Monday, January 21, 2013

My Fondest Memory: Melrose

On Eildon Hill, overlooking Melrose.

I was very much looking forward to this day. My local was taking me down to the borders region (have I mentioned how lucky I am to have had someone to take me to so many nice places?) I woke up still not feeling fully recovered from my cold, which was disappointing. My cough was pretty much gone, but my head still wasn't clear, I was a bit fatigued, and dealing with a queasy-feeling stomach. Not exactly how I wanted to feel, but I was determined to have a really nice time, which I did.

My local picked me up at 9:30 and off we went. I was so happy that the sun was shining and that it was another beautiful day for a trip. Again, pretty lucky there as well. 

Our first stop was in the very lovely town of Peebles. We stopped in Coltman's Delicatessen & Kitchen for hot chocolate and a pastry. I was so impressed with the hot chocolate - they basically served hot milk with a stick that had chocolate on the end of it, and as you stirred the stick around the chocolate melted and voila! Delicious, rich hot chocolate. They had different flavors of chocolate to choose from, but I stuck with the classic.

After the cafe, we walked around a bit, and my local pointed out a few things to me, including this impressive monument that is dedicated to those who lost their lives fighting in World War I.

 This is the inside view of the monument. Really nice mosaic work.

There were so many cute shops on this picturesque street.

Here I am, standing in front of a pretty bridge that crosses the River Tweed.

Close up. :)

Off we went to Melrose. This beauty of a bridge is a suspension bridge that crosses the River Tweed. It was built in 1826, and in the past a toll was required to cross. At the time, conditions for crossing included no more than eight people on the bridge at one time, and making the bridge swing was not allowed. Lucky for us, toll is no longer required and due to alterations made in 1991, the bridge no longer "swings."

Upon entrance to the bridge.

The River Tweed. I think there is something completely pacifying about this picture.

Crossing the bridge and taking in the view.

As we made our way into town, this handsome horse approached. "Oh, the paparazzi are here. I'm ready for my close-up."

It struck a pose for me. "This is my good side." 

And then, "C'mon paparazzi. Don't you have any food for me? All I have to eat here is this mud." :)

Before I went on this trip, tour guide Gary of Student Tours Scotland told me that I must demand to see the Abbey in Melrose. No demanding was required; it's rather hard to miss. The abbey was established in 1136, though it was attacked, partially destroyed, and rebuilt several times. It was built in the shape of a St. John's Cross. It is said that the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce is buried here.

Time to go hillwalking! Or as I would say, time to hike the hill. I saw the hill from a distance and thought, "No way. I know myself too well, and there is no way I'm getting to the top of that beast." Remember how well Arthur's Seat worked out for me? I really didn't want to embarrass myself in front of my local. Eildon hill (click on the link to see a picture of the hill; I didn't think to get a shot of it before we started to climb it) is thought to be a laccolith, which is formed from great pressure of magma that forces strata upward and creates a dome shape. 

There was a path that took us right through someone's backyard garden to reach the main trail. This incredibly long flight of stairs was my first obstacle. Conquered it! But I could tell that my lingering illness was going to be a detriment to my physical ability to climb this hill. I was pretty winded and felt like I was moving much slower than I would have been able to in a healthy condition.

After the long flight of stairs came a long, steep hill through farmland. Conquered it! And look at the view!  My sister thought it was funny that I took my coat off for the pictures. I told her, "It wasn't for the pictures! I was hot!"

I had a good photographer with me. I dare say I think he may have helped me improve my poses.

The sheep seem to enjoy the hill, too.

Sorry, Lancaster. Your farmland no longer impresses me.

Up, up, up we go. Hesitant, but with mild confidence. I'm hillwalking with a pro.

Getting a bit further up means time for another picture! I really am so glad it was such a gorgeous day.

We paused here for a breather and to take in the view. This ended up being as far as we made it. The mud had been a bit crunchy as we were going up, as it was somewhat frozen, and the trail that led further up had a good amount of ice on it. The scaredy-cat in me was a little relieved that I didn't have to test myself to get further up and risk fear-of-heights embarrassment, but the adventurer in me was a little disappointed that I didn't get to continue to go up and see what the view looked like from even higher.

Absolutely spectacular. Have I mentioned that I love Scotland?

The abbey from the hill. I really like the way the two trees frame the picture. Too bad the abbey didn't come out more clear.

You can see the ice a bit in this picture.

Back down we go. That's one heck of a hill, right? (For me, anyway). I took my precious time going down. Maureen - are you dazzled? Remember when I freaked out on the mountain when we went walking upstate all those years ago? And for my sister, I was getting chilly so I put my hat on, but I was still too hot for the coat!

Going back down the infinite steps while getting a history lesson from my local.

 Once we got all the way back down, we wiped our boots on the provided brushes before crossing over the odd backyard garden trail arrangement, then into town. We stopped at a pub for a drink, coca-cola for me to ease my unsteady stomach. We strolled around town a little afterwards and I picked up an incredibly soft, comfortable scarf, my new favorite thing, at, appropriately named, The Scarf Shop.

 We then headed back to the car.

Clearly, I am cold now. I'm standing next to the River Tweed with the suspension bridge behind me. The ground is frosty!

Goodbye, Melrose! Though I only conquered a portion of your hill, I had a lovely time. The day wasn't over yet, though. My local had more planned!

We were headed back to the town of Peebles, but first stopped to see the Smailholm Tower. Our timing could not have been better; the sun was setting and the tower with its frosty grounds looked unreal.

The roads on the way to the tower were a little snowy, a little slushy, and had me a little nervous, but it was worth it. The road that leads right to the tower goes through a farm (again, quite a strange way to access an attraction). It was very muddy, but thankfully the car did not get stuck.

The tower is a peel tower, which means it was intended as a watch tower in the border region. A fire would be lit atop the tower to alert of danger. It was built around the 15th century and was restored in the 1980's. Sir Walter Scott spent some time here in his youth.

I really, really like this picture. No special effects, just mother nature and an ancient monument in all their glory. Oh, and me, the awestruck American student. 

I snapped this photo of Eildon hill as we were driving. It's not the best picture, but it gives you an idea of its size. And though the sun was setting, it was only about 3 or 4 o'clock.

When we returned to Peebles, we went to the Tontine Hotel for afternoon tea. Yes, my local took me to my first afternoon tea. I know, I was impressed too. We had worked up quite an appetite after our adventure and I was ready to daintily devour some food. Our afternoon tea included both smoked salmon and ham finger sandwiches (I don't ordinarily like ham, but this tasted like corned beef and it was delicious), scones with cream and jam, shortbread, meringues, gingerbread, and two pots of tea, all enjoyed from the comfort of a cozy couch next to a nice, warm fire. Everything tasted so wonderful and it was a great way to end a day that would become my fondest memory of my time in Scotland.

I'd like to give a special thanks to my local who made this day and a number of other days really special experiences for me. 

I'm not done yet, Ayreshire is up next!  

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