In my search for interesting destinations day-trippable from Edinburgh, I was informed that the town of Roslin was at the end of the bus route 15 right out of downtown. The name rang a bell, and upon googling I discovered that this was one of the key locations of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. This was NOT the deciding factor for choosing Roslin, but rather the reasons that likely drew Mr. Brown there himself. The chapel boasts great mystery. Ky and I were eager to go.
The bus ride out to Roslin was stunning. Our bus took us out of the city quite promptly, and I was pleased to find farmland and the kind of landscape that I find so much more beautiful than the city.
We passed the Pentland Hills; they were covered in snow and looked inviting. The day was slightly overcast but bright and clear (only in Britain can it be clear and overcast simultaneously). Ky and I fantasized about someday buying a holiday home together in the Highlands or near Roslin. One day. Sigh.
When we arrived in Roslin, it was snowing in the fashion I’ve seen several times this winter – light floaty flakes falling from the sky, enough to be pretty but not enough to stick to anything. Enough to warrant complaint from the Scots, but not us Canadians.
As soon as we got off the bus and got our bearings, a parade of people on horseback trotted past. Ky made a comment about being plunged into the middle ages. It set the scene nicely.
We began to head down the road to the Rosslyn Chapel – it was apparent that we were in a VERY rural area. We weren’t in a hurry, so we investigated a few old graveyards and wandered down a few forest paths. One led nowhere and we doubled back, but the other path brought us to one of the most amazing places I’ve seen so far in Scotland! It was the ruin of Rosslyn Castle (which I didn’t know existed) perched atop a sort-of plateau in the middle of a ravine. The castle’s ‘main’ entrance was very much still in tact; a vaulted bridge that linked the castle plateau with a pathway to the top of the ravine.
This path led to a courtyard that was definitely still in use. Most of the castle was in ruins, but there stands a more modern section that obviously is fitted with new windows and electricity. We didn’t explore further for fear we were trespassing. Instead we took the path that brought us below the castle and discovered that it lay by a river, and the further down to the foundations, the older and more desecrated it became.
It was odd looking up from the base, up three stories of broken windows and rusty bars immediately below two stories of modern windows with curtains and electric lights. I felt strongly that I would hate to live directly above an abandoned dungeon, because #1 of ghosts – obviously, and #2, I can’t imagine the floor would EVER be warm!
Though it was muddy, this was the highlight of the trip for me – walking around the castle, by the river, in the Scottish countryside.
When we finally made it to the chapel itself, I was quite happy to observe from without. But since we were there, the £9 entry fee (eek!) seemed worth it. Luckily, the lady behind the counter thought it was hilarious and charming when she asked if I was a student and I replied, “Of course, I’m a student of life” – so I got in for the student rate.
Rosslyn Chapel has been a curiosity for centuries. It was one of few Catholic places of worship kept in tact during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries (if I’ve got this bit of information right, it goes something like this: Catholic King of England wants to get a divorce so he can marry the foxy Anne Boleyn, but the Pope won’t let him, so Henry decides to make his own religion up so he can do whatever little Henry wants. To enforce his new religion, he destroys Catholic imagery and places of worship). Rosslyn Chapel was so unique, however, that it was saved from destruction. Its mystery is due to the plethora of symbols decorating the inside of the chapel – including images from the Knights Templar.
Heading back into the city, I wondered how hard it would be to get a job somewhere more rural – so much better than city living!
By the way, I looked for the Holy Grail, it wasn’t there.