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Scotland, Ireland, and England

March 22 - April 4, 1998

We spent a week in Scotland at Rosslyn Castle, two days in Dublin and three days in London. We were blessed with exceptional weather throughout our two weeks!

Rosslyn Castle

Rosslyn Castle
A view of Rosslyn Castle from the bridge -- ruins in the foreground, main house in the background.

Our group of six stayed at Rosslyn Castle in Roslin, just outside of Edinburgh. This and many other historic homes can be rented through the Landmark Trust of Great Britain. Visit the The Landmark Trust for more information.
Back of Rosslyn Castle
The back of the house at Rosslyn Castle.

From Cadogan Guides Scotland by Richenda Miers,

"A fairy-story castle rises from trees above an historic chapel. To see it from the outside, park by the chapel and walk round the graveyard and over a narrow footbridge (once a drawbridge) that spans the River North Esk, dizzyingly, far below. The cast le stands high over Roslin Glen, with dripping dungeons, an ancient yew tree and legends of buried treasure. Dating from 1304, when the Lantern Tower was built, it was the home of the St Clair family who came to England with William the Conqueror and wer e lured north by offers of land from Malcolm Canmore. Sir William St Clair, who lived here in sumptuous state, in the 15th century, ate off gold plate, waited on by dozens of lords and ladies, and minted his own coins. When his wife, Elizabeth, went visi ting, her mounted escort numbered two hundred."

The remaining liveable part of the castle was built in 1622 and sleeps seven.

Rosslyn Castle, ante 1700
J. Gellatly, Rosslyn Castle, ante 1700. Engraving (The earliest part of Rosslyn Castle was built in the 1300's.)
Rosslyn Castle house
The living quarters at Rosslyn Castle, built in 1622.
Rosslyn Castle wall
The wall to the right of the bridge, as viewed from the yard.
Rosslyn Castle drawing room
The Rosslyn Castle drawing room.

We heard quite a few ghost stories about the castle from the locals and previous guests. One is of the Woman in White who may be summoned at midnight from the steps of the dungeon. She will then appear to show the way to the hidden treasure. It is b elieved that this woman is the Rosabelle from Sir Walter Scott's poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel from 1805 which is about Roslin (Rosslyn). The poem tells of the young Lady Rosabelle drowning in a shipwreck on a stormy night and of the Rosslyn Ch apel appearing to be on fire as it is said to do when one of the Rosslyn line is on their death bed.

There is also said to be a ghost with the name of Archie, the ghost of a beheaded man (maybe Archie), and the ghost of a dog killed with his master and heard to howl.

We, however, neither saw nor heard anything supernatural, though Scott did say he heard some howling.

There were three levels of dungeon to be explored. It required three thrilling trips down to the final level to discover what the banging noise was inside the one room -- it turned out to be the result of some creature (bird or bat?) with very large n ests in the room.

Rosslyn Chapel

From Cadogan Guides Scotland, "was the creation of the flamboyant Sir William St Clair... in the 15th century. Worried, perhaps, that he might have used his great wealth too self-indulgently he decided towards the end of his life that he'd bett er atone for some of his extravagances before going on to meet his Maker. He therefore started building a church. The St Clairs are hereditory Grand Master Masons, and the church was to be the world's High Temple of Masonry. Dedicated to St Matthew and founded in 1446, the chapel was designed to be an enormous cruciform collegiate church. It was never finished. When William died in 1484 enthusiasam for the project dwindled and all that was completed was the present chapel, a chancel and part of the t ransept, with a vault below. A number of St Clairs are buried in the vault, some, it is said, still in armour. The interior is so richly carved that you get visual indegestion, looking at it. Nearly every inch has been decorated with men and animals, b irds and foliage, flowers and insects: there are the Seven Cardinal Virtues, the Seven Deadly Sins, the Dance of Death and a lot more besides, all created by the finest craftsmen of the day.
"Your eye will be drawn inevitably to the famous Prentice Pillar on the south side of the Lady Chapel. The pillar's carving is so delicate that it makes the rest seem almost crude. Legend has it that the pillar was intended to enshrine the spiritual con cept, rather than the material form, of the Holy Grail and that for such an important monument St Clair sent his master mason to Italy to find an appropriate design. When the mason returned to Roslin he found that one of his apprentices, inspired by a dr eam, had carved the pillar that you see today. Incensed with jealous rage, he killed the boy."

There seem to be a number of people that believe the Holy Grail is, in fact, inside the Prentice Pillar. One man has even examined it with a metal detector and found that there is something metallic inside.

(Unfortunately, they requested that pictures of the chapel not be used for any purpose other than personal, and so I don't feel comfortable putting them on a web page. However, the Rosslyn Chapel does have a web page at http://www.rosslynchapel.org.uk.)

The Ballad of the "Battle of Roslin"

Day Summaries

Sunday, March 22
Flew out of Dulles in the evening.

Monday, March 23
Arrived at Heathrow airport, London early in the morning.
Took train from King's Cross Station in London to Edinburgh (~4 hour trip). Nice views of English and Scottish countryside.
Drove to Rosslyn Castle -- Scott was challenged with driving on the wrong side of the rode and having to shift gears with his left hand!
Very much impressed with our "accomodations."
Dinner at the The Original Roslin Inn in Roslin.
Spooky sleeping in such an old, dark place.

Tuesday, March 24
We explored the castle ruins and hiked along the North Esk River for a couple of hours. Beautiful day.
Visited the Rosslyn Chapel.
Lunch at the Countryside Inn in Penicuik.
Toured the Edinburgh Crystal Factory -- fascinating seeing the crystal-making process.
Back at Rosslyn Castle, explored the dungeon.
Dinner at The New Callyr Inn in Loanhead (not recommended.)

Wednesday, March 25
Took the Loch Ness bus tour from Edinburgh.
Stopped in the highlands to take pictures.
Lunch at the Loch Ness Visitor Center, documentary on Loch Ness Monster sightings and research.
Stopped at Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness. Many sightings of "Nessie" have been made here. Some believe she lives in the cavens under the castle.
Stopped in Glencoe to photograph the incredible mountains, including the Three Sisters.

Thursday, March 26
Walking tour of Edinburgh Castle. Very interesting. Saw the Scottish Crown Jewels (oldest in the UK) and the Stone of Destiny (traditionally used during coronation of a Scottish monarch.)
Lunch at a cafe at the castle.
Walked the Royal Mile down to Holyrood Palace.
Toured Holyrood Palace and Abbey. Incredible! (This had once been the home of Mary Queen of Scots among other Scottish monarchs.)
Tea at Brambles on the Holy Mile.
Saw the Greyfriars Bobby exhibit in the Huntly House Museum on the Royal Mile. (He was a terrier that loyally watched over the grave of his master for 14 years and was fed and cared for by the owners of a local restaurant.)
Dinner at Deacon Brodie's Pub.
Took the Mercat Ghost & Ghouls Walking Tour. Saw some of the underground vaults, once used for workshops and storage, and heard some good ghost stories.

Friday, March 27
Drove to hunt for castles.
1) First stop, Castlelaw Fort -- an earthworks fort from the Iron Age. Not much more than a hole in the ground reinforced with stone walls.
2) Toured the Glenkinchie Whiskey Distillery. (Met a woman on the tour who had played at the Rosslyn Castle and in the dungeons as a child. Her father had been the pastor at the Rosslyn Chapel!)
Lunch at The Victoria Inn in Haddington.
3) Hailes Castle - lovely ruins with a stream flowing nearby and green sloping hills covered with daffodils.
4) St. Mary's Church, Whitekirk
5) Tantallon Castle - closed on Fridays unfortunately, but still beautiful from a distance.
6) Dirleton Castle, Dirleton - very impressive, extensive ruins. Much to wander around.
Dinner at the Roslin Glen Hotel.
Finished the evening in front of a fire in drawing room at Rosslyn.

Saturday, March 28
Laundry in the morning.
Lunch at the Countryside Inn again.
Saw monuments on Calton Hill in Edinburgh. Nice view of Edinburgh from up there.
Afternoon tour of Mary King's Close, an underground street with abandoned shops and homes.
Found the small monument to Greyfriars Bobby (the terrier), in front of the restaurant where he was fed.
Dinner at The Filling Station on the Royal Mile.
Another evening by a fire in the drawing room.

Mary King's Close
Back when the Bubonic Plague was raging in Edinburgh, it continued especially long in Mary King's Close. (A close is a narrow alley with homes and shops facing onto it.) This was one of the poorest closes in the city and many of the residents were Cathol ics, minorities in Scotland. The city believed that the plague continued for as long as it did in that area because God was punishing them for their sins. So they decided to board up the close with the residents and the other plague victims of the city inside. Over 400 people were closed inside. It is now believed that the plague continued in that area for so long because these people would not have been able to afford shoes and therefore would be more likely to get flea bites, which is what transmitted the plague.

When summer came, there was a terrible smell and they hired two men who had already survived the plague to go in and clean up the bodies. With the extensive job to be done, the men started to take shortcuts by chopping the limbs off of the bodies in o rder to throw them from the upper windows into the cart below. The bodies were then taken to a single large grave and buried there.

Several years later, the housing problem became so dire in Edinburgh, that the city had to fix up the rooms in Mary King's Close and try to rent them. There were no takers until they offered free rent. Then a couple took one of the homes and were sai d to be haunted nightly by visions of body parts floating in the air. One version of the story says that they stayed, another says that they moved out after awhile.

There had been sightings of a ghost of a little girl near the close and it was believed that she had been closed in there with her family. However while filming a documentary about a Japanese psychic, another story came out. The psychic had been take n to several places, some where there had been sightings of ghosts and some that just looked as though there would be ghosts there. Supposedly, she consistently reported sightings and feelings that matched the reports.

While in Mary King's Close, she became extremely agitated and felt something tugging at the back of her jacket. She told later that she turned around to see the little girl there. The girl told her that her parents had become sick with the plague, bu t she had not. They then made plans to smuggle her out to live with her aunt and uncle sometime before the close had been closed up. All went according to plan, but in the excitement, the girl forgot her doll. Later she returned to what she thought was the window that she had come out of, but it was the wrong one and she fell into the room, hurt herself badly and died there.

Believing that the girl's spirit was not at peace because she was still searching for her doll, the psychic sent one of the camera crew out to the Royal Mile to buy a doll and gave it to the girl. It is believed that there have been no sightings of th e girl since then.

There currently only exists a quarter of the close (the 2nd quarter off of the Royal Mile). The first quarter was destroyed when the City Chamber was built there and the last half of the close was destroyed when the loch below was drained and made int o a park.

Sunday, March 29
Walked to the Rosslyn Chapel for church (didn't realize that Daylight Savings was the night before and missed the first half of the service. Better to learn then than the next day when trying to catch planes and trains!)
Spent the day reading and relaxing at the castle.
One of our group discovered that the largest skeleton key on the key ring opened the door at the end of the kitchen into a lovely courtyard inside the ruins of an older part of the castle. It included a fireplace dated 1591.
Lunch at Cathney Inn in Penicuik.
Dinner at The Original Roslin Inn again.
Finished our last evening in front of another fire in the drawing room.

Monday, March 30
Scott and I left Rosslyn early for a flight into Dublin.
Lunch at Turk's Head Chop House in Temple Bar.
(Temple Bar is a section of streets with restaurants and pubs.)
Toured Dublin Castle with the underground excavation of the Powder Tower. Other than the Powder Tower and one single standing tower, the Dublin Castle is of rather recent construction.
Rode the sightseeing bus around Dublin.
Dinner at Cucina in Temple Bar. Good Italian food.
Listened to some traditional Irish music in an outdoor pub.

Tuesday, March 31
Took the Coast and Castle bus tour in the morning. Saw Malahide Castle and the coast.
Lunch on O'Connell street by the fountains.
Took the South Coast bus tour in the afternoon. Saw Enya's house and Bono of U2's house. At one point the bus driver went around a round-about three times just for the reaction from the other drivers waiting to get on! Very funny guy!
Dinner at Gallagher's Traditional Irish Restaurant in Temple Bar.

Wednesday, April 1
Early flight into London Heathrow.
Took the underground from Paddington station to Hyde Park Corner for lunch at the original Hard Rock Cafe.
Saw the outside of Buckingham Palace (only open for tours in the summer.)
Saw Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Walked on the bridge over the Thames River.
Dinner at an Italian restaurant near Paddington Station.

Thursday, April 2
Took the Golden Tours day trip to Salisbury, Stonehenge and Bath. Saw Salisbury Cathedral.
Lunch at The Cloisters in Salisbury.
Time and tourists have been hard on Stonehenge, but it's still fascinating to see.
Toured the Roman Bath museum in Bath. A beautiful city full of Georgian architechture. Deserves more than the brief drive through that we had.
Dinner at The Tudor Rose Restaurant and Bar in London.

Friday, April 3
Toured the Tower of London with guided tour by a Yeoman Warder (Beefeater). Heard about Lady Jane Grey, Anne Boelyn, and Catherine Howard, among others kept prisoner or executed there. Saw the Crown Jewels, the Bloody Tower, the White Tower (the origin al structure of the tower) and the Medieval Palace.
Lunch at Pret a Manger at Tower of London.
Finished touring Tower of London.
Walked part way across the Tower Bridge. A very pretty bridge.
Saw St. Paul's Cathedral.
Saw Kensington Palace (closed for renovations until May). Enjoyed the beautiful gardens and Hyde Park.
Walked through Harrod's -- incredible decor!
Dinner at Bunch of Grapes near Harrod's.

Saturday, April 4

Noon flight back to Dulles.

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