Travelling in the 90s – Hadrian’s Wall and a few days in Scotland

Welcome to Travelling in the 90s — the tale of my adventures in Europe, drawn from my original travel journal from 1993-1994…

Our fresh-faced 20-something selves have just been road-tripping through Wales and are now heading north in our trusty Rover towards Scotland for a few days.

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[Thursday 13 January, 1994] Yesterday we drove up to Durham, and today we checked out the cathedral… Apparently the two most worth-seeing cathedrals in England are Durham and Salisbury — done em!!

map_wall

Then we “did” Hadrian’s Wall. We saw our first segment at Heddon on the Wall (just outside Newcastle). Then, as the weather steadily deteriorated, we took a little “B” road which followed the wall. Our next stop was beside a little temple to the Roman god Mystras (below) — unfortunately it was a soggy green field away from the road, and I slipped over to cover myself with English mud.

mythric temple

Following this, we went to Housesteads Roman Fort (below), which was ace! — but I’m told that expression is outdated, so I will say wicked, awesome, well excellent etc. Hadrian’s Wall formed one of the fort’s four walls, and contained the ruins of latrines, barracks, grainaries etc.

Housesteads

But best of all was the fact that we got to walk along the Wall (below)! The ground on the “Scottish” side fell away very sharply, and the wall was built along the ridge, taking advantage of the natural geography. Spectacular. We walked along the wall for a while and it was wonderful.

Hadrians Wall

After a while, I was outvoted by my companions who were finding the cold and windy weather a trifle excessive. So we went in search of coffee, which we found at The Gunn Inn. It was a lovely pub, and we were offered a bottomless cup of coffee… The bar was covered with old imperial pennies, and there was a yummy warm fire.

The drive to Edinburgh was interesting, as it was dark and the roads were winding, and at one stage a steady barrage of hammering rain attacked the windscreen perpendicularly. It was all made particularly spectacular by the play of the headlights on the rain drops. But we got there eventually, and despite my two navigators taking me through the centre of the city instead of around the ring road, even safely.

map_edinburgh

[Friday 14 January, 1994] Time to check out Edinburgh. The castle was great — fully intact and containing exhibitions of the Honours of Scotland (sword, sceptre, crown etc) and various military regalia. Neither of us were too interested in the latter — we’re a bit overcrammed with history. Other aspects included the vaults which housed a large canon (not the one that’s fired at 1:00pm) and a rather spectacular view.

From the castle, we wandered in the pouring rain down the Royal Mile (which felt considerably further than that) to Holyrood Palace. We took a guided tour — the palace is full of 17th century tapestries and five-year-old rugs, side by side! We also saw the older part, where Mary Queen of Scots lived before moving to the castle. She was sixteen when she married the fourteen year old King of France, and was eighteen when he died. She next married Lord Darnley who sounds like a nasty character. When we left, it was still raining — I am getting very sick of rain!

[Monday 17 January, 1994] On Saturday we went to Stirling Castle (below), about an hour by motorway from Edinburgh. Stirling is said to be the most impressive castle in Scotland, but when we saw it, it was covered with scaffolding — parts inaccessible — and contained yet another military museum. Nevertheless the bailey out the back was quite stunning, with a stone fortified wall and a pocket of lovely green grass. The rest of the castle was very similar to that in Edinburgh.stirling castle

On the way via back roads to Linlithgow Palace, I had a grump attack. This was brought on by the fact that I really wanted to go to Loch Lomond — said to be the most attractive loch of them all – but, although it was close by, the weather turned against us. Add to that the frustration of short, cold, rainy days… Scotland is a place I shall definitely have to revisit at a nicer time of year!

Linlithgo Palace

So of course the “scenic” tourist route we followed to Linlithgow was rather ordinary and infuriatingly slow. However, Linlithgow Palace (above) was marvellous — a rather impressive ruin with stairs and rooms forming a labyrinth. I felt like a kid as I more-or-less ran from room to room, listening to the echoes.

Well, Linlithgow Palace almost resurrected my day, but then the saga of the camera reached a climax. I had actually dropped it again at Stirling Castle and the film rewound, but this time when I dropped it…

I was walking rapturously towards a spectacular sunset photo when I slipped on an asphalt path covered with black ice, landing elbow-first on my rear end. Through the haze of funny-bone pain I was aware of the film rewinding — swore quite a few times — and ended up with a wet backside. The camera, alas, did not survive. The casing is severely cracked, although hopefully the film was not exposed. Maybe it’s fixable…?

On Sunday we headed to Belton, near Lincoln. We’re staying on a little farm at the end of a lane, warm and comfy, full of animals!

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And that was Scotland. I did return some years later at a much nicer time of year. Might do a post on that someday, although I don’t think I kept a journal.

Unfortunately none of the Edinburgh and few of the Stirling photos are worth sharing… And those that I’ve included are still very dodgy! I must say the advent of digital photography has done wonders for me.

Next installment will see us traipsing around the north of England, based on the little farm in Belton.

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