Thursday, 30 June 2011

ABC Tour – Canal Lift, City Wall


It rained quite a bit overnight, but was dry when we left Stirling to continue heading south.

Quilting Orchardist from NZ commented on one of my posts with the question as to whether or not we had seen the Falkirk Wheel.  My answer was that I’d never even heard of it.  Well, now, not only have I heard of it, I’ve seen it. What it is, is a circular lock, and I think the only one in the world.  It was only built a few years ago.

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The water comes along the canal at a high level and then drops down to a lower level and the boats have to be lifted down. So, the water is directed along a high channel extending out over the edge of the hill.  The wheel has two big buckets (for lack of a better description by me) which are full of water.  The wheel is stopped and the door in the end of the bucket is opened, so the canal now effectively extends into the bucket.  The boat then moves into the bucket.

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Then the wheel turns and lowers the bucket, including the boat, down to the lower level. 

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The door is opened and the boat sails out into the little lake and on its way. The whole process is reversed for boats that need to be lifted to the upper level of the canal.  It is really clever and the engineering is amazing.  Not only does the wheel have to turn and lift incredible weights, the buckets have to be on rollers to keep them level all the time.

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It had been dry while we looked at the wheel, but when we were getting back on the bike we had a sudden downpour, not the best timing for it.

As usual, we had no real plans on where to go, but a couple of people had said how nice Berwick-Upon-Tweed is, so we thought we would aim for there. 

The countryside was really pretty as we travelled along.  It was so different from the more northerly areas, with crops much further advanced.

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We crossed back into England. I missed getting a photo of the proper sign.

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We arrived in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, which has one of the most complete walls and fortifications in northern Europe, in the early afternoon. (Now remember that  with all the towns ending in “wick” that the “W” is silent, so it is pronounced “Berrick”.)  The walls were first built in the middle ages and then Queen Elizabeth I had them greatly improved.  They were in use until the 1700s.  Today they provide a pleasant walk around the town.

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The bastions for the guns are still quite clearly seen.

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We could see down into this pretty churchyard as we walked along.

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Berwick was a garrison town and had the first ever purpose barracks built in the 1700s.

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Mick started to get a bit sneezy.  This is why.  We are now actually seeing grasses in flower.

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There are three bridges across the Tweed.  The “Old Bridge” at the front carried all the traffic from Edinburgh to London until 1928, when the new bridge in the middle was built.  At the back there is the railway viaduct.

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The railway bridge is really busy.

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As the evening was nice, we got takeaway fish and chips and went back up on the wall to eat them.

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Then we went for a walk out to the lighthouse, which was covered by scaffold and tarps as it is being repainted.

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It was so nice to have the afternoon and evening walking.

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Sunday, 26 June 2011

ABC Tour – Celebrating Armed Forces Day


Yesterday we noticed quite a few trains going through Stirling, so decided to go to Edinburg for the day after all, by train.  When we were watching the news this morning we also found out why Edinburg was so fully booked for accommodation.  The day is to celebrate the armed forces and their personnel.  I think this may be the first time that such a day has been held.

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When we arrived we hopped on a Red Sightseeing Bus, but it wasn’t a success, as roads were closed and there were people everywhere, so we ended up walking, which was just as good.  We caught the last of the military parade from the castle down the Royal Mile.

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The Red Arrows flew over the Castle.

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We walked up to the Castle, but when we saw the length of the queue for tickets to go in we just took some photos of the outside and headed back into the town.

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The grandstands for the Edinburgh Tattoo were being built in the forecourt and I think that they fascinated Mick more than the Castle.

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The Royal Mile was just alive with people.  I don’t know how busy it normally is, but today it was really busy.  We were amazed at the fact that it is lined totally with food outlets and Scottish themed shops.  I reckon you’d get rather sick of the sound of bagpipes if you were there all the time.

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There were lots of little alleyways or “Closes” leading off the main road.

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We eventually made our way to Holyroyd Park where the main events of the day were taking place.  There were so many people and displays.  It was good to see so many military people there, both retired and current serving personnel.

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The Marines put on a display.

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Apparently Prince Charles was to be there, but we didn’t see him.  However, we did our bit of celebrity spotting when the PM, Mr Cameron, walked past with his entourage.

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So ends another day of doing things we didn’t expect to do or see. 

By the way, yes, we did get a couple of showers of rain, but the weather is warming up.  It would have been up to the high teens today.  London was expected to reach 30 degrees C and there were heat wave warnings on the weather report this morning advising where to phone to get advice on how to handle the extreme heat.  What a different world to ours.  Tomorrow is expected to reach the low 20s, even in the north of England.  Here’s hoping.

ABC Tour – Can you Believe it – Another Castle


Last night I started to have a bit of a look online for accommodation in Edinburgh and the only accommodation available was VERY expensive.  We knew that the Agricultural Show was on this weekend, which would have made things a bit busy.  Therefore, we decided not to worry about going there, as it wasn’t something we were desperate to do and instead headed for Stirling, as we have heard the castle there is worth looking at.

Our journey south took us through Glen Shee, which was really picturesque.

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We went past the ski fields.  The temperature dropped to only 8 degrees C as we rode through.  We went through this area in May 2007 and  got snowed on with the temperature only being 3 degrees.  I’m glad it was a little bit warmer and drier this time.

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As I say each time we climb up, whatever goes up must go down. 

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Stirling Castle stands like a beacon as you approach the city.

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We went to the tourist office to look for accommodation as soon as we arrived, only to be told that the town is just about booked out!  We were going to have to settle for something on the outskirts of town, but when we were walking back to the bike there was a B & B nearby and I thought I’d just go and see if there were any vacancies and we struck gold.  Yes, there was a vacancy, it is really central, is a lovely en suite room and inexpensive.  We booked for two nights.

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Now that we had somewhere to stay we ventured up the hill to the castle.  It is different from the others we have visited, in that it has huge significance in how history has played out. The castle does not have original fittings, but Historic Scotland has been rebuilding the castle as it would have been.  We were also allowed to take photos.

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James IV built a palace for his French bride.

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A feature of the Kings room is the Stirling Heads, which were carved from oak in great detail.  The originals are on display in a special museum section of the castle, but have been recently reproduced and installed as they would have been.

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The Queen’s bed chamber has also been recreated.  There are actors around the castle to help create a feel of how things were.

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Men’s fashions have changed just a little bit.  Notice the “appendage” of this gent, which was the fashion of the time.  I don’t know how it would be received in present times.

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A major feature in the palace is the tapestries recreating the hunt of the unicorn.  Each panel has taken four years to weave.  The next panel is just about finished, with only the selvage to go.  The full set of panels should be finished by the end of 2013.  An incredible undertaking.

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The exterior wall of the palace features several carved figures, which were a very new architectural style for the time of building.

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The view is stunning.  The hill in the foreground has a tower on the left, which is a little hard to see in this photo.  It is the Wallace Monument to celebrate when William Wallace led the battle of Stirling Bridge.  If you zoom in, you can seen a stone bridge, just next to where the battle was fought.  Part of the reason there was not accommodation is that the Monument is having its 150th birthday TODAY!  What a coincidence.

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This statue is just outside the castle.  It is to commemorate when Robert the Bruce won the battle of Bannockburn to also protect the castle.

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Look at the date.  24 June 1314.  TODAY is the anniversary of that victory. How incredible.

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And another great thing today – it didn’t rain!

ABC Tour – Creepy Crawly, Castle (another one)


When we asked for information at the tourist office for the Braemar area we were advised that Braemar Castle is only open on the weekends, so we will miss it, there is Balmoral, a distillary and a bit of a waterfall and that Braemar is only a “tiny wee village”.  That didn’t bother us, as a lazy day was in order.

When we got here yesterday we were pleasantly surprised, as being a bit touristy there are some lovely shops and several places to eat.  We had dinner at a big old hotel and after eating, were watching an English couple playing dominos.  We were invited to join in, which ended up in the “Braemar Ashes” match until about 10.30pm.  Not how we expected to be spending the evening.  Our B & B  is a lovely stone cottage and our room is nice and big.

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After a leisurely breakfast we decided to have a look at the waterfall.  It had been raining earlier and had now stopped.  Our hosts told us of a second waterfall a bit further along as well, so we went to see them both.  The first one is the “Linn of Dee”.  We saw them at a good time, as with all the recent rain there is lots of water going down them.  The nice wide river funnels into this tiny gorge.

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Quite spectacular, although not a big drop.  That little spot at the top right is Mick.

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There is a pretty bridge over it  as well.

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You don’t have to worry about snakes over here, but as we were walking along we saw a few of these revolting looking slugs.

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Look how big they are in comparison with the toe of my boot.  Yuck!

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The Linn of Quoitch was a really pretty spot as well.

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Look how the water flows through the hole in this rock and out the bottom.

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I just thought I’d show you that Olga is still going fine.

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By the time we had finished looking at the waterfalls it was lunch time.  Then, after lunch we went to visit the Queen at Balmoral. The weather was a little bit warmer, getting up to 14 degrees C brielfy.

Apart from the ballroom, you don’t actually go into the castle, which is fair enough, as it is their private home.

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You do get to have a good look around the grounds though.  There is a huge productive garden.

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They grow lots of vegetables and cut flowers for when the royal family are in residence from July.  Because it is such a cold area the season is rather late.

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By then it was late afternoon and we didn’t get to look at the distillery or the Heritage Centre in the village.  I did get to have a quick look at a couple of shops that closed late, and bought a bundle of tartan patchwork pieces, which I think were an absolute bargain.  I’ll jam them in somewhere.

So much for wondering how we would fill in the day.  It was a really nice place to visit. On the road again tomorrow.