Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Jedburgh – The Scottish Borders.

Based in the Scottish Borders, Jedburgh is a picturesque village only 10 miles from the English border making it subject to raids and skirmishes back in the day. It has plenty to offer the visitor. Its biggest attraction, other than one of the best-stocked ironmongery shops we have been in for a very long time, is the substantial ruins of Jedburgh Abbey founded in 1147. It was the borders wars with England in the 16th century that left it in its ruined state we see today.
View towards Jedburgh from the Jail.
Another attraction is the Jedburgh Castle/Jail, which includes a museum of local history situated in what was the Jailers House. The prison was built in 1823 on the site of a mediaeval castle that was destroyed in 1409. The prison was far ahead of its time being designed by the British Prison Reformer John Howard to be ‘hygienic and humane’. Each prisoner was weighed, measured and details of his or her appearance were recorded.  Although not very appetising prisoners were put on individual diets to suit there needs, given medical treatment when required, they took part in exercise routines and were given work to do to relieve there boredom. All of which were unheard of at that time and went a long way to improve prison conditions not only in Scotland but in many other countries as well. 

The Jedburgh Jail formally a castle.

Another must see attraction is the Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Centre housed in a fine fortified tower house dating back to the 16th century. It is the house in which the Queen of the Scots stayed in October 1566 overseeing the local district court. A year later she was forced to abdicate and spent the last nineteen years of her life as a prisoner following this she was beheaded by her cousin for being of the wrong religious persuasion.
The front of Mary Queen of Scots Visitors Centre.

The rear of the house. 

The Borders Railway.

After a very long campaign taking around 46 years The Borders Railway was finally opened on the 6th September 2015. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who was joined by the Queen and other quests and dignitaries, was there at the official opening. The journey which takes under an hour links Scotland's capital city with Galashiels, where the original railway closed in 1969, the commuter station Tweedbank and passes through various stops including the former mining village of Newcraighall, Eskbank, Newtongrange, which was at one time Scotland biggest mining community and is now the home of Scottish Mining Museum, and Gorebridge which is another village that was on the original railway network but was also closed in the 1960's. A pleasant journey that winds its way through some very beautiful borders countryside and has good links from local bus services, some of which are not too regular. We travelled on a number 68 direct from Jedburgh to the bus station in Gorebridge to catch the train to Edinburgh and returned the same way although on this particular route the buses only run every two hours! One of the highlights of the bus journey is visiting the picturesque village of St Boswell whose village green is said to be the biggest in Scotland and from there you are able to get various connections across the Borders towns from its bus station.

Abbotsford and Gardens.

To gain admittance to the house and grounds, in which one of Scotland's greatest and best known writers had made his family home, you have to pass through an award winning new visitors centre which houses a grand restaurant, you need to try the jam and cream filled scones with your coffee, a very well laid out shop and an exhibition highlighting the life and works of Sir Walter Scott. After paying the entrance fee you enter the world of the author who wrote Ivanhoe, Rob Roy and Waverley to name but a few of the mans prolific output. It was the cost of building Abbotsford  and the debt that was accumulated due to the 1825 UK banking crisis that drove one of Scotland best-known personalities to spend the last six years of his life writing to clear these debts and keep his pride. The house was originally a farmhouse that Scott had purchased for £4000. It was demolished to make way for the first stage of a two-stage building protect with the third section including the Chapel built after Scott’s death by his granddaughter Charlotte Hope-Scott. The house was built in the Scots Baronial Style of Architecture.

The House and its grounds. 

The grounds border the River Tweed and its river walk offered a sight of salmon fish jumping out of its flowing water, the sight of a blue winged Herron and a very large bird of pray eyeing up its lunch. An exceptional day out and a place that deserves subsequent visits, and as long as you keep your entry receipt and you’re within one year of your initial visit is free.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Ravenglass Lake District National Park.

The only coastal village in the Lake Districts National Park, Ravenglass is reputed to date back to the second century when it was an important navel base for the Romans. Although it's probably changed since Roman times it certainly hasn't changed a lot in the last few hundred years! Quaint would go some way to describe it with a generally neat row of small two storey cottages each side of its only main street. With only one shop, a rather rundown Post Office with a friendly owner whose cat sits on the counter and with little stock on the shelves visitors are advised to shop before they arrive for a lengthy stay but it's still worth a visit and it is the only place locally that sells newspapers!
View down the High Street.

Community Hall.

and the Post Office.

One of the main tourist attractions of this small coastal town is its miniature railway that runs a seven-mile stretch of narrow gauge rail track through some spectacular Lake District countryside to Eskdale and the Dalegarth Station where you embark in the shadow of Scafell Pike. La'al Ratty, as the railway is known, has a very long history and some of it can be sampled at the railway museum that adjoins Ravenglass's main line station where regular trains run from Barrow in Furness in the south to Carlisle in the north. Also more information about the steam railways history can be obtained from their web site www.ravenglass-railway.co.uk.

Up to Dalgarth Station....
....a turn around....

....and back to Ravenglass.

Once you break your return journey at Dalegarth, the round trip takes about 2 hours in all; you have a chance to explore locally on foot.  Boot Village is only a short walk and boasts a pub/restaurant and an ice cream shop but don't miss a chance to explore Eskdale Mill full of artifacts, photographs and lots of information. Visitors can actually see the water wheel in action. Go around the back of the building and see the beautiful watercourse. For further information go to www.eskdalemill.co.uk

Boot Village.
Inside Eskdale Mill....

The wheel and its....

....and its water feed.
On leaving the village follow the footpath signs to St Catherine’s Church and then across the rather precarious stepping-stones to ford the River Esk and follow the signs for Stanley Gill and the Dalegarth Falls. The walk will take a couple of hours and follows a fast flowing river up an ever-narrowing ravine with a precipitous drop. Could be quite dangerous for young children and people unsteady on their feet but the final result is a close view of the falls surrounded by its ‘Lord of the Rings’ type forest. Back to the railway station for coffee and cake and the small gauge rail journey back to Ravenglass in an open carriage accompanied by the unique smell of steam pouring out of the miniature engine.

Dalgarth Falls.

A very strange English eccentricity took place at the station the following morning: Border Style Morris Dancing! A weird group of people perform this ‘ritual’ which is based in West Cumbria and call themselves ‘The Two Headed Sheep’. Difficult to describe their routine but it involved a dance dressed in a costume and banging sticks together, but they seemed to enjoy themselves!

The Romans.

Ravenglass was located at the western extremity of the Roman frontier and as I have said there's not a lot left of the Romans - except that is for the remains of a Roman bathhouse. Ravenglass's Roman occupation lasted for over 300 years, so I suppose it's only right if your away from home for that amount of time you may require a good scrub once in a while and considering there were 500 solders in the garrison it certainly had to be a large bath! It is one of the largest remaining Roman structures in England. Approximately a miles walk from the remains is Muncaster Castle and its gardens.

Muncaster Castle.

Rumoured to be haunted, Muncaster Castle is the ancestral home of the Pennington family who have lived there 800 years and who still live in part of the castle with the rest set a side for public gaze - at a price of course. But for £13:50 you get a fair bit for your money not only a look around the castles 'elegant rooms, historical furnishings and superb works of art' but also the grounds which displays plants, shrubs and trees from all over the world and did have the largest collection of rhododendrons in Europe (I wonder who has the biggest collection now?). Well that's not all, included in the ticket money is a visit to the hawk and owl centre, a display of various birds of pray and the 4 o’clock feeding of a flock of herons who come to the castle for a feed every day, eight birds were spotted during the feed. Which raises the age-old question how do birds tell the time?