Two men above all others and everything else are responsible for the romantic fame which the bleak and largely barren Land of Scots enjoys the English-speaking world over. If Robert Burns and Walter Scott had never told the tales and sung the songs of their native land, no endless streams of pilgrims would pour to its shrines and its history and traditions would be vastly second in interest to those of England and Wales. But the Wizard of the North touched Scotia's rough hills with the rosy hues of his romance. He threw the glamour of his story around its crumbling ruins. Through the magic of his facile pen, its petty chiefs and marauding nobles assumed heroic mould and its kings and queens - rulers over a mere handful of turbulent people - were awakened into a majestic reality. Who would care aught for Prince Charlie or his horde of beggarly Highlanders were it not for the song of Burns and the story of Scott? Nor would the melancholy fate of Queen Mary have been brought so vividly before the world - but wherefore multiply instances to illustrate an admitted fact?
In Edinburgh we were near the center from which Scott's vast influences radiated. The traditions of Burns overshadowed Southwestern Scotland and the memories of Scott seem to be indentified with the cities, the villages, the solitary ruins, the hills and vales of the eastern coast. We note as we pass along Princess Street, one of the finest thoroughfares in Britain, the magnificent monument to the great author - the most majestic tribute ever erected to a literary man - a graceful Gothic spire, towering two hundred feet into the sky. The city is full of his memories. Here are many of the places he celebrated in his stories, his haunts for years, and the house where he retired after financial disaster to face a self-chosen battle with a gigantic debt which he might easily have evaded by a mere figment of the law.
However, one can hardly afford to take from a motor tour the time which should rightly be given to Edinburgh, for the many attractions of the Athens of the North might well occupy a solid week. Fortunately, a previous visit by rail two years before had solved the problem for us and we were fairly familiar with the more salient features of the city. There is one side-trip that no one should miss, and though we had once journeyed by railway train to Melrose Abbey and Abbottsford House, we could not forego a second visit to these famous shrines and to Dryburgh Abbey, which we had missed before. Thus again we had the opportunity of contrasting the motor car and the railway train. I remembered distinctly our former trip to Melrose by rail. It was on a Saturday afternoon holiday when crowds of trippers were leaving the city, packed in the uncomfortable compartments like sardines in a box - not one in a dozen having a chance to sit. We were driven from Melrose to Abbottsford House, at a snail's pace, consuming so much time that a trip to Dryburgh Abbey was out of the question, though we had left Edinburgh about noon. By motor, we were out of the city about three o'clock, and though we covered more than eighty miles, we were back before lamp-lighting time. The road to Dryburgh Abbey runs nearly due south from Edinburgh, and the country through which we passed was hardly so prosperous looking as the northeastern section of Scotland - much of it rather rough-looking country, adapted only for sheep-grazing and appearing as if it might be reclaimed moorland.
The tomb of Walter Scott is in Dryburgh Abbey, and with the possible exception of Melrose it probably has more visitors than any other point in Scotland outside of Edinburgh. The tourist season had hardly begun, yet the caretaker told us that more than seventy people had been there during the day and most of them were Americans. The abbey, lies on the margin of the River Tweed, the silver stream so beloved of Scott, and though sadly fragmentary, is most religiously cared for and the decay of time and weather held in check by constant repairs and restoration. The many thousands of admission fees every year no doubt form a fund which will keep this good work going indefinitely. The weather-beaten walls and arches were overgrown with masses of ivy and the thick, green grass of the newly mown lawn spread beneath like a velvet carpet. We had reached the ruin so late that it was quite deserted, and we felt the spirit of the place all the more as we wandered about in the evening silence. Scott's tomb, that of his wife and their eldest son are in one of the chapels whose vaulted roof still remains in position. Tall iron gates between the arches enclose the graves, which are marked with massive sarcophagi of Scotch granite. Dryburgh Abbey was at one time the property of the Scott family, which accounts for its use as their burial-ground. It has passed into other hands, but interments are still made on rare occasions. The spot was one which always interested and delighted Scott and it was his expressed wish that he be buried there.
We had been warned that the byways leading to the abbey from the north of the Tweed were not very practicable for motors and we therefore approached it from the other side. This made it necessary to cross the river on a flimsy suspension bridge for foot-passengers only, and a notice at each end peremptorily forbade that more than half a dozen people pass over the bridge at one time. After crossing the river it was a walk of more than a mile to the abbey, and as we were tempted to linger rather long it was well after six o'clock when we re-crossed the river and resumed our journey.
Melrose is twelve miles farther on and the road crosses a series of rather sharp hills. We paused for a second glimpse of Melrose Abbey, which has frequently been styled the most perfect and beautiful ecclesiastical ruin in Britain. We were of the opinion, however, that we had seen at least three or four others more extensive and of greater architectural merit. Undoubtedly the high praise given Melrose is due to the fame which it acquired from the poems and stories of Scott. The thousands of pilgrims who come every year are attracted by this alone, since the abbey had no extraordinary history and no tomb of king or hero is to be found in its precincts. Were it not for the weird interest which the "Lay of the Last Minstrel" has thrown around Melrose, its fame would probably be no greater than that of the abbeys of Jedburgh and Kelso in the same neighborhood. Abbottsford House is only three miles from Melrose, but it is closed to visitors after five o'clock and we missed a second visit, which we should have liked very much. Upon such things the motorist must fully inform himself or he is liable to many disappointments by reaching his objective point at the wrong time.
We returned to Edinburgh by the way of Galashiels, a manufacturing town of considerable size that lay in a deep valley far below the road which we were following along the edges of the wooded hills. This road abounded in dangerous turns and caution was necessary when rounding sharp curves that, in places, almost described a circle. We had a clear right-of-way, however, and reached Edinburgh before nine o'clock. A delightful feature of summer touring in Britain is the long evening, which is often the pleasantest time for traveling. The highways are usually quite deserted and the mellow effect of the sunsets and the long twilights often lend an additional charm to the landscapes. In the months of July and August in Scotland daylight does not begin to fade away until from nine to ten, and in northern sections the dawn begins as early as two or three o'clock. During our entire tour we found it necessary to light our lamps only two or three times, although we were often on the road after nine o'clock. Though Edinburgh has unusually broad and well paved streets, it is a trying place for a motorist. The people make little effort to keep to the sidewalk, but let the fellow who is driving the car do the looking out for them. In no city through which we passed did I find greater care necessary. Despite all this, accidents are rare, owing to the fact that drivers of motor cars in Great Britain have had the lesson of carefulness impressed upon them by strict and prompt enforcement of police regulations.
We left Edinburgh the next forenoon with a view of making Berwick-on-Tweed our stopping place for the evening - not a long distance in miles but a considerable one measured in spots of historical importance. The road much of the way skirts the ocean and is a magnificent highway leading through a number of quaint towns famous in Scotch song and story. Numerous battlefields are scattered along the way, but we found it difficult to locate a battlefield when we passed it, and generally quit trying. In fact, in the days of border warfare the whole south of Scotland was the scene of almost continuous strife, and battles of greater or less importance were fought everywhere with the English in the centuries of fierce hatred which existed between the two nations. The Scots held their own wonderfully well, considering their greatly inferior numbers and the general poverty of their country. The union, after all, was brought about not by conquest but by a Scotch king going to London to assume the crown of the two kingdoms.
The famous old town of Berwick-on-Tweed bore the brunt of the incursions from both sides on the eastern coast, as did Carlisle on the west. The town of Dunbar, situated on the coast about midway between Edinburgh and Berwick, was of great importance in border history. It had an extensive and strongly fortified castle, situated on the margin of a cliff overhanging the ocean, and which was for a time the residence of Queen Mary after her marriage with Darnley. Nothing now remains of this great structure save a few crumbling walls of red sandstone, which are carefully propped up and kept in the best possible repair by the citizens, who have at last come to realize the cash value of such a ruin. If such a realization had only come a hundred years ago, a great service would have been done the historian and the antiquarian. But this is no less true of a thousand other towns than of Dunbar, No quainter edifice did we see in all Britain than Dunbar's Fifteenth Century town hall. It seemed more characteristic of an old German town than of Scotland. This odd old building is still the seat of the city government.
Our route from Dunbar ran for a long way between the hills of Lammermoor and the ocean and abounded in delightful and striking scenery. We were forcibly reminded of Scott's mournful story, "The Bride of Lammermoor," as we passed among the familiar scenes mentioned in the book, and it was the influence of this romantic tale that led us from the main road into narrow byways and sleepy little coast towns innocent of modern progress and undisturbed by the rattle of railways trains. No great distance from Berwick and directly on the ocean stands Fast Castle, said to be the prototype of the Wolf's Crag of "Lammermoor." This wild story had always interested me in my boyhood days and for years I had dreamed of the possibility of some time seeing the supposed retreat of the melancholy Master of Ravenswood. We had great difficulty in locating the castle, none of the people seeming to know anything about it, and we wandered many miles among the hills through narrow, unmarked byways, with little idea of where we were really going.
At last, after dint of inquiry, we came upon a group of houses which we were informed were the headquarters of a large farm of about two thousand acres, and practically all the people who worked on the farm lived, with their families, in these houses. The superintendent knew of Fast Castle, which he said was in a lonely and inaccessible spot, situated on a high, broken headland overlooking the ocean. It was two or three miles distant and the road would hardly admit of taking the car any farther. He did not think the ruin was worth going to see, anyhow; it had been cared for by no one and within his memory the walls had fallen in and crumbled away. Either his remarks or the few miles walk discouraged me, and after having traveled fully thirty miles to find this castle, I turned about and went on without going to the place at all, and of course I now regret it as much as anything I failed to do on our whole tour. I shall have to go to Fast Castle yet - by motor car.
After regaining the main road, it was only a short run along the edge of the ocean to Berwick-on-Tweed, which we reached early in the evening. I recall no more delightful day during our tour. It had been fresh and cool, and the sky was perfectly clear. For a great part of the way the road had passed within view of the ocean, whose deep unruffled blue, entirely unobscured by the mists which so often hang over the northern seas, stretched away until it was lost in the pale, sapphire hues of the skies. The country itself was fresh and bright after abundant rains, and as haymaking was in progress in many places along the road, the air was laden with the scent of the newly mown grasses. Altogether, it was a day long to be remembered.
Berwick-on-Tweed lies partly in England and partly in Scotland, the river which runs through it forming the boundary line. An odd bridge built by James I connects the two parts of the town, the highest point of its archway being nearest the Scottish shore and giving the effect of "having its middle at one end," as some Scotch wit has expressed it. The town was once strongly fortified, especially on the Scottish side, and a castle was built on a hill commanding the place. Traces of the wall surrounding the older part of the city still remain; it is easy to follow it throughout its entire course. When the long years of border warfare ended, a century and a half ago, the town inside of the wall must have appeared much the same as it does today. It is a town of crooked streets and quaint buildings, set down without the slightest reference to the points of the compass. The site of the castle is occupied by the railway station, though a few crumbling walls of the former structure still remain. The station itself is now called The Castle and reproduces on a smaller scale some of the architectural features of the ancient fortress.
We started southward from Berwick the following morning over the fine road leading through Northumberland. About ten miles off this road, and reached by narrow byways, is the pleasant little seacoast village of Bamborough, and the fame of its castle tempted us to visit it. I had often wondered why some of the old-time castles were not restored to their pristine magnificence - what we should have if Kenilworth or Raglan were re-built and to their ancient glory there were added all the modern conveniences for comfort. I found in Bamborough Castle a case exactly to the point. Lord Armstrong, the millionaire shipbuilder, had purchased this castle - almost a complete ruin - and when he began restoration only the Norman tower of the keep was intact; and besides this there was little except the foundation walls. Lord Armstrong entirely rebuilt the castle, following the original plan and designs, and the result is one of the most striking and pleasing of the palatial residences in England. The situation, on a high headland extending into the ocean, commands a view in every direction and completely dominates the sleepy little village lying just beneath. The castle is of great antiquity, the records showing that a fortress had been built on this side in the Fifth Century by Ida, King of Northumberland, though the present building largely reproduces the features of the one founded in the time of the Conqueror.
Lord Armstrong died the year before the work on the castle was completed and it passed into the hands of his nephew. It is open to visitors only one day in the week, and it happened, as usual, that we had arrived on the wrong day. Fortunately, the family were absent, and our plea that we were Americans who had come a long distance to see the place was quite as effective here as in other cases. The housekeeper showed us the palace in detail that we could hardly have hoped for under other circumstances. The interior is fitted in the richest and most magnificent style, and I have never seen the natural beauties of woodwork brought out with better effect. How closely the old-time construction was followed in the restoration is shown by the fact that the great open roof of the banqueting hall is put together with wooden pins, no nail having been used. The castle has every modern convenience, even hot-water heating - a rare thing in England - being installed. When we saw what an excellent result had been attained in the restoration, we could not but wonder that such a thing has not oftener been done. In the village churchyard is the massive gray granite monument erected to the memory of Grace Darling, who lived and died in Bamborough, and a brass tablet in the ancient church is inscribed with the record of her heroism. The lighthouse which was kept by her father is just off Bamborough Head, and it was from this, in the face of a raging storm, that she launched her frail boat and saved several people from a foundering ship. Only four years later she succumbed to consumption, but her unparalleled bravery has made the name of this young girl a household word wherever the English language is spoken.
On leaving Bamborough we came as nearly getting lost in the narrow, winding byways as at any time during our tour. A bridge under repair on the direct route to the main road compelled us to resort to byways which were unmarked by signboards and in as ill condition as many American roads. Nor could the people of whom we inquired give us intelligent direction. We finally reached the road again after a loss of an hour or more.
A short time afterwards we came to Alnwick, whose castle is one of the most extensive and complete specimens of mediaeval architecture in England. In the last century it has been largely restored, following out the original design of the exterior, at least, and is now the residence of the Duke of Northumberland. Usually it is open to visitors, but in the confusion that followed the visit of the king the day before, the castle and its great park had been closed until the next week. We had seen the interior of so many similar places that this was not so much of a disappointment, especially as we had a splendid view of the old fortress from the outside and also from the courtyard. On the battlements of this castle are numerous stone figures of men in the act of hurling down missiles on the heads of foes who might besiege it. This was quite common in early days and feudal barons perhaps thought to make up for their shortage of real men by placing these effigies on the walls of their fortresses, but Alnwick is the only castle on which the figures still remain. The town itself was still in holiday attire in honor of its royal guest of the preceding day. The buildings were covered with the national colors and many decorations and illuminations had been planned to celebrate the occasion. Alnwick is one of the most typical of the English feudal towns. It is owned largely by the Duke of Northumberland, who appears to be popular with his tenantry, the latter having erected, in honor of their noble landlord, a lofty column surmounted by the figure of a lion. Every view from the distance for miles around is dominated by the battlemented and many-towered walls of the castle, which surmounts a hill overlooking the town. The story of Alnwick and its castle would be long to tell, for they bore the brunt of many Scotch incursions and suffered much at the hands of the fierce marauders from the north.
Our afternoon's run led us from Alnwick to Durham, passing through Newcastle-on-Tyne. Newcastle is a large commercial city, famous for its mining and shipbuilding industries, and has but little to engage the attention of the tourist. Our pause was a short one, and we reached Durham in good time after a run of over one hundred miles, broken by several lengthy stops on the way.
The main street of Durham in many places is barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass. It winds and twists through the town in such a way that one seems to be almost moving in a circle at times and constant inquiry is necessary to keep from being lost on the main street of a city of fifteen or twenty thousand. The town is almost as much of a jumble as if its red, tile-roof buildings had been promiscuously thrown to their places from Cathedral Hill. Durham is strictly an ecclesiastical center. There is little except the cathedral, which, in addition to being one of the most imposing, occupies perhaps the finest site of any of the great English churches. Together with Durham Castle, it monopolizes the summit of a hill which at its base is three-quarters surrounded by the river. The greater part of the cathedral dates back seven or eight hundred years, but additions have been made from time to time so that nearly all styles of architecture are represented. Tradition has it that it was founded by St Cuthbert, whose chief characteristic is declared to have been his antipathy toward women of all degrees. A curious relic of this peculiarity of the saint remains in a granite cross set in the center of the floor of the nave, beyond which, in the earlier days, no woman was ever allowed to pass. The interior of the church is mainly in the massive and imposing Norman style. The carved stone screen is one of the most elaborate and perfect in Britain, and dates back from the Thirteenth Century. The verger told us of the extreme care which must be taken to preserve this relic. He said that the stone of the screen is rather soft and brittle, and that in cleaning it was never touched, the dust being blown away with bellows. Durham, in common with most of the cathedrals, suffered severely at the hands of the Parliamentarians under Cromwell. It was used as a prison for a part of the Scotch army captured at the battle of Dunbar, and as these Presbyterians had almost as much contempt for images as the Cromwellians themselves, many of the beautiful monuments in the cathedral were broken up. Durham, like Canterbury, is a town that is much favored by the artists, and deservedly so. The old buildings lining the winding river and canal form in many places delightful vistas in soft colors almost as picturesque as bits of Venice itself. The hotels, however, are far from first-class, and one would probably be more comfortable at Newcastle. Speaking of hotels, we did not at any time engage accommodations in advance, and Durham was the only town where we found the principal hotel with all rooms taken. With the rapid increase of motoring, however, it will probably become necessary to telegraph for accommodations at the best hotels. And telegraphing is an exceedingly easy thing in England. A message can be sent from any postoffice at a cost of sixpence for the first ten words.
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