A Cold Day in Cramond

Once Upon a Time, long ago, my Mother was a wee bairn growing up in Scotland. Her fond memory of a town called Cramond sent me (accompanied by Ky) exploring. This was back on February and it was COLD!!!!

Just for the record, those are snowflakes... not dandruff!

Just for the record, those are snowflakes… not dandruff!

Cramond is just a wee little town, about to be swallowed up by Edinburgh suburbia. It still retains that small-town feel for now!

P1080929

P1080972

Cramond is also the site of an old Roman fort! I like old Roman things, even if it is just the foundations that are left.

I like old Roman things, even when they barely exist!

I like old Roman things, even when they barely exist!

P1080931

The Romans may also have used Cramond Island in some way… no one is really sure if/how/why. Of course.

P1080947

P1080944

Cramond also boasts the beautiful River Almond. Judging by all the boats, it’s popular for sailors.

The mouth of the River Almond

The mouth of the River Almond

P1080941

P1080960

More ruins!

P1080961

P1080965

Other than a wee tea shop Ky and I had a snack in, Cramond doesn’t seem to have much else other than houses and the sea. Which is fine with me! Hopefully Cramond will escape Edinburgh’s clutches for a while longer.

Conquering the Law (But not Actually): A Day Trip to North Berwick

P1080918

North Berwick (pronounced bear-ick, like Derick) is a seaside village East of Edinburgh. Boy do I like my seaside visits! Again accompanied by my Canadian companion, Ky, we ventured out of the city limits to seek the serenity of the sea.

Most British seaside towns I’ve seen – which is a fair few – follow one of two “themes”. Either they are attraction-based (arcades, manicured beaches, piers and waterfront boulevards), or they are functioning fishing villages. North Berwick seemed to be a fusion of the two.

It was strange for me to see the used, worn fishing equipment, boats and run-down waterfront row houses next door to two golf courses, the Seabird Centre, sailing lessons off the beach and a children’s play area.

P1080858

P1080860

Sailing school!

Sailing school!

North Berwick has two beaches, each with it’s own wee off-coast island. In the spring and summer, you can join a boat tour out of the Seabird Centre that takes you out to these islands, which are apparently rich with wildlife.

P1080846

P1080854

On the eastern-most beach, there is a man-made sea pool!

On the eastern-most beach, there is a man-made sea pool!

North Berwick has two golf courses, which is two too many for such a small town!

North Berwick has two golf courses, which is two too many for such a small town!

A unique landmark of North Berwick is the Law: a steep, high hill (or “Scottish mountain”). The Law was the shape of a very large pimple. This area of Scotland has quite a few such mountainous zits; whiteheads when it snows.

The Law from the beach.

The Law from the beach.

Anyway, the Law is a popular conquest for local hikers – though Ky and I couldn’t muster the motivation to follow in their footsteps (as my title hopefully suggests; I have a bad knee after all!)

North Berwick is a beautiful place to go explore – the beach is fantastic. Ky and I found a “Historical Glen-Walk” path that held such gems as an old house with a tree growing out of it, and some ruined cottages.

Yup, it's growing right outta there.

Yup, it’s growing right outta there.

"YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME PUNY HUMANS" - Nature

“YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME PUNY HUMANS”
– Nature

P1080888Close to town, we discovered an old graveyard complete with a big ruined church. It was supposed to be gated shut, but since none of these things are regulated in the UK, we found a way in anyway.

P1080910

P1080909

Inside we saw a GHOST! No, it's just me.

Inside we saw a GHOST!
No, it’s just me.

The best part of the day, however, was our lunch at Buttercup Café.

P1080896

The café was located in the front room of a converted row house, where the living room would have been. There were about six small tables squished into this space. There were four servers. FOUR. They all looked to be no more than 80lbs apiece soaking wet; with their toothpick wrists they seemed only able to bring one item at a time (two-handed) out of the kitchen. Coming from the service industry myself, and often I handle a sixteen-table section on my own, it was hilarious watching four girls struggle to serve six tables between them.

They were all lovely, and I’m hoping, since it was a weekend, that they were in training.

While heading back into the city, Ky and I realized we’d finished our first list of places to visit.

P1080864

Where should we go next?

Insert Da Vinci Code Reference Here: A Day Trip to Roslin and the Rosslyn Chapel

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.

P1080795

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.

The snowy Pentland Hills

The snowy Pentland Hills

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.

P1080786

P1080790

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.

P1080804

P1080808

Castle bridge to the left, path downwards to the right.

Castle bridge to the left, path downwards to the right.

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!

Why?

Why?

P1080813

Though it was muddy, this was the highlight of the trip for me – walking around the castle, by the river, in the Scottish countryside.

Is this to brick the ghosts in?!?!!

Is this to brick the ghosts in?!?!!

P1080825

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.

Under conservation construction.

Under conservation construction.

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.

No photos allowed inside!

No photos allowed inside!

P1080829

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.

Day Trips from Edinburgh: Burntisland and Aberdour

Edinburgh is Scotland’s second largest city after Glasgow, and situated in the South-East of Scotland. When you think of Scotland, you probably see heather-covered hills, sparsely populated towns and estates – the scenery in Harry Potter and Skyfall.

images

 

Fog and mist are a must

Fog and mist are a must

Edinburgh is none of these things. A beautiful city though it is (I very much appreciate the lack of sky-scrapers), it is still a city. Lots of people, lots of traffic, modern bustling life taking place amongst the backdrop of gorgeous historical streets and buildings. The magic of the setting is lost on the residents here – who often laud Glasgow or London as more interesting places to live. I disagree. London is great to visit, but I hate the feeling of unrelenting, inescapable city. Too many people, too much everything.

Due to Edinburgh’s proximity to the sea and smaller size (especially when compared with London), I don’t feel the hurried movement of big-city life as dramatically. However, seeing as the biggest city I’ve previously lived in was Victoria BC, the city, to me, still feels a wee bit cold and unwelcoming at times. This is where the day-trip becomes invaluable. Edinburgh is quite close to many smaller towns and seaside villages – all easily accessible by bus or train.

So when my Canadian friend Ky and I began to feel city-fever (a metropolitan version of cabin-fever), we hopped on the train to a place called Burntisland.

Pronounced as little as possible: burnt-AYE-lnd

Pronounced as little as possible: burnt-AYE-lnd

We took the train across Fourth Road Bridge, all along the seaside.

Optional soundtrack for the rest of the blog. The Kooks Seaside:

Blessed with absolutely perfect weather for a Scottish January, we pulled into the seemingly deserted town of Burntisland. It was a Saturday, so we assumed the village residents had taken to the city – our opposites. Surprisingly (or perhaps ironically), Burntisland is not an island, and it seemed rather lacking in fire damage.

P1080745

This town is not ideal if you desire of a place attractions and distractions; it is, however, beautiful, with an award-winning beach that looks across the sea to Edinburgh (which has a very distinct skyline comprising of Arthur’s Seat and the Castle plateau).

P1080750

 

P1080748

 

P1080737

The beach is a gentle “U”, with absolutely perfect sand. White and fine, but packed down with damp (it is winter, after all). It’s quite a rocky beach too – lots of clam and razor shells to sort through – but these rougher bits seem to segregate themselves from the sand enough for you to be able to enjoy both.

My favourite part about the beach was the tide line. Here I found a lot of black charcoal-like wash-up that I’d like to think has something to do with the name. A small spit of land reaches out towards Edinburgh; if you ever happen to actually find yourself in Burntisland someday, please beware of the footing on this spit, but do walk out there. There is a tiny ruin of some sort of lighthouse or watchtower, and amazing views, but also bushy grass-hidden potholes!

I love me some random ruins!

I love me some random ruins!

P1080763

 

P1080767

Ky and I had lunch at a funky, bright café called Potter About where I had some of the best eggs benedict I’ve ever eaten (and I’ve sampled a LOT of bennys). The quality of the food and the immensely friendly service (such a stark contrast to the city) makes it an absolute must for coffees and lunch in Burntisland.

P1080742

It was so lovely to get out of the city that on the train back to Edinburgh we decided to do a quick hop-off in Aberdour.

P1080776

Another seaside village, Aberdour seemed much more residential than Burntisland, but still very picturesque. With only half an hour to explore before then next train, Ky and I were mostly interested in the large castle ruin than the waterfront.

P1080780

 

P1080779

 

P1080777

From the brief time we spent there, Aberdour seemed to boast a ‘main street’ of only one block, but it was lush, green, and the castle ruin and perfectly preserved medieval church were well worth the detour.

Back into the city again and we were already planning our next day trip.