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UK Wandering & Aegean - Black Seas Cruise - Part 1

Author: Phillip F. (More Trip Reviews by Phillip F.)
Date of Trip: June 2010

The obligatory single malt scotch and ginger ale (dry ginger not known) to start as an aperitif. All local produce meals are ordered including Crayfish cocktail and Seafood Chowder as starters. Pan fried fillet of Seabass from nearby Eyemouth is served with chive potatoes, crushed peas and a crayfish bisque and to finish off an extra large portion (result of complimenting the chef on the mains) of homemade warm chocolate brownie with vanilla pod ice cream, and a Belgian waffle coated with butterscotch sauce and vanilla pod ice cream. Somehow, we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant and made our way back to our lodgings to drift asleep to the sound of the now rolling waves and occasional chirp from a faraway bird.

June 15

From St Abb's we head westward. We arrive at Manderston House -- a superb Edwardian Mansion with a silver staircase, but alas it is only open on Thursdays and Sundays. Not to be deterred, we enter through the long driveway up to the front of the house, take the usual external snaps and depart via the tradesmen's entrance gate. Next castle on the Agenda is Floors Castle in Kelso. Built for the 1st Duke of Edinburgh in 1721 and overlooking the river Tweed, this is the largest inhabited castle in Scotland. It is habited by the 10th Duke of Edinburgh and his 2nd wife. There is a stud farm here and many of the horses race in major race meetings around the world. The estate has a walled perimeter measuring approximately 1.5 miles on each side (that's big!!). Off to Dryburgh Abbey from here but on the way we spot a sign "Smailholm Tower" -- it's on the DBH card so we veer up a road no wider than our Vauxhall Meriva (lucky I turned down the Roller) and open the throttle to get to the tower before another car decides to use this road from the opposite direction. We park the car, and walk across a rocky paddock being mindful of all the cow pats and climb the small hill to the base of the tower where we enter, climb the circular stone staircase and emerge at the top to breath the fresh air and take in the expansive vista on offer. A delightful stroll around the Dryburgh Abbey in St Boswells, Melrose was the best way to see this 11th century, soft red sandstone ruin, however the refractory's ornate rose red windows were still intact. Sir Walter Scott is buried here. Leaving the Abbey, we detour to take a walk through the forest to see Scott's monument -- a 40 foot statue of the man erected in the mid 1800's and which overlooks the valley from a high vantage point in the forest. Another kilometre along the track we arrive at the Temple of the Muses -- sited at the bottom of the hill near a quaint suspension bridge over the Tweed River where salmon can be seen jumping in the water. A brisk walk back up the hill and then further driving to the top brings us to Scott's View -- a lookout over the countryside that makes one gasp in awe of the beauty.

After Traquair House -- Scotland's oldest inhabited house (Floors Castle was largest) we head for Rosslyn Chapel (the Da Vinci Code one) however a closed road, long detour and extensive restoration works have us doing a U-turn and heading eastward once more towards the Northumberland region of England. Before we leave Scotland however, we stop in Lauder for the night and intend to see our final Scottish castle -- Thirlestane, in the morning.

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