Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Daily Dose of Castle

June 21 – Summer Solstice

We had two castles on today’s agenda, so off we went to catch the train at Waverly Station (Platform 15). A quick 20 minute train ride brought us to the hamlet of Linlithgow, famous for Linlithgow Palace and St. Michael's Parish Church. Our first stop was the tourist information center…which didn’t open until 10:00 am (even thought the website said 9:30am, which I think is kinda’ late since many tourists like to get an early start…but I guess that is just the mulit-tasking, agenda-setting American in me!). We decided to skip on up to the Palace, the earliest construction dates to the 1400s (left -- entering the palace; right -- turret in northwest corner of palace, there are four in all). This castle was different from the other two in that it was square and contained an open courtyard with a large fountain (erected in the mid 1500s, the unicorn and mermaid are sculptures on the fountain). The views of the loch were breathtaking, even with cloud coverage.

After touring the castle for about an hour, I asked the castle staff about getting to our next destination, Blackness Castle. Contrary to the directions in the Historic Scotland pamphlets, traveling to this castle was not going to be straightforward, quick, or practical. The very nice staff at the Palace called around to taxi and bus services, but they were quickly eliminated as possibilities (too expensive, erratic service). We gave the class an hour to tour around the hamlet of Linlithgow and meet us back at the train station. The archaeology class had an afternoon appointment at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland that we could not be late for. Caren and I did a little shopping, a quick stop at a bakery (with prices a third of those in Edinburgh), and then back to the train station (which was not so easy to find, apparently in a typical British fashion -- although the Scots say they are Scottish, not British, and you would be wise not to confuse the two).

Once we got back to Edinburgh, my class and I headed off to the Elephants and Bagels for lunch. I chose this place because I thought it was where J. K. Rowling liked to hang out, but was informed by the very nice bagel mistress that she actually hung out at the Elephant House, their sister shop, in a different part of town. After eating my $6 bagel sandwich (3 GBP = $6 US, ouch!), we headed for the Royal Commission.

We were on time for our appointment at the RCAHMS (pictured at left in the John Sinclair House) and the staff there gave us a great tour of the facilities, their archives, maps, databases, what they do, why they do it, and how we can access their information. We were even given goodie bags of brochures and post cards. The students were impressed with the old and antique books that are available for research, and we were able to see unique photos of ancient monuments and archaeological sites. I can’t speak highly enough of the welcoming and enthusiastic attitude of the RCHAM staff.

Back at Turner House we all headed off for naps…we needed to be rested for the longest day of the year, which in Scotland is pretty darn long!

Caren and I decided to have a picnic dinner at the Royal Botanic Gardens because they were staying open late and having traditional Scottish music until 11:00 pm. It is really hard to feel sleepy when the sun doesn’t set until 10:30 pm, and then there is still a faint glow in the sky; it never truly gets dark.

No comments: