We traveled through East Lothian which used to be an Old Keltic Kingdom ruled by King Loth (related to King Arthur). It was beautiful driving along the coast. We stopped at the border between England and Scotland and I pulled a "Walk To Remember" and stood in two places at once. Cheesy, but fun.
Stradling the English/Scottish border
The first castle we stopped at was Bamburgh Castle. It's technically in England, but it's North of Hadrian's Wall (built by the Romans around AD 125 to separate England from the Pictish tribes in Scotland), AND the football team there still plays in the Scottish league to this day. So it might as well be Scotland. Plus, it's a cool place, so I'm claiming it for the Scots! Thank you to the Armstrongs for letting us into your home (even though I paid handsomely for it). Do you have any sons I can marry? The castle is right on the beach and had fantastic views of the water. Laura and I trekked down through the dunes, which is no easy task, and I walked barefoot on the beach and dipped my toes in the North Sea. It was frigid. I even collected some seashells. English seashells look different than Jersey Shore shells.
Hiking over the dunes to get to the water
Bamburgh Castle from the beach
Our next stop was Alnwick Castle, the second biggest castle in the country, the first being Windsor. Alnwick is famous for being filmed in movies like Harry Potter 1 and 2 and Robin Hood, the one with Kevin Costner. I got to see the Dark Forest, Hagrid's hut, the spot of the Whomping Willow, the courtyard where Harry had his first flying lesson with Madame Hooch, and another courtyard used in the scene directly after the "wingardium leviosa" lesson where Hermione overhears Ron making fun of her to Harry and she storms off past a green lantern. I saw that lantern. Cool, right? Alnwick castle is also used as the basic skeleton for Hogwarts itself. All you have to do is CGI in a few extra towers and a cliff, and you've got Hogwarts!
OK, so since I'm movie-obsessed I enjoyed all of the references, despite the fact that our tour guide sucked. But my absolute favorite part was seeing the interior of the state rooms. Thank you to the Percys for letting us into your home! I've fallen in love with your library! Who doesn't love a medieval castle decorated in Victorian style with upholstered walls, and intricately carved crown molding in the ceilings with gold filigree, and two stories of shelves housing over 14.5 thousand antique books, and big comfy chairs, a fireplace, a fooseball table, and a bar! Now that's my kind of library! Lord Percy, do you have any sons that I can marry? Although, then I'd have to live in England. All I do know is that if I lived in a castle, I wouldn't let tourists roam around it all day long.
Alnwick Castle Library
Alnwick is so big that we could have spent an entire day there, but we only had two hours. We did manage to go on the Knights Quest and the Dragons Quest, tailored for five-year olds, so naturally appealing to postgraduates. The Knights Quest pretty much just consisted of me making a fool of myself and all of my friends snapping pictures of it. They (meaning my friends, not the people who worked there) wouldn't let me put on the costumes, although they probably wouldn't have fit anyway, but I rode a stick horse, jousted, dressed in armor to slay a dragon and save my damsel in distress, and walk in on just the head of the late Emily Goetsch. Now the Dragon Quest was a bit scarier. It was like a haunted house, with a mirror maze, talking and moving skeletons, and a Balrog (according to Liam and his extended knowledge on Lord of the Rings) that breathed smoke.
I'm a lone child facing my fate
Me, rescuing the damsel from the dragon
Ladies on the Dragon Quest
Next, we stopped briefly in Kelso to see the ruins of the abbey. It was closed, but we could see it from the outside. Then we went to see a monument of William Wallace. I looked up his kilt to see if he was a 'true scotsman' and was appalled to find that he was completely hollow! Utterly shocking. Our last stop was at Scott's View, named for Sir Walter Scott because it was his favorite place to come in the evenings to write. He is also buried there in Dryburgh Abbey. We were fortunate enough to see a beautiful sunset over the River Tweed (which flows along the border of Scotland and England) and over the Eildon Hills, which are said to be magical. The hill on the right is a fairy hill that contains a secret entrance to another world. Tim, our tour guide, told us the tale of Thomas the Rhymer as we watched the golden sun set behind his magical kingdom.
Abbey ruins in Kelso
Checking to see if William's wearing underwear
Sunset at Scott's View
Me and Leigh