Exploring the Scottish Borders

Our first field trip of the semester was to the Scottish Borders.  Nory, our hilariously entertaining tour guide and owner of Heartland Travel, picked up the Stirling USAC gang from Macrobert Arts Centre on campus in the morning.  The St. Andrews students were already on the bus as they had been picked up from their school at 6am (glad I chose Stirling!).  There was sparse chatter as it was a chilly, rainy day (as per usual) and too early for most college students to be communicative yet.  But Nory got everyone in the sightseeing mood with a little Scottish folk music, rhythmic drumming on the steering wheel, and a short lesson in how to speak Scots.  What an endearingly garbled language it is…

Our first stop was Rosslyn Chapel, of The Da Vinci Code fame.  However, as it was a Sunday morning and the chapel is still a functioning church, it was closed to tours.  We were all quite disappointed but Nory appeased us with coffee and tea at an adorable local cafe.  Then he took us to the nearly 800-year-old castle remains behind Rosslyn Chapel and told us about his encounter with a ghost dog he had there when he was a teenager.  Apparently, the site is haunted because of a large battle that took place in the deep glen over which the castle is built.

Haunted castle ruins!
Some nice vegetation
Our next stop was Melrose Abbey.  We stopped for lunch in the idyllic, little town before touring the abbey.  After we had a little afternoon ice cream pick-me-up we headed to the abbey.  What a striking structure!  It’s astounding the detail craftsmen were able to achieve so many centuries ago and the fact that so much of it is still standing today.  It makes you think, how many of the buildings built today will be standing in 800 years?  My guess is none.  Or at least I hope there aren’t a bunch of Target’s and McDonald’s still hanging around in ruins in a millennium.
Melrose Abbey
Rolling hills of the Scottish Borders
Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried at Melrose Abbey, though this isn’t its gravestone (spooky though, eh?).
Dang, those flying buttresses doe…
The town of Melrose
The last stop of our Scottish Borders tour was Abbotsford, home of Scotland’s most famous writer, Sir Walter Scott.  It is quite the lush abode sitting on the banks of the River Tweed and has one of the most beautiful gardens upon which I e’er laid mine eyes.  The splendid sights make the poetry just flow!  No wonder Sir Walter Scott had so much to say about Scotland.  As the sun began to sink, we sloshed our soggy boots to the bus and headed back to Stirling via St. Andrews.  Although we didn’t get to see inside Rosslyn Chapel (which just gives me another excuse to go back to Scotland!), it was a great day trip full of ancient abbeys and verdant Scottish landscapes.
Did Sir Walter Scott actually live in a luxury hotel?
The River Tweed
An old stable? How delightfully pastoral.
Sir Walter, will you accept this rose?
I doubt they sell those planters at Home Depot.
An utterly loverly garden

Laura Walters is a University of Cincinnati student. She studied abroad in Stirling, Scotland in Fall 2017. You can read more about Laura’s journey in Scotland on her blog. *All photos and captions courtesy of Laura.