Trip To Scotland
Friday, August 13, 2004
When I went to bed last night, I was all prepared to head for Loch Ness today. I had an alternate route all mapped out (the usual one is the one with the landslide), and I set the alarm for 6 am. When it went off I set it again for 6:30...then for 7:00...and for some reason the 7 am one didn't go off and I didn't get up until 8:30. So, no Loch Ness today. But, I suppose I needed the rest.
While the day was overcast, nothing was actually falling from the sky, so I decided to chance Dunfermline Abbey and Palace, home to Malcolm III (Canmore) and his wife Queen (Saint) Margaret. All are supposedly relatives, so it was on my list. As an added bonus, it is the burial site of Robert The Bruce (only discovered in 1818).
Dunfermline is in the County of Fife...near where I did the coastal walking tour. It is east of Stirling. I found a car park and bought a ticket. Paying for parking is a bit different here. There are no individual space meters on the roads and no gated tollbooths coming out of larger parking areas. Instead, in both cases, you find periodic boxes where you put in an amount of money for the number of hours you intend to park. The machine spits out a ticket, which you then go and put in your window. At this car park, I was told I could park for no more than 3 hours, so I bought the most time and hoped I would be back by 1:34 pm.
I headed toward some buildings that looked especially old...since I didn't know where I was going. It wasn't the Abbey, but I could see the Abbey from there. Finally, it was before me. It was founded in 1070.
I wandered through the graveyard and around the side.
The little black sign pointed me in the door to a little gift shop and the entrance to the Abbey. Of course in the day of Malcolm and St. Margaret (11th century) this was a Catholic abbey. The Scottish Reformation put a stop to that and destroyed much of the interior...as they did with all Catholic properties. Another black mark for John Calvin (and John Knox) in my book. There are very old parts and newer parts that were renovated. Part of the church is now an active Church of Scotland parish. It was this part I entered first and headed for the central pulpit.
See that gold and red stuff underneath? Here it is up close.
It's my man...Robert the Bruce. He is buried here under the pulpit. I kept coming back here. The guy on duty must have thought I was planning a heist or something. I was gone, then I was back, then I was gone, then I was back.
There is a pipe organ in the place now, but here was a little blurb about the first organ. All you organists take note of what it took to play the thing. The keys were so heavy it took your fist or your elbow to push them down and it took four men to pump it. No wonder early church music was slow!
Through the back of the renovated section you come to the old nave. It's pretty much just columns now with some lovely windows.
Just under and to the right of that window is a monument to William Schaw. I put it in for my masonic friends, as he was the founder of the Freemasons. Here's the placard about him.
And here's the monument.
Margaret and Malcolm are buried somewhere under the church, but they don't know exactly where.
Back in the renovated part of the church they have some items on display. The most interesting was this:
It is a cast of the skull of Robert The Bruce. It should be noted that one of the ways they knew it was Robert The Bruce when they dug him up was that his heart had been cut out. That wasn't how he died, but his heart was cut out as a relic and taken on a Crusade to the Holy Land.
The oldest part of the Abbey is now only ruin. It is from the time of St. Margaret and was her chapel. Here is the placard, showing what it looked like.
This is all that is left.
Here is how it sits on the East end of the Abbey.
The little bit of red on top of the blocks in the center is one of a couple of flower offerings that had been left. It doesn't look like much now, but it was a powerful place. I sat there and prayed for quite awhile and could really feel the holiness of the place. For almost a thousand years, sacred things have been spoken in that place and emotions have run high. Odd as it may seem, I think all of that stays in a place and gives it energy. I could have spent all day there.
But I didn't. To the left of the above picture you head toward the ruins of the old monastery and palace.
This looks back at the church from down inside those ruins.
For as much as I felt light and healing in the Abbey, the opposite was true here in the palace, and even down in the small bit of area left of the monastery. I don't know what things happened here, but palaces were generally places of treachery and misdeeds. St. Margaret died here, just a few days after Malcolm did.
Of course, I have one primary problem with all the castle-type buildings that I've encountered. This is the problem with castles...
Every blasted place has them, and you can't see the sites without ascending and descending them. It is not a problem of fitness (at least for me) it is a problem of dizziness and phobia. Going up and down these things is like climbing an Escher print. It goes round and round in a tight spiral with no end in sight and no way to do anything if you meet someone coming the other way. This is why I only got a third of the way up the Wallace Monument.
But I braved it and went down...and then back up. Once I got down and could stroll through the ruins, I discovered another rare creature. Not to be confused with the Highland Peacock Sheep, this is the still rarer Peacock Sheep of Fife.
The cool thing is that I didn't use the zoom for this. He was this close.
After coming back up those tight stairs, I felt like I needed to go back in the Abbey to clean off. I didn't like the feeling in the palace/monastery at all. So I went back in to the old nave and took this shot showing the upper levels.
Then back up to Robert The Bruce's grave, then back out for another prayer in Margaret's chapel. I wandered back the way I had come...past the other side of the Abbey...
To High Street...that cool looking building in the center is the courthouse...
Past an interesting shop...
Past a large park dedicated to the other famous denizen of Dunfermline...
And then back to the carpark. I got there about 1:37, but no one had fined me. At the other side of the carpark was an entryway to St. Margaret's Cave, which had been closed when I arrived. It was now open. So, I took my chances with what in the States would be feeding the meter, and I bought another parking ticket for an hour. I went to the cave.
Apparently the cave used to be visible from above ground and had been a site for thousands of pilgrims. It was the cave where St. Margaret used to come and pray. In the mid-1900's, the city decided to build a car park. The plan was just to pave over the cave. The town put up such a stink that they ended up building a tunnel from the carpark down to the cave. So I went into the building and down the tunnel. They did a nice job. The tunnel was lined with information about Margaret and the times and was playing Gregorian chant. Here are several panels with more information about Margaret.
And then I was to the end...to the small cave itself. Apparently St. Margaret is still here!
I know it's dark, but hey...it's a cave! Here's another look at the Margaret figure.
Back up in the carpark, I planned my next moves. My guidebook said there was a fairly interesting castle in a town not too far off called Aberdour, so I plotted a route and set out. I instantly fell in love with this little seaside town. Here is the placard for the castle.
And here is what it looks like today.
The Earls of Morton seem to have been enamored of sundials. Here is one in the center of one of the gardens
I couldn't see if or how this one was working. But another one on the side of the castle actually showed the right time!
You will note that for this to be working, the sun must be shining. By the time I left this castle, there wasn't a cloud in the sky!
But I haven't left yet. At the other end of the gardens was St. Fillan's church. St. Fillan seems to be following me around. There were his healing stones way far away from here in Killin. Then there was his cave not too far from here in Pittenweem, and here's a church.
Apparently Robert The Bruce came here to give thanks after winning at Bannockburn. Robert The Bruce apparently had leprosy and had to observe the service from the "leper's slit."
Back at the castle, here's more of the grounds...the terraces at one time all had gardens. This is taken through one of the castle windows.
What's that round thing that looks like a beehive?
Yup, doves lived here. They don't anymore. I think they caught on...
Here's the other side of the castle. I'm glad I wasn't underneath when that big bit came down.
Here are the views from the Morton's bedroom windows.
I have a feeling the cars would have been missing. In case you didn't catch it out the other window, there is a water view. Here it is from outside in the churchyard. You're seeing the Firth of Forth.
And from the gardens...
Of course not all parts of a castle are pretty...
Every castle has these holes in the side with what looks like a drain spout coming out. It's not for rainwater. You wouldn't want to be standing under these back in the good old days.
For what it's worth, here's the kitchen.
This castle was done in several parts. The newer section was built in the 1600's. Here is one of the rooms.
Inbetween those ceiling beams, the wood is painted.
The Earls of Morton are not relatives to my knowledge, but if you would like to know more of the rather unsavory deeds of James Douglas, the Fourth Earl of Morton who was a chief advisor to Mary Queen of Scots, read on...
Despite all this, the castle had a good feeling to it...even though I had to do three sets of the Escher stairs.
Here's a tree. I don't know what kind it is...not an oak. Beech maybe? Anyway, it called to me, so I took its picture. There seems to be a large bird's nest up in the top right part of the tree.
I'll spare you the separate picture of the bottom of the tree. I was backed up to a wall and couldn't get the whole thing. It is just outside the castle wall.
Since I could see the water from the castle, I figured there must be some way down to it. There was. I had a lovely walk to here...
The island to the right holds Inchcolm Abbey. I wanted to go out there, but it seems that the ferry goes from the other side of the Firth of Forth. Here it is with the zoom.
And a view the other way...
And across...the city on the far side is Edinburgh.
I sat here for quite awhile and absorbed the sea and sun. Finally I walked back to my car...stopping in a little shop for a newspaper. If there is a home for sale here, I may not leave!
So here I am back at the University. Tomorrow is supposed to be a clear day just about everywhere, but I have to be back here by supper time as a group from the church is taking me out to a restaurant in Kippen. I'll have to figure out what to do with a nice day that I can get back from relatively quickly. I am fast exhausting the sites of interest within a short drive.
I should mention that while our church is just starting to get on the bandwagon for fair trade coffee, over here fair trade is a big deal and has gone well beyond coffee. Aberfeldy is, in fact, Scotland's first fair trade town! There's a company called Traidcraft that sells all fair trade stuff. When I was over at Lois and John's house, I even had a fair trade avacado!