Neolithic Sites
Roman Sites
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Rosslyn Chapel
Rosslyn Castle
Dalhousie Castle
Seton Church
Seton House
Saltcoats Castle


May 27

We don't check in to the Witchery until tomorrow but we thought it would be worthwhile to actually be IN Edinburgh tomorrow so we aren't trying to drive in, find things, and end up miles away, like we usually do. Mark is pretty good at getting us to our destination, but I'm easily distracted. So we'll get a room in Edinburgh tonight, just in case.

Best-selling fiction = more grants for repair

But first, we joined the hordes at Rosslyn Chapel - famous from the Da Vinci Code book and movie, and well worth a look in its own right. The place is absolutely amazing - the sculptural details inside are almost too much. The whole place is under a giant 'umbrella roof' to try to dry out the ceiling of the chapel, which has years and years of water damage that had soaked into the stone and were beginning to cause problems in the chapel itself.

Inside, the chapel is unbelievably complex an I have to wonder why it survived the Reformation thugs who destroyed the iconic images in so many other churches. Columns and pillars are entirely covered with carvings (including the 'prentice pillar' which is the most ornate of them all (and apparently ended in the death of the apprentice when his master discovered that he had finished the column without permission an it was better than anything the master had produced) and the dozens upon dozens of 'green men' and mythical and fantastical images on every single surface are fascinating.

No pictures inside, unfortunately. You can buy any one of the guide books for that. From the walk around the rooftop, you can see Rosslyn Castle in the distance, but as we discovered this morning, the road to go see it is closed and detours around the rest of the town. Apparently it's possible to walk down from the chapel, but no one could give us decent directions and so we didn't hike off into the forest.

We're kind of aimless today, wanting to have a short, relaxing day before attacking Edinburgh for the rest of the trip. Before, we avoided Edinburgh except for a quick trip into the city to see the castle -- we left it until the end of the trip and didn't leave enough time to actually explore the city at all, which was a shame. This time, we actually plan to stay in Edinburgh (at the world-famous Witchery) for a few days so we can relax and ease out of our vacation. So today? Not so much on the list to see. Which led to a bit of snarking in the car today -- I had a terrible time planning "on the fly" and we ended up staring at each other, going "what next? What do you want to see?" without any real enthusiasm.

Definitely time to stop, settle in, and relax.

Hunting for the elusive "it must be there! There's a dot!"

We did stop at Dalhousie Castle just for a few pictures. It's a high-end luxury hotel now, very exclusive (and while they did have a room available for the evening, if we had wanted to stay and take advantage of their spa, it was almost 400 pounds for the night. Definitely out of our price range. Not all the rooms are that expensive, of course - it was the only one that was left.) It's an interesting castle, obviously rebuilt and added to as a baronial mansion. We did not go inside, but did wander around the grounds a bit until we were shooed off from their falconry demonstration, which was only for guests. Oh, well.

Heading east out of Edinburgh, we picked the Historic Scotland site nearby - Seton Collegiate Church, and enjoyed a quiet walk through the woods to the well-preserved church. The chapel is mostly untouched, because the same political weight that protected the work at Rosslyn chapel was in effect here -- the same masons worked on the church, and their patron offered the same protection. As a result, the church is mostly intact. The weird stumpy tower is not a repair, by the way, it was finished that way (well, finished early) and most of the details are original. The foundations of a priests house or dormitory for brothers is also on the grounds, but not much is left.

Just through the gate is Seton House -- based on seton castle -- which is a hive of activity today, obviously tons of restoration work going on. IT's clearly marked private and has no real entrance, so we didn't go take a look except through the gate. It doesn't look that interesting anyway. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

The description of Saltcoats Castle was intriguing, so we drove out and encountered a huge golf tournament and managed to squeeze into a parking spot just off the driving range. We couldn’t see the castle, but the GPS clearly showed that it was 'thataway' and so we just started walking. We took the GPS, of course -- which I swapped over to pedestrian mode, to see if it would be any more helpful) and we eventually found a spot where we could see the tower far off in the distance. Oh, well, Adventure Girl though tit would be a fun walk, and so off we went, walking along the drainage ditches and through a couple of fields to get to the castle. It's smaller than I thought, based on the picture of the monumental façade - a huge, flat expanse with a huge arched entryway fronting a shorter retaining wall. We had to climb through some barbed wire fences, and I got all scratched dup by the bushes walking around (glad I had jeans on!) but it was interesting. Mark started worrying about timing, so we hiked back to the car and programmed our hotel in the GPS

Which said it would take 5 hours. For some reason, we were flummoxed by this. It kept saying we'd get there at 9pm or so and we couldn't' figure out what was wrong….until I finally remembered that I'd set the GPS to pedestrian. Doh! Once we got that figured out, it looped us straight into Edinburgh and promptly got us horribly, completely lost.

There's a reason they say 'don't drive in Edinburgh'

Edinburgh is a maze of one-way streets, and add in a bunch of road closures because of the new tram-lines, and it's a challenge to get anywhere. Narrow streets, detours,…eek! We had some very tense moments trying to find our way to the hotel for tonight -- oh, the GPS knew exactly where it was, of course, but it didn't know about the detours and closures. We finally just drove in the general direction of the hotel, thinking we'd overshoot it and then come at it from outside of the city, instead of through downtown. It did work, but we had a few bits of crabbiness in the car.

We got an absolutely fabulous deal on the room -- last minute, of course, but we got a deluxe room (four poster bed, huge room, 14'c ceiling, enormous bath ), the last room in the house, for the standby rack rate of less than 100 pounds. What a steal! This is an old house, by the way, and the rooms are quite variable: some are huge, some small, some have high ceilings, others have dormer angles and weird windows. We lucked out entirely.

Wherein my dear husband attempts to murder me

The restaurant in the hotel is very good -- it's got a theme (the Orkney Islands) and the menu is heavy on northern dishes and seafood. It is also the site of Mark's attempt to murder me by making me laugh so hard while drinking wine that I nearly snorked it out my nose. I was making distressed snorting sounds and laughing hysterically…Well, let me explain. Mark ordered pepper-encrusted salmon for dinner. HE is not a huge fan of sauce or topping or sprinkles or whatever on his food, and in normal circumstances spends the first minute or so scraping off the toppings or removing salad or what have you fro his dinner. So when he picked up his fork to scrape off the offending peppercorns and discovered that they were stuck fast to the fish…the look on his face was absolutely priceless. He poked experimentally at the fish, trying to dislodge the pepper, scraped a bit frantically at it, and eventually resorted to just banging his fork on the fillet with frustration.

At this point, I started laughing at a him. He looked for all the world like one of our puppies, when thwarted from getting the bone from under the chair or something. Determined to do it, but absolutely flummoxed that the it wasn't going so well. I calmed down enough to tell him why I was laughing so hard. Then I took a sip of wine and he started in again, trying to pick off the pepper and it was too much.

Don't ever try to laugh while drinking wine…snorking wine out your nose is definitely unpleasant. I was choking and sputtering and the other guests were beginning to look quite concerned…for the rest of the meal, all he had to do was tap the top of his filet with the fork and I would go off in peals of laughter. Trying to kill me, indeed.

We retired to our enormous bed and decided to sleep in tomorrow.