Monday, June 1, 2015

British Isles # 12: A Day of Abbeys

I cannot believe that it has been well over a year since we wound our way around England and Scotland. The memories seem at once fresh and distant. Journeys make strange memories that are fluid, elastic, continuing to bloom or wither long after one's return.

In an effort to retain the memories and the wonder, I look back often at photos and maps, I continue to write in the journal I took along, and I read old passages that were written under stone archways or deep in green forests. So I will continue to share my journey of last spring with you, to record, to relish, to remember. Please forgive the long hiatus.


We cover a lot of ground in just one day. In the same day, we woke up and visited two different locales of Hadrian's Wall in Northern England and then drove through the mist, fog, and rain into the Scottish Borders. The sun began to break through the clouds as we arrived at our first of three abbeys in the afternoon. Jedburgh Abbey is in the centre of town, very near a river. It is an impressive 12th century Augustinian Abbey with both Romanesque and Medieval architecture. It was a joy to explore and our first sighting of sunshine in days. 

Next we ambled northward across the River Tweed to Dryburgh Abbey in a more rural and remote setting. Dryburgh Abbey is another 12th century abbey, established in 1150. Here among the ancient trees (some older than the abbey!) and surrounded by natural beauty I can certainly imagine the quiet, comtemplative life of a monk. This secluded abbey has an aura of peace and spirituality. In a sunlit alcove I stumbled upon the resting place and tomb of Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott who wrote such classics as Ivanhoe and Rob Roy

The 13th century chapter house is still intact, paint still visible on the walls. The musical, mystical chanting of monks plays here from somewhere in the stones, showcasing the room's acoustics, but also proving the power that architecture has to evoke mood and mystery. The mood of this room is holy. There is magic in standing among walls so old, that tether me to others who stood here centuries ago.

Faint paint persisting through the centuries
Chapter house
Daffodils were blooming the country over.
A most remarkable pine cone bloom like a rosette.

We also visited Kelso Abbey before making our way to the east coast to our B & B in . Kelso Abbey was once a sprawling monastic site but not much is left but the chapel. And it is not incredibly remarkable unless you are quite interested in Romanesque archictecture of which it is supposed to be a great example. The town traffic was quite close and there was noise from road contructions here as well. Compared to the previous sites of the day, Kelso was a footnote, a little break to stretch our legs and refresh our lungs. Melrose Abbey is also nearby and worth a visit though we just couldn't squeeze that one in.

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