Thursday, September 6, 2012

Auld Reekie

Sleepy Street in Lindisfarne
We had a very long day of transport connections and had a snafu with the rental car which actually was a blessing. (We decided to pick it up on Saturday instead of today, since we really don't need a car in Edinburgh.)We are at a Bed and Breakfast called Auld Reekie after the old nickname for industrialized Edinburgh. It is on the third floor of a Queen Anne style townhouse in the "new town" (early 1700's). I am running low on megabytes, so I think I will sign off of my blog, and close the saga of the pilgrimage of the Way of St Cuthbert. Lindisfarne was everything we had hoped for-peaceful, spiritual, beautiful and holy. A place to renew the spirit. Now we have plunged back into the hurly burly of city life! Tomorrow we climb Arthur's Seat and explore the castle. Saturday we will pick up a car and go to St Andrew's. Then on to the west coast. I will send a note once in a while when I  can get some wireless. Cheerio!
Three ancient relics of something called a "telephone box"
In Edinburgh

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Pilgrim Marlene
on the Sands to the Holy Isle
What a glorious day! We walked three miles to the sands and timed it about right to cross starting at 11:30. It took us about 1 1/2 hours to cross. The little village was swarming with tourists, but they mostly had to leave before the tide came back in at 4:00.  Now it is peaceful and we were lucky to find a place to eat dinner. We have seen the priory and been to a service at St Mary's Church. Tomorrow we will see the castle and go to the Heritage Centre where they have displays on  the Lindisfarne Gospels. Then we will get a taxi to Berwick and a train back to Edinburgh.

St. Cuthbert.
Our pilgrimage has officially ended.  Now the touring begins.  I will pick up a rental car tomorrow. I will really  need your prayers now !

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fenwick (pronounced Fennick)

The view out our window
We are at a lovely Georgian style modern home B&B (big stairway up the center with rooms around like a gallery). Our windows look out to the sea far away and a tidy back garden with close cropped grass and many flowers swaying in the endless wind. Tomorrow we walk about three miles and then reach the sands we must cross on the Pilgrim Path to Lindisfarne.

St. Cuthbert's Cave
Today we saw St Cuthbert's Cave where monks took his body to escape the Viking raids on Lindisfarne. Then when we came up over a rise we saw the Holy Isle for the first time. Our own personal "Monto do Gozo"! The weather remains perfect. We have not used our ponchos except to sit on.

Monday, September 3, 2012


The Border Crossing
We had our longest day today-13 1/2 miles of up hill and across boggy moors. We left at 8:30am and arrived in Wooler at 6:30pm. I am so proud of Marlene! She stuck it out in good spirits. Tomorrow we have 11 1/2 miles on fairly even terrain. We crossed the border around noon and magically we started meeting people with English accents! Tomorrow is the last day before we cross the sands to Lindisfarne.
I have had more technical challenges. My camera battery depleted so I put the extra one in and it was depleted too. I tried to charge them but my charging set up for UK is just not working. So I am stuck with the camera phone until I can find a shop that can help. Also I wanted to let you know I found my journal stuck in a deep pocket of my suitcase! Yippee!
The Moors of Northumbria

Morebattle to Kirk Yetholm

We had a lovely Scottish summer day to walk to the highest point and halfway mark of the Way of St. Cuthbert. When we made it to the top of Wideopen Hill, we sat and enjoyed a "biscuit" in celebration. As we gazed at the path we had just ascended, we saw a young woman approaching us. Could it be a pilgrim? In fact it was the one and only pilgrim we were to run across in our entire pilgrimage. How fitting that it should be here at the summit that we met her. Her name was Emily, and she was from Sydney, Australia. She had been in the cities of the UK for a while and had just felt the need to get away to the countryside for some solitary time. She would soon be on her way to Iceland for a month as a resident artist somewhere in that country.
Marlene and Emily on Wideopen Hill

 We are now in a lovely Bed and Breakfast that was once an old mill. Tomorrow is a very long walk, 13 miles, with nothing in between as far as amenities are concerned. This will be quite a challenge.

Before checking in to our lodgings, we wandered around the town. A beautiful church towers over Kirk Yetholm and we noticed that the church seemed not to be an ancient one, but more Victorian perhaps. Our timing was perfect, because an older gentlemanwalked down the path, and as we smiled and said hello, he asked if we would like to see the inside of the church. This man, Ian, was a retired Anglican priest who was now serving as assistant pastor at this Church of Scotland kirk. He joked that he had to be very careful when doing the service not to make the sign of the cross (big faux pas!), to leave off the last "forever" from the Lord's Prayer, and of course that it was "debts" and not "trespasses." He asked if we knew why the Presbyterians didn't use the word "trespasses." We admitted that we didn't know, and he said, the Scots had no understanding of the word because there is no such thing as trespassing in Scotland. The land all belongs to the Scots, and so long as you do no harm, you may be on the land without violating the law. So they went back and translated the word differently. And now you know!

In the borders there were many shepherds and their dogs were very important to them. Ian told a story about how the shepherds would bring their dogs into the church. When one shepherd had a falling out and decided to go to another church, his dog refused to change, and would come into this church and sit through the service in his accustomed spot.
Kirk Yetholm Church of Scotland


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Harestane to Morebattle

We decided not to walk to Morebattle due to Marlene's knee and also the prospect of more woodland mud. We were in Jedburgh, so we decided to explore the abbey there,  and then take a bus to Kelso and explore that abbey, too. This is a pilgrimage after all! We were so glad we did. The Jedburgh Abbey and museum were fantastic. We learned so much about abbeys and the monastic life. We now know what the difference between an abbot and a prior is, and what a canon does (no, not the gun, silly, the monastic canon.) And why some monks were called black monks and some white monks. And how they only had one room with a fire where they could go to get warm. We know what they did in the chapter room, and the difference between a larder and a pantry. All sorts of neat stuff.

We also went to the Mary Queen of Scots House where we learned all about that ill-starred queen. She really was the Marilyn Monroe of her day--beautiful, famous, popular, and a lass who made extremely bad choices in men.

Morebattle High Street
with Templehall Inn
On to Kelso which was having their local festival day. It was in honor of St. James, the patron saint of pilgrims, so we thought it very appropriate to go. We enjoyed the craft booths, and the local dignitaries dressed in medieval costumes, as well as a group of young children playing Scottish jigs and reels and strathspeys on their wee violins. They were really very good, too. There was not much left of the Kelso Abbey ruin, thanks to Mr. Cromwell, but we did go and pay it homage as well.

Then we caught a bus to the little town of Morebattle.The name of this town does not actually have anything to do with war. It comes from "mere botle" which means "the settlement by the lake." We found it to be a delightful little village and we stayed at the Templehall Inn which happened to be the local village hangout. Jovial men-and a few women-lingered, along with a couple of dogs, at the ancient bar, discussing local gossip over a few pints of ale. A couple of the patrons eventually moved to a table where a lively game of dominos served as a background to our supper.


Friday, August 31, 2012

St. Boswell's to Harestane

So-called "Dere Street"
Today started out bright and sunny and we set out in high spirits. Our walk today however, turned into another day of slogging through mud. It would have been a lovely woodland walk along the River Tweed, and walking down a Roman road called Dere Street sounds pretty straightforward, right? The mud was like quicksand in some  places and almost took Marlene's boot off, causing her to twist her knee. She limped to the Harestane Visitors Centre where we had tea and waited for a taxi to take us to our Bed and Breakfast at Airenlea in Jedborough. Hopefully, her knee will be better tomorrow. Meanwhile, I seem to have left my journal somewhere which is a heartbreak because it also contained my journaling from the Camino.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Over the Eildon Hills from Melrose to St. Boswell's

Melrose Abbey
We are off on our first day of walking. We had arrived in Melrose from Edinburgh by bus. The skies had opened on our way and by the time we were approaching Melrose, the roads were so full of water that the bus had to take a detour at one point. I was dreading the thought of walking in that rain tomorrow! But as we reached the pretty little town of Melrose the rains stopped. We got settled in the Station Hotel, and then went to explore the Melrose Abbey. Then lo and behold, the sun came out as it began to set, and the abbey was bathed in a rosy glow. Here at this abbey, our dear St. Cuthbert was called to service and eventually became Prior.

Eildon Hills
We left Melrose and climbed the saddle between the Eildon Hills. The day was grey and windy, the climb invigorating. The hills were full of purple heather and gorse. I was feeling strong and capable thanks to my pre-walk training. I soon found myself humming and singing "Wild Mountain Thyme" and reminiscing about the days long ago in my youth when I wandered the Scottish hills. After our descent, we walked through a beautiful forest full of giant lime and beech trees. Alas, we missed a turn-off and got a bit lost. We had to retrace our steps, but found the signpost we had missed.

Muddy Boots
Then we started going through some serious mud. This was due to the terrible torrential rains of the previous day, and the fact that this has been the rainiest summer in Scotland in a hundred years. Even though it was only a six and a half mile walk, it took us from 9:30 to 4:00 to finally get to St. Boswell's. We were staying at a fancy hotel called the Buccleuch Arms, and we were embarassed to stand in the lobby with our muddy shoes. But when we finally roused the receptionist, she was not the least put out with us. We had a fantastic supper of fresh salmon an grouse, and Marlene bought a hazelwood walking stick which she chose among several that were for sale in a corner of the restaurant. (She had broken her "high tech" stick in the mud that day.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Waiting is the worst part

Tomorrow at noon I leave with Marlene for the Louisville airport . I have had many well-wishers. Some have said "I hear you are going to Ireland"or "Switzerland" but nonetheless they promise to pray for my safety. I have no fear. I know from the Camino that a pilgrim walks in faith and that when you do,  every experience is a blessing.
My preparation has been a bit different this time. Instead of long walks I have been working out at the gym, trying to build muscles. That doesn't  toughen  the feet, though. So we shall see if that ends up as a good strategy (muscles and blisters or no blisters  and sore muscles, what's your pleasure?) At any rate, my trusty Compeed is at the ready. God bless it!
An encouragement for Marlene, and for anyone who finds a task overwhelming:

"O snail. Climb Mt. Fuji. But slowly, slowly."
Kobayashi Issa, 1763 - 1827

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Preparing for the next pilgrimage

Our official guidebook
On Monday, the 27th of August, my friend,  Marlene and I  will be headed to Glasgow, Scotland, to begin a pilgrimage of sixty miles across the Borders and down into England to the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, once the home of the famous Lindisfarne Gospels. It is called the Way of St. Cuthbert.
I hope to blog about our adventures and send some photos, too. The hardest part right now is typing with this fancy new touchscreen! My kids say I will get used to it but I am itching for my trusty Blackberry.  Change is hard !
Our way  will be much easier than the Camino since we have booked B&B's for the whole week and will have our luggage waiting for us at each stop with day packs and ponchos our only burdens.
When we finish our walk, we will head to some of my old haunts including Edinburgh and St. Andrew's, and then through the Highlands and out to another pilgrimage site, the Isle of Iona.