Tuesday, April 11, 2017
I woke up quite early which was wonderful because it gave me a chance to enjoy my lovely room just that much longer (crazy, huh?). There was a French press coffee maker so I finally had a chance to sit back with my book and a cup of coffee and read a little before breakfast. The evening before, I filled out a card for my preference of breakfast options, and the owner very kindly allowed me to mix and match a couple since some choices wouldn’t work due to my dairy allergy. I tried the salmon, bacon, and haggis, all prepared locally, along with tomatoes and home-made bread. This was my first time trying haggis, and I also tried a little Marmite on my toast (I’ve been wanting to try it for years but could never bring myself to pay that much for a little jar in case I didn’t like it). The Marmite I would probably reach for again, and while the haggis wasn’t bad and I enjoyed trying it, it isn’t something I’d be looking to prepare once a week at home.
With my appetite thoroughly sated, I set out for the remainder of my time in Scotland. I was thinking of taking the Real Mary King’s Close tour but wasn’t able to make my reservations online – there were difficulties with the website. I thought I would try stopping by and see if there were any openings for the morning, but they were all filled up. I knew of a few other things I was wanting to see in Edinburgh but they were going to require more than the 1.5 – 2 hours I had before I was to catch my train. I headed for the station early, and since I had a rail pass, I took an earlier train and decided to take an impromptu detour just to see what I could see. It ended up giving me a much-needed day of rest where I was able to sit and enjoy the view out my window. As much of my day was spent on the train, I will apologize for the blurry pictures taken from dirty windows. Trains don’t produce the best pictures, but they will give you an idea of some of the interesting landscape I saw.
Passing through another close to make my way to the station down the hillside.
A quick check online told me I had time to head towards Loch Lomond. Coming from a land that has a strong Scottish heritage, and used to be known as New Scotland, we have several place names the same such as Inverness, Perth, and Loch Lomond. I took the train to a little town called Balloch situated at the southern-most point of the lake where the River Leven flows out towards the Clyde.
I wandered about Balloch for only 1/2 hour before I had to hop another train back to Glasgow.
Saying good-bye to Scotland, I made my way south passing so many landmarks that I would have loved to explore if there was more time to be had. Places such as Gretna Green (where all the young English couples used to run away to be married without their parents’ permission on the Scottish border), Hadrian’s Wall (built by the Romans to try to keep the unruly northern tribes from destroying their “civilized” towns), the North Pennines, the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, and the Peak District (all places many an author has taken their characters on holiday – why couldn’t I join them?). I soaked in the passing scenery, listened in on families’ conversations, and contemplated life from the comfort of my seat.
I noted a change in the countryside in the Midlands. There were more trees and smaller fields divided by hedgerows rather than stone walls. It was more the idyllic English countryside I had pictured in my mind when I thought of England. The wild ruggedness and starkness of the undulating hills held its own form of beauty, but this area at the northern most tip of the Cotswolds was capturing my heart. I arrived in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire that evening. Warwickshire is where my father’s family came from, but it seems like most of the descendants of those who stayed in England moved during for the bigger towns and factories during the 1700-1800’s, leaving behind this tiny corner that remained largely untouched by industrialization.
I found this old drawing on a website, of Copps Royal Hotel from 1822 in Leamington Spa during its heyday. It was later pulled down to make way for this train bridge to go through. Leamington Spa went from sleepy village to booming tourist resort town overnight when the mineral springs were considered medicinal and spas and pump rooms were in fashion in the early 1800’s.
To my distress, yet another bus was needed to travel to the sister town of Warwick. I located my correct stop, flagged down my correct bus, and once again the driver wasn’t familiar with street names or the area I was looking for. Fortunately, Warwick isn’t terribly large and my hotel was easily recognizable; I was able to get off at the correct location this time. The Tudor House Inn was built around 1472 and I’m sure my ancestors would have passed by its doors different times when travelling to and from the neighbouring villages. I was charmed by its timber-framed structure, the medieval décor, and the knowledge of how old it was. I was in awe that I was going to be staying here the next few days.
I went bed that night feeling a bit like a servant sneaking a moment in the empty queen’s chamber to try out the bed, and went to sleep dreaming of knights, castles, and peasants working in the fields of the idyllic countryside.