Homeward Bound

Our final day on the road. The weather was grey and soggy for most of the 400 miles we covered, but we were determined to see a few interesting things along the way.

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Crossing over Hadrian’s Wall is always an emotional experience for me… how utterly amazing that a wall like that could have been built 2000 years ago, and that it still stands today. We only drove a short way along it today because the weather was too foul to make it enjoyable, and instead of a photo of the wall itself, I’m just showing you what it looks like on the map.

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Driving south, Jeff noticed a sign for Escomb Church, a place he vaguely remembered from a visit some years ago. We found it without difficulty, and the door was open and inviting. An old Saxon church, it was originally built using Roman stones from the fort at Binchester in about 680 AD, and has been in almost continual use ever since.

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There are a number of interesting features on the church, including this altar cross which likely predates the building. According to a descriptive sign, a missionary would meet regularly at an important place, like a village, in order to preach the gospel. A cross would be erected to mark the place, later followed by a church to provide protection as the congregation grew.

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On the outside of the building is a sundial that dates back to the 7th or early 8th century. Although it is quite weathered, you can see that it is inscribed with three lines that correspond to the three daylight hours of prayer kept by the monks, Terce, Sext, and None rather than the usual hours of daylight.

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Continuing the Roman theme, we stopped again a bit further on to get a glimpse of the ancient bridge across the River Tees at Piercebridge. There wasn’t actually a lot to see, though the incredibly straight Road (the B6273) that stretches across the countryside was quite impressive, straight roads being a hallmark of Roman construction.

From there, we headed back to the main roads and made straight for home. Not much walking today, but a lot of miles covered!

08 Jul 2015

South to the Border

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Our 2015 tours are finished. I’m glowing from the sheer fabulousness of spending all this time taking wonderful people to amazing places. I’m going to  be missing my travel friends for quite some time, but I’m also looking forward to spending a couple of days with my sweetie as we meander our way home.

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After waving goodbye to the last of our travel companions in St. Andrews this morning, we set out across country, reveling in Scotland’s glorious greenness.

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Our first stop was in Abernethy where we admired and then climbed the 11th century round tower near the church. One of only two such towers in Scotland, this was in particularly good condition. We didn’t hear the bell but we admired it’s solid beauty.

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Once back on the ground, we returned the oversized key and ordered coffee and gf cakes from the tea shop across the way.

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The sky was glorious as we drove south to Balvaird Castle where we had the place to ourselves especially as we explored the grounds and climbed its outer walls.

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This evening we are happily ensconced in a lovely B&B in the Scottish Borders, along the edge of the River Tweed.  Just look at this view from our room:

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07 Jul 2015

Pilgrimage with a Difference

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Back on the mainland, we made a pilgrimage of a different sort. Our friend and travel companion is a golfer, so today we journeyed to his holy grail, the Old Course at St. Andrews. Even I felt a bit choked up when they let us walk out across the green to visit the wee Swilken Burn bridge on the famous18th.

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And no visit would be quite complete without drinks at The Jigger, reputed to be the 19th Hole on the course.

04 Jul 2015

Beachcombing on Iona

We arrived on the Holy Isle of Iona yesterday afternoon, and after a leisurely visit to the sacred sites, we headed to the beach for an evening of sea life and shell collecting.

And on the way home we pitched in for a bit of neighbourly support:

28 Jun 2015

On the Move

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Today was about travel as we made our way down Loch Ness on the mainland then out to the island of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. It is a slightly complicated journey at the best of times, but that complication was compounded by a one-day strike by Scotland’s CalMac ferry company. We were, in the end,  among the lucky few – our day played out perfectly and we arrived without trouble or delay.

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We stopped for a stroll through colourful Tobermory before heading to our hotel where we’ve been well fed and are now watching the sun set over the Sound of Mull.

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26 Jun 2015

Change

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True confession: I have a favourite labyrinth. I absolutely love the Touchstone Maze in the forest above Strathpeffer in the Scottish Highlands. An arts project created in the 1990’s, it features standing stones imported from all over Scotland.

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Walking up into the woods this morning, we were shocked to see that danger signs had been posted, and it was clear that some major devastation had taken place. Huge trees had been completely uprooted, and even the familiar path was diverted. We later learned that the trees had toppled like dominoes during a mighty storm in January. 

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I held my breath, scarcely daring to look, but to our amazement the trees had fallen all around the labyrinth without obscuring a single path. The
labyrinth has certainly changed, but it is both safe and walkable.

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The miracle? By opening the labyrinth to the light, new flowers are already appearing, including these tiny orchids. The mighty stones have survived the storm, and a new chapter is beginning. My heart is filled with gratitude.

25 Jun 2015

Keeping Warm on Orkney

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Monday’s Post: You’d never know it was summer up here on Orkney. Fortunately, the rain was chased away by today’s chilly winds, so we dressed in our winter layers and spent the day amongst the island’s ancient monuments.

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The bleak and wintry weather made us appreciate the ancient people who were so ingenious in creating a life for themselves. Over 5000 years ago, people built comfortable and functional homes into the earth next to the sea at Skara Brae, complete with dressers for storage and tanks for holding the shellfish they caught.

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Later,  visiting the more modern Broch of Gurness (only 2000 years old!) we marveled at the warmth we found at the center of the structure.

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Created from stone, the massive broch is a well thought out structure that provided shelter and protection to its community of inhabitants.

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Humbled and awed, we returned to the comfort of our hotel to warm up.

22 Jun 2015

Heading North

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We left the Highlands behind this morning and sailed to Orkney. The Hamnavoe is a lovely ferry, but I fell in love with this Lego model displayed in one of the foyers.

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It has been too rainy to get out and about on the island this afternoon, so we declared this to be a day of rest…. An idea that apparently appealed to the local wildlife as well.

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21 Jun 2015

Dailiness

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The dailiness of life fascinates me,  and is,  perhaps,  the driving force behind my love of travel. How do people live on a day-to-day basis, what matters to them,  how do they make sense of the world?

Travelling along the edge of the world like this raises and addresses those questions as we stop to visit examples of the various abodes that people have called home over the centuries.

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We’ve seen castles,  huts, farms,  and forts. Yesterday we clambered around the Dun Carloway, the ruins of a 2000 year old stone broch just up the road from Callanish.

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Today we visited a traditional black house that was inhabited right up until the late 1960’s.

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Can you imagine cooking over an open peat fire like this? People were still living in this house in my lifetime, right up to  when I was starting high school in far-off California.

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Across the road is a wood framed house that is more like what I remember from the 1950’s. I don’t consider myself vintage, but I remember some of what’s on display.

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Times change, and technology is moving us at unprecedented rates, but my overriding sense is no matter where we live, home matters. People matter. Dailiness matters.

20 Jun 2015

Ageless Companionship

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We have arrived at the great Stones of Callanish. This part of the journey always feels hushed to me; I feel quiet and small as I stand in the presence of the ancient stones. They are so solid that I take heart from their patience and reach down to feel my own roots, and I ground, deeply and calmly. When I stand in the circle, I have such a strong sense of procession, and I am aware of so many others who have come here over the  centuries, to stand where I stand now. I become one with the ancestors.

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I have been here enough times to recognize that Callanish has moods. This morning the mood was mystical, almost brooding, as the stones stood shrouded in mist. There weren’t many people here, and most of us were walking silently and alone, pausing to touch a stone or simply stand in ageless companionship.

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When we returned this evening, the mood had changed. The small group that gathered in the early evening made up for the lack of a sunset with drumming,  dancing, singing, and processing….  the respect was palpable and collective, the joy contagious.

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The world is full of Mystery.

19 Jun 2015

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