Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 26 - Castles, the North Sea and Scotland

Another morning of getting up late and sitting down at 8:30 for breakfast. It was John, Julie and our group again chit-chatting through porridge (for some) and egg and toast (for me). When Richard mentioned that we were heading to Holy Island that afternoon John kindly provided us with the tide table that he had recently downloaded from the internet. (Holy Island is accessed only during those hours when the tide is out and the 2-mile causeway is above water.)

We bid John and Julie adieu -- they were heading home that day -- and the four of us grabbed our coats and made for the car. Once on the road we headed northeast, our first stop being the town of Morpeth.

A lovely town, Morpeth had a nice mix of quaint and modern architecture in their downtown. We parked the car near the bus station and strolled through the town center, stopping at Marks & Spencer for a little shopping. Leaving M & S, we wended our way through a maze of shops exiting onto the main street where we stopped to watch the tail end of The Northumberland Gathering, a celebration of days gone by in this corner of England: reenactors from the 16th (?) century) and lots of people walking around in costumes from various periods, all mixing with the public and everyone having a grand.

After trying one place for coffee -- a curius melding of a book store and cafe being neither really one or the other -- the four of us returned to M & S for coffee before heading back to the car and on the road north.

Back on the road we stopped briefly at Alnwick (pronounced “Annick”) before moving on to Seahouses and the North Sea coast. Very touristy-- indeed I thought quite typical of many coastal villages in the USA with lots of (tacky) gift shops and shops selling food of dubious quality.

After scouting out places for lunch we opted for the Bamburgh Castle Inn, and found a spot on their second floor overlooking the water.  The food was so-so: I had a rather unremarkable fish and chips and Susan’s pea soup was not good at all; but the service friendly and the location just about as perfect as were going to find in town.

tourist center in Seahouses

Bamburgh Castle Inn which has nothing to do with Bamburgh Castle and is not even located near the castle or any castle for that matter
The North Sea with Bamburgh Castle in the distance, from Seahouses
After paying the bill and making our way back to the car park we drove north to Bamburgh Castle itself, which was worth the price of admission. 

Standing along the ramparts overlooking the North Sea with the wind coming off the North Sea was just as you might expect; it was certainly what I expected: cold and biting right to the bone. And even with others standing around one still felt a certain loneliness. Our group quickly scrambled inside and after a leisurely self-guided tour of the castle returned to the car. It was now safe to cross the causeway safely so it was off for Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

Crossing over to the island on the causeway can be a bit tricky but the tide tables (crucial here) informed us that it was safe to cross between 3:30pm and 11:45pm so we forged ahead. Unfortunately the castle had closed for the day and we had just missed one of the last shuttle busses to the ruins. So it was back across the causeway (already starting to flood in one or two places) and headed north and west into Scotland.

Before reaching Scotland, though we took a detour to the seaside city of Berwick-upon-Tweed to walk the ramparts around the old part of the city. And so we did.
bridge across the Tweed

our group of explorers
looking west across the northern bank of the Tweed
looking east

looking southwest across the Tweed
the city hall
After leaving Berwick-upon-Tweed we headed north and west, crossing the border into Scotland near Coldtsream. Driving on through Kelso, and as the hour was getting late for eating in the rural north of England (or rather south of Scotland) we stopped for dinner in Jedburgh. We tried getting into the Carter’s Rest in the town center but they informed us that since we didn’t have a reservation they could seat us but they wouldn’t be able to serve us until after they served those who had made reservations, even though they hadn’t arrived yet! Since we thought that was absurd we searched for some other place to eat.

As the hour was getting late and our options seemed to disappear with each passing minute we turned to the one place that seemed to have room for us: The Pheasant. Entering through a pub the restaurant was not unattractive but oddly enough we were the only ones there. Indeed, although the pub filled up not another soul came in the restaurant to eat. Odd we thought. 

While the food was not bad (Richard and Pauline had the grilled chicken breast with haggis over mashed potatoes), and I had something forgettable, the ice cream was devoid of flavor and had the texture of wet, cold PlayDough. I'm not saying it was old but the ingredients on the side of the container were written in Latin. . . 

It was a lovely, very dark evening as we drove back to Hexham Low Gate, actually) and tucked ourselves into bed. First walking Hadrian's Wall and now we had seen the North Sea and Scotland. And there was still more to come!

ruined abbey in Jedburgh -- beautifully lit up at night

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