London and Scotland Day 6
Abbotsford, Rosslyn Chapel, touring odds and ends
Today, we did not go to St. Andrews, as earlier reported, (that is tomorrow), but our bus tour today took us to two remarkable places south of Edinburgh — Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott and Rosslyn Chapel which has become world famous courtesy of Dan Brown and "The DaVinci Code". Dave, our driver, kept up marvelous patter about local history, highlights of the area, stories and had quite a witty and self-deprecating sense of humor.
We travelled through the countryside to the "borders" region, so called because it is on the way to the border with Great Britain. We travelled to within 30 miles of the English border, passing rolling green hills, volcanic mounds, and many cows and even more sheep. Supposedly, there are 2 sheep to each resident of Scotland.
Our first stop was at "Scott’s View", a bucolic lookout not too far from his home. It set the stage for the scenic opportunities the rest of the day.
Abbotsford, Scott’s estate was built between 1817 and 1825 and sits near the River Tweed. It paid homage to the newer architectural styles of the day, but was decorated inside to look like a medieval manor house with arrays of weaponry and hunting trophies. It’s influence was felt in domestic architecture all over Scotland and beyond.
The entranceway into the Grand Hall was filled with his "gabions "-an old Scotch word used to describe his collections of old weapons, armor and other curiosities. My even better word is tchotchkes.
We went through the study, then the wonderful library with a bust of Scott by Francis Chantry, the finest sculptor in Britain at the time.
One of the many fascinating bits of information was about the tableware in the dining room. It was specially designed in 2013 for a visit by Queen Elizabeth II, but took its inspiration from the original early 19th century dinner service used by Scott.
His life was rich in rewards but also fraught with angst. Scott called this house his "conundrum castle". He was constantly going into debt to fill it with the things he wanted, then catching up with his writing to pay for them. He actually died in debt which his family eventually paid off.
Lastly, we walked through his beautiful gardens where workers, mostly volunteers, keep it up. They have a fascinating way of pruning apple trees which obviously works. The gardener currently working there offered us a sample!
Our next stop is the famous (or infamous) Rosslyn Chapel. But the scenery on the way to get there was the show stopper. (Sorry, pictures taken from bus window).
Also got a little lesson on the mining industry as we went through a mining town where the workers houses had red paint above the windows. This identified the fact that the mining company owned the house, hence the workers owed their livelihood ( and debt as well) to the company.
Founded in 1446 by Sir William St. Clair, the Rosslyn Chapel took 40 years to build. St. Clair originally wanted a cathedral which he said should represent all the good and evil things that were in the Bible, old and new testaments. Unfortunately, he died and only the chapel was completed, but the beauty of it’s setting and the mysterious symbolism of it’s stonework have intrigued visitors ever since. We could only take pictures from the outside, but I used the pamphlet and other exhibit pictures to fill in. It would take a very long book to even try to explain a fraction of what we saw.
It was very difficult to make out where the stones were, and what they represented. Not only are they very, very old, but in the early 1900’s they tried to restore the intricate stonework and did even more damage to the soft sandstone. But we still had fun trying to identify many of the mysterious figures and objects.
When Dan Brown wrote the "DaVinci Code" with the chapel as the main focus at the climax of the story, it created a sensation that became even greater when it was made into a movie in 2006, and parts of it were filmed here. The Vestry, not the main room of the Sacristy was mainly used for the filming. But more importantly, Brown had opened up the world to the chapel, and tourists came by the hordes. It had been closed at that point for lack of funds to keep it up and with this newfound windfall, they were able to restore the chapel.
A quick trip along yet another very scenic route brought us home to the heart of Edinburgh. We found another old tavern where Jim enjoyed very traditional fish and chips ( as well as a wee dram), and Wendy had a steak and ale pie,somewhat less enjoyed.