We returned today from a brief trip to Dumfries and Galloway in South-West Scotland. It is an area of the country that I was not familiar with and we had promised ourselves that we would visit outside of the tourist season. With heavy rain, snow, hail and strong winds we could, however, have chosen our weather better. It seems that even in retirement the diary can get cluttered and fitting in last minute journeys to take advantage of the weather forecast does not always work out.
In fact I must make a note to try to free up committing myself quite as much, otherwise I am never going to be able to take advantage of one of those last minute bargain travel opportunities to an exotic tropical paradise. Incidentally if anyone knows where I find them, I shall be pleased to be enlightened.
In the meantime, we saw what we could. We were disappointed by Gretna Green which has been turned into some kind of Disneyland for coach-trips but enjoyed both Nithsdale and the Galloway Forest as well as the shoreline from Newton Stewart to Kirckcudbright.
I do find the red sandstone from which most of the buildings in that area of Scotland are constructed rather overbearing, although it is a vast improvement on the concrete and pebble-dash that covers so many houses just a little further North. It was, therefore, a delight to see Gatehouse of Fleet where most of the buildings have been painted white.
We spotted castles in abundance and the whole area is dotted with hills and lochs.
Coming home today we stopped in Carlisle on the English side of the border. A couple of weeks ago The Guardian newspaper highlighted twenty places referencing 800 years of English history since the Magna Carta. As someone who loves tick-lists and with Mister E, in an off-guard moment, expressing an interest in expanding his historical knowledge, I took advantage to drag him to both the castle and the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery. We now understand much more about border skirmishes since Roman times as well as the part Carlisle played in the Jacobite rebellions.
Indeed a walk around the town afterwards revealed this plaque which, if interpreted literally, would suggest that Bonnie Prince Charlie even stayed in Marks & Spencer.
The fact that we were close to the border was aptly emphasised by these street signs and the Guildhall, Market Place and Cathedral all deserved a good stare too.
The timber framed Guildhall dates back to the 15th century and although I loved the cheeky painted gargoyles, they were apparently only added in the mid 1800's.
Finally I have promised Mister E nineteen similar future outings to finish that checklist and continue his historical education!