Monday 20th April – (Day 39)
It had been a pretty good week up here on the Northumberland coast, plenty of warm sunshine during the day, albeit chilly starts and chilly ends. I also received an unexpected Email from one of my blog readers, what a small world it is, Rachel lives and works on ‘Holy Island‘ and told me that only the ‘Tourists‘ refer to it as ‘Lindisfarne’, which I am pleased about, as now when I hear that name I can go back to thinking about ‘Lady Eleanor‘, ‘Meet Me On The Corner‘, ‘Run For Home‘ and of course the original version of ‘Fog On The Tyne‘ which, as people of a certain age group will know, were all hits in the 70’s for the Tyneside Group called ‘Lindisfarne‘. So now when we visit Holy Island we will have our own resident expert to give us the ‘nod’ on the best places to go, and if we are lucky maybe even a nice cuppa, provided that this time we check the ‘Safe Crossing Times’ !!
The week didn’t end quite as well though, there I was just innocently chewing on a spearmint chew when I felt a bit of a crunch, now I knew that this sweet was a chew and not a piece of ‘Nut Brittle’ so it had to be bad news, and I was correct, on closer inspection of half-chewed chew, there it was, staring up at me, a filling !! So now I need to locate a local Dentist who can replace the missing filling sooner rather than later.
We had mixed feelings about our days off, there would be no customary lay in as we had to get ‘Big Momma’ to ‘Broxburn’, on the East side of Edinburgh, for her annual service and MOT which, according to ‘Snoopy’ was a one and a half hour drive and we needed to get there by 08:30am !! However, on the plus side, once we had handed her over we could catch a bus into the City. I had lived in Edinburgh many years ago and since then had re-visited several times so there wasn’t much left to see, except that was for one major sightseeing location, namely the ‘Castle’. I know what you are thinking, how could we have not visited the Castle on any of our previous visits, I don’t know the answer to that only that we hadn’t, but we would be able to remedy that oversight now even though our most recent ‘Castle’ experience had been a bit of a disappointment.
It was a beautiful morning, the sun was already shining, the sky was lovely and blue, albeit the normal typical chilly start to the day, no matter, we would soon have ‘Big Momma’s’ engine up to temperature to provide some welcome in-cab heating. It was a relatively uneventful drive across the border and for some long stretches the ‘A1’ hugged the Coast and we enjoyed lovely sea views. We had just passed ‘Torness Power Station’ when I saw another sign that stated ‘Cement Works‘, now I just happened to say to Shazza, “It’s true, it really does“, she scowled at me blankly but couldn’t contain herself, “What are you going on about” she said. I gave her one of my mischievous smiles and explained that the sign had stated that ‘Cement Works’ and I was just confirming the accuracy of the sign. “That” she said, “Was not even like a joke, never mind not being even mildly humorous“, she can be so harsh at times !!
‘Snoopy’ could not have foreseen the amount of traffic we would encounter once we got onto the Southern Ring Road around Edinburgh, but perhaps I should have done, after all it is Scotland’s Capital City and we had hit it right on the morning rush hour. However, we were only fifteen minutes late arriving at the ‘FIAT Commercial’ service centre. Once we had done the paperwork and handed over the keys we made our way to the bus stop for our day in Edinburgh. Whilst waiting for the bus, we had just missed one but they ran every twenty minutes, I made a phone call to a Dentist in Berwick to try to arrange an appointment, the lady on the other end of the phone advised me that registering as a ‘Temporary Patient‘ was not a problem but the earliest they could see me would be the end of May and that was for a ‘Emergency Appointment’ !! I told her that I would try elsewhere first and then I rang a second number I had copied down before we left. This lady advised me that it was a ‘Private Practice‘, interpret that as ‘Expensive Treatment‘, I asked how much for a filling and for the second time in a week felt the blood drain from my veins, Eighty Pounds for a filling !! For another Twenty Pounds I could have had more ‘shares‘ in Alnwick Castle !! But, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers and as she could fit me in the following week, the appointment was made and just in case you were wondering, the appointment is for 2pm and not ‘Tooth Hurty’ !!
The bus journey into the centre of Edinburgh took Forty Five minutes, but it was interesting as it took the route along the road near to where I used to live, okay so there were a few changes but only in the names of some of the retailers, the old familiar long-standing institutions were still there, namely ‘Murrayfield Stadium‘ and ‘Edinburgh Zoo‘. We got off right on ‘Princess Street’, the Main Street, but now they had ‘Trams’ running up and down as well as loads and loads of buses. After a stop for a small ‘snackeroonie‘, okay I confess, a large snackeroonie, we climbed our way up to the Castle which dominates the skyline as it stands guard over the busy City below. We were both a little apprehensive, perhaps we were already all ‘Castled’ out, would this be yet another disappointment. We knew we would have to pay an entrance fee but were pleasantly surprised, after paying Fifty Pounds for our last Castle exploration this time it was only Thirty Three Pounds, but would it be worth it ? Well let me put you out of your misery, the answer is a most definite yes, this really is a Castle that stands head and shoulders above all the Castles that we have visited so far, the biggest problem I have now is trying to decide which of the dozens of photographs that I had taken, to leave out !!
The Castle Garrison also housed a prison, it was quite interesting to wander around and see the conditions that the prisoners lived in, but more interestingly was these little snippets of information on prisoners entitlements …………
Believe me when I tell you that these were just a selection of the photographs, however, they don’t tell the whole story of our wonderful visit. In addition to the various Museums and the prison, their were staterooms to wander and even an opportunity to view the Scottish Crown Jewels, you meandered up and through rooms that told the story of how they were crafted, lost and then found again, culminating in the actual ‘Crown Jewels’ themselves in a large glass case. I did suggest to Shazza that we could perhaps attempt a quick ‘smash ‘n’ grab‘ to try to recoup some of the funds shelled out on our recent acquisition of a certain ‘Spanish Bolt Hole’, however, she pointed out in no uncertain terms that she didn’t think we would get away with it, and that in the process I could end up losing my own ‘Crown Jewels’ !! I thought better of it !
There are of course the usual ‘Tourist Tat’ gift shops in the Castle at strategic points, several in fact, and a shop dedicated to the ‘Whisky Experience’, well being in Scotland’s Capital City it would have been rude not to offer at least a ‘wee dram‘ before attempting to sell you several bottles of the stuff. I wasn’t tempted, not at those prices anyway but we did purchase a ‘Christmas Tree’ Decoration, we collect such trinkets from places we visit all around the world, our Christmas tree is now more of a ‘Travel Log’, did you see what I did there, ‘tree’ and ‘log’………… !!
Now I know that I am a self-confessed history heathen but I can say in all sincerity that the Thirty Three pounds entrance fee was worth every single penny !! However, I can also say with confidence that we are now finally all ‘Castled’ out, well for a little while at least, and it did make a nice change from visiting Cathedrals in search of ‘Tombs’ that may, or may not, have contained the remains of certain famous people !!
We walked back down towards the City, still with my camera trigger finger ready…………..
It had been a long day, we attempted to have a walk along the shops but we were just too tired, it was mid-afternoon and so we decided to catch the bus and head back to the garage to see if ‘Big Momma’ was ready to take us home. She wasn’t and we were told it would probably be after 6pm before it would be ready !! We had no option but to sit in the ‘Customer Waiting Area’ where we waited, and waited and waited. Finally at 6:15pm we were told that ‘Big Momma’ was ready to go, there had been no problems and after a ‘Major’ Service she was given a clean bill of health, namely a MOT Certificate. We had one stop to make before heading back to Berwick, we wanted to re-fill our LPG tanks, we had last filled up on our way to the Campsite on the 13th March and although we had been on EHU we had used Gas for cooking and the occasional use to boost the heater, water and habitation, so it would be interesting to see what we had used over the last Thirty-nine days. I had seen in one of my LPG Guides that there was a Service station quite conveniently located off the Ring Road at the ‘Dreghorn Link‘ so no need for any deviations off route. ‘Snoopy’ took us straight onto the forecourt of the ‘SHELL’ service station which was, as the guide had stated, literally just off the exit slip road. Even better, the Auto-Gas Pump was located with the normal fuel pumps so I topped up with both LPG and Diesel, we were quite happy to discover that we had only used Eight Litres of gas.
We arrived back at the Campsite just after 8pm, Thirteen hours after leaving and we were both pretty well buggered, but it had been a good day, ‘Big Momma’ was all serviced and so she was good for another year and we had had a good day at the Castle into the bargain.
Now then Shazza, where are you taking me for the next Expedition …………………………….. ?