Sunday, July 5, 2009

Haggis Tours: Day 3

The next day would find us in an even more beautiful surrounding where after a fifteen minute walk, there was nothing to see but green plants climbing up the walls of the glen, and and a river crossing through the bottom. Flowers blossomed, so many shades of purple, and the only sound that could be heard was that of the wind and the insects. Long gone were the traces of betrayal and death brought upon Clans years and years ago.

Sitting on a lone rock, left over by a slow moving glacier during the last ice age, I ate my lunch in seclusion. For the first time at peace.

“We have to go back! Hey! We need to head back!” the group of Americans from our bus started screaming. I stood up, and the world returned with a jolt. This is the only downside of bus tours. I could have stayed there for hours. As I headed back, halfway to the bus I turned. The Americans had not yet moved. It was true that the time was up, and that we should be going back, and they knew enough to give orders to the rest of us. But they didn't move at all. They like giving orders, but they'll be damned to take them. Heh. Americans.

These Castle Walls
Just off the beaten path is a castle ruins – abandoned for seven hundred years. This is a castle as any child would draw one. Four towers, walls between, a moat, and a drawbridge. This was a castle in remarkable shape, with no tourists, and no admission gate. This just happened to be a castle in the middle of nowhere. Because Scotland is like that. Should there be street signs pointing it out? No. Why bother. It's just a castle.

Entering its gates, one must wonder how difficult that would have been to accomplish a thousand years ago. In the inner towers, a metal gate prevented visitors from accessing and climbing the crumbling stone steps all the way to the top. This gate was of little use though, for six feet off the ground, there was a window that could be climbed – with some effort – into. This allowed access to those same stairs, and stairs to an even higher level.

Aside from giving access to the higher window looking inward, I wondered what these stairs would have been for. Undoubtedly some sort of wooden structure, or bridge, long since rotted into the mists of history. As I climbed stairs, millennia old, I was overcome with a sense of history.

And through another window I was presented access to a hallway reeking of urine, and littered with used condoms as well as beer cans. In the corner, on a small rocky shelf, was an odd little shrine that had clearly been set up by these repeat visitors. It held two pictures of Jesus, a shot glass, a larger glass, and a candle.

There's something comforting about knowing that what goes on in the castle to this day, is probably very similar to that which happened when it was first constructed.

I pocketed a rock from the wall.

The Great William Wallis
As you all know, there is a tale about William Wallis made famous by the movie Braveheart. And while most of that story is complete rubbish, there are pieces of truth to it. He was Scotland's defender of freedom, and because of this a great monument was erected in his honour.

But was this erected off the roadside where it could be easily accessed? No. It was built at the top of a sloping hill with far too many switchbacks leading to the top. Each step a painful reminder of all the walking I had done over the last week an a half.

I have always relied on my stamina to get me through anything, but as each step make my calves burn (a sensation I've never truly appreciated before) I thought this might be the first time I was physically unable to do something. But I pressed on. It wasn't so hard of a journey, and was this day one, I'd not have felt it at all. Up at the top, I was rewarded with a spectacular tower, and a view over the city. It was worth the climb, even if some of the best pictures are taken from further down.

And this, it was sad to say, would be the final stop on the third day of our tour.

There was only one story left, and a telling one it is. In Edinburgh there is a street named Cowsgate, which runs just behind the Royal Mile. On it there are a great number of bars. So many that stumbling drunks used to be frequently clipped by cars. We're talking two to three a night here. So what did the city do? Did it take to fining bars for over serving? Did they start to round up the drunks? Start educating their citizens on the dangers of drinking to excess?

Of course not. They simply closed the street to cars between ten at night, and five thirty in the morning.


1 comment:

  1. If I could have said it non-metaphorically, I would not have written all these
    words, this novel; and Genly Ai would never have sat down at my desk and used
    up my ink and typewriter ribbon in informing me, and you, rather solemnly,
    that the truth is a matter of the imagination.

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