06.05.2016 - 12.05.2016
On Friday morning we farewelled Mawbray and crossed the line that divides England and Scotland. We met Hannah at Flotterstone and she took us for a walk up hill, down hill, up hill, down hill, up hill, down hill and then along the flat by the reservoir, leading us to finish (very conveniently) at Flotterstone Inn for a well-deserved hearty lunch. We continued into Ford to check out Hannah's place, garden and cairn stone collection before leaving her to prepare for a wine-tasting. We found our way to Ancrum, our home for the next three nights and were welcomed by Sally and a loaf of freshly baked bread. Winning.
On Saturday we completed a quest that has been four years in the making - we finally went to Jedburgh Abbey, after passing by and vowing to return on both previous UK holidays. Jedburgh had everything I like about a ruin - except central heating. At eight degrees, it was a little chilly to be wandering around outdoors but we survived. After lunch we did the Jedburgh Castle and Jail (free!) and enjoyed the slight increase in warmth offered by walls and a roof.
The real warmth came later, with a cup of tea and a game of 500 - and I even got to experience the warmth of winning! We were invited in for a drink with our hosts - Ronnie with his Cockney accent, and Sally with her Gloucestershire accent. I thought we were supposed to be in Scotland?
Dinner was a slow-cooked casserole which made us feel we were winning on so many levels. 1 - very cheap. 2 - the cottage smelled amazing. 3 - minimal effort. 4 - maximum taste, when combined with the rest of the loaf of home made bread. Simple things. Finished the night off with another round of cards - but the winner was yet to be decided...
On Sunday, we went to church. Twice. We started at Dryburgh Abbey, which was set in beautiful and peaceful grounds - vast open areas of lawn, old oak trees, daffodils in full bloom and the River Tweed nearby. And hardly any other tourists to disturb the tranquility! All of this was ours to enjoy, while being gently bathed in sunshine. Twenty two degrees - nearly three times yesterday's temperature! Ah, such bliss...
We finally broke from this reverie to go to Melrose Abbey (because when you have a Historic Scotland membership, you jolly well make use of it). Here we had to share the sunshine with the remnants of the abbey that had been burned down by Richard II, and then rebuilt by Richard II. We encountered a bagpipe playing pig, saw where the mummified heart of Robert the Bruce was (probably) buried and generally ninked about the premises absorbing as much vitamin D as we could - for who knows when our next dose will come!
On the way back, we stopped off to admire a mighty statue of William Wallace, and got talking to an elderly couple about just how the statue would have been built and lifted into place atop the mammoth plinth. She made a comment about being able to see up Mr Wallace's skirt, and we knew we were among like-minded individuals. By the time we returned to the carpark, Simon had effortlessly extracted from them their 43-year love story that started with two divorcees going to a dance in Inverness. Naw.
After all that capering about, we needed lunch and cards to replenish our energy supplies. For the record, the tacos were delicious, and I won. Again. We made the most of the sunlight and went for a walk around Jedburgh before collecting supplies for dinner. And as the sun set on our third night in the Borders, we felt very content indeed.
Monday morning we ninked over to the Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Centre, a free exhibition located in a house that she stayed in once. It was a fairly small exhibition but it helped us get our head around Mary, her marriages and the removal of her head.
We farewelled Jedburgh and made our way to Elcho Castle, nestled amongst farms and conveniently located right beside a river. Elcho offered us staircases a-plenty, views for miles and sunshine to warm us while we ate peanut butter sandwiches in the orchard. Splendid.
We dragged ourselves out of the orchard, and soon enough we were in Dundee, being swarmed by elderly women fighting over the whoopsies basket in Tesco. It had all the ferociousness I remembered from the Target toy sales in Swan Hill, but the women were fighting for potatoes instead of potato heads.
On Tuesday we had the breakfast of champions (cereal in a mug), and prepared our peanut butter sandwiches using only a spoon. Ninks must be resourceful as well as thrifty.
Gus took us to Glen Doll, and we embarked on our first ever munro bagging adventure. We stopped at the Corrie Fee for a bit of a drone adventure - even I had a turn, and am counting it as a victory that I managed to avoid the river as a landing spot. As we made our way up the mountains, it became that Gus was prepared for anything - except the sunshine. And unfortunately for him, there was plenty of that! The beanies, the gloves, the scarves and the jackets that we had so carefully packed went unused, while the sunscreen got a workout instead. But joy oh joy, as we neared the top, there was snow! Which meant there were snowballs thrown, and it meant that we got to go sledging down the hill on the bivvy bag. Best. Fun. Ever. Probably less fun for Gus who had promised to catch me in lieu of teaching me how to stop myself, but there was still much laughter before, during and after the whole mission.
Finally we managed to make it to the tops of Mayar and Driesh, and back down again. We did take a lot longer than any normal party would... but drone flying and snow shenanigans take time and should not be rushed!
Tired but dosed up on vitamin D, we tested out a new craft beer place for dinner (creatively called Beer Kitchen). Two thumbs up for this place - haggis donut entree for the win! Afterwards we tried to have nice gin at 163 or 739 or something, but while the decor was very shmancy the service was a bit less impressive. Still, nothing could take away from the glory of being Munro Baggers - otherwise known as "people who climb mountains".
We were rewarded with another glorious day on Wednesday, prompting us to rename Dundee as Sundee. Our first adventure was to see the Discovery, the ship built in Dundee for the 1901 Antarctic expedition. After arguing soundly about how many lifeboats it was fitted with and being held hostage by an over enthusiastic volunteer, we caught the bus to Eden Mill brewery and distillery and helped Gus do some product research. The brewery tour was short, sweet, and contained plenty of beer samples. Eden Mill is still a rather small operation and we all marvelled at just how long the bottling process would take when two men can bottle one each at a time, using a £30,000 machine. And then there was the hand vs machine labelling debate...
The bus took us to St Andrews next, where it was still sunny but most definitely colder than Sundee. The coastal winds fairly whipped through us, leading Simon to borrow Vikki's incredibly stylish mittens. But it still wasn't cold enough to stop us from getting icecream at Jannetta's. Totes amazeballs. By then, it was dinner time and we made the difficult decision of where to eat by saying "there's a pub across the road" and that was that. Sweet potato fries sealed the deal for me.
We bussed back to Dundee and popped into Tickety's for proper fancy raspberry gin and prosecco, met the free spirited Fraser and then called it a night after getting an email address from a Parisian girl who was heading to the Shetlands. As you do.
Today was a quieter day - we popped in to Camperdown Park on our way out of Dundee, and then made our way to Arbroath Abbey. This abbey needed more walls to meet my perfect abbey criteria, but I did enjoy the staircases it had to offer. And the echo in the sacristy - 5 seconds of reverb, wow!
This evening's destination was Aberdeen, and we managed to find our flat despite Feodora telling us to make many sudden zig zagging turns during peak hour traffic. A quick trip to the shops, half an episode of Tipping Point and then it was dinner time and the day was over. We have had incredible luck with the sunshine these past few days, but judging from the forecast, our luck may be about to end...