Since the Timberbush tour of the highlands was so fun, I did a lowlands tour the next day.
The chapel has a very strict “no photography” rule, so I was not able to get any shots from inside. Not even sneaky ones with my iPhone. There’s an entrance fee. They also sell a CD of professional photos in the gift shop. Correlation? Probably.
There are scheduled talks about the varied symbols visible on just about every surface within the chapel. One was just starting as my tour arrived, so we all paid our entrance fee, trouped into the chapel, and sat in the hard wooden pews for about twenty minutes.
The most interesting fact to me was that the original stonework was vividly colorful. Then, as it fell into disrepair, some well-meaning folk decided to “preserve” the chapel by spraying it with some sort of concrete in the 1950’s. Now there’s no easy way to remove the concrete, so everything is a uniform whitish color. It’s still really interesting and worth the trip even if you don’t care about the Da Vinci code.
The gift shop is in the airy welcome center. I bought myself the cutest little celtic cross charm which was subsequently stolen from my home a few months later. But that’s another story for another day.
Next, we came to Melrose Abbey, the best full-on gothic ruin I saw in my whole three week journey. There’s a modest entrance fee, around £5, and then you’re free to roam around. I could have stayed there for at least a few hours making beautiful pictures. As it turned out, I only had about 45 minutes, so I felt just a bit rushed.
I wandered around the grounds looking at the ruins from all sides. I admired tiny details like the pig playing a set of bagpipes carved high on one of the exterior walls. I took many photos, and yet not nearly enough.
Melrose was the lunch stop for our tour, so a friend and I found a tiny pub called the Ship Inn. Last chance for haggis!
Haggis sounds like a terrible thing to eat, but it’s so spicy and flavorful that I didn’t mind it at all. (The key is to just not think about what’s in it. Or how it’s prepared.)
Dessert was a sticky toffee pudding. So! Good! (Note to Americans: ‘pudding’ means ‘dessert’ over there, so we’re not talking actual Jello-style pudding. We’re talking warm chocolate cake with caramel soaked into it and a big dollop of cream or ice cream on top. Yes, there are supposedly dates in it. Nope, couldn’t see or taste them.)
The next stop on the tour was Glenkinchie Distillery, because who goes to Scotland without drinking some whiskey? We all got to try three types of whiskey. They do a twice-aged whiskey that is really smooth. It was a fun experience and certainly warmed me up.
The final stop of the day was at Scott’s View high on a hill with a truly amazing view of the Tweed valley and surrounding hills. It’s named for Sir Walter Scott, and said to be one of his favorite places. The view is nothing short of spectacular.
I did not see anyone actually wearing tweed, but I did catch sight of a lowland cow. Much less furry than the previous day’s highland cow. And in much more of a hurry. I guess it’s true that the nearer one is to civilization, the busier one appears to be.
On the way back to Edinburgh, we passed through the town of Lauder and the driver pointed out the final significant structure of my day: Thirlestane Castle. Pretty!