12 Apr 2011

Welcome to Romantic Roslin Glen

Hello you. Welcome to the two year anniversary of this wee blog dedicated to the sensual pleasures of Scotland.

For me it would not be a celebration unless I indulged in some kind of enjoyable excess, so I invite you to the following photo heavy tribute to the many beauties of Roslin Glen and the River North Esk.

The splendour begins not long after we leave the village of Roslin, the name for which is formed of two Celtic words, Ross - a rocky outcrop and Linn - a waterfall.

Looking now through all the layers of springtime green, it is difficult to imagine a time when these fields would have been stained with blood. On February 24 1303, Scottish and English forces clashed here for the 3rd battle of Roslin, an event when saw a Scottish victory but also horrendous casualties.
Today the sun is out and as we meander the path between fields and forest we think “this is nice,” because it is. Open space, clear air - a pleasant country walk.

But when we take the turn to follow the river walk, everything changes. Suddenly get a view of the valley that stops us in awe because we didn’t expect this kind of romantic scene.

Once we can move again we thump down worn stone steps, stopping half way to follow a butterfly from blossom to blossom with our camera.

Our route, referred to in the guidebook as The Riddle of Roslin, directs us along the river trail, but it is impossible to resist a detour to see the remains of what the local information boards call Maiden Castle.

It is thought that sometime during the late bronze age and the iron age, between 1000 BCE and 200 AD, this ridge above the river was home to a large family group. This was not a castle as we might think of it, but simple roundhouses and some minor defences of stone banks and deep ditches. With the surrounding forests and the fish-rich river for food, a family could have thrived here.
Today, if it weren’t for the information boards to advise us of the history of this place, we would walk unaware through the ghosts of our bronze age ancestors. We are always trying to revive our pasts, while nature feels no such need to cling. She moves on, grows over, lives today.

Finally we begin to explore the banks of the river, which are bulging with green and fresh stems and the pristine white petals of wood sorrel.

The river is high and slow from spring rains and moves gently past banks that are so thick with plants it is as if life is something that can be purged in one great heave.
Nearby old trees take a humble back seat to all the countless new shoots. They allow the wind to stir their branches, whisks inside an infinite bowl. At the water’s edge their roots wrap like fat baby knuckles around plates of ancient glacier stone.

I tell you, there is no way to photograph all of this. Everywhere around us, birdsong bounces back and forth like a room full of grandfather clocks, time reduced to a ball that no one can catch.
We walk for a long time, trying to follow the book but often veering onto this path or that, just letting ourselves wander, to spread out and discover.

Like when we come to he place where rust-coloured rocks overhang the trail and remind us of scenes of the grand canyon. High above us we can see small caves and we long to look in.
This desire intensifies a short while later when we look across the river to see Wallace’s Cave, named for Scotland’s national hero, who took part in the Battle of Roslin.

With no way to get to the other side and explore, we will have to make do with this video from BreatheScotland.

The cave is also associated with Hawthornden Castle, which stands across the river, somewhere beyond the clutter of tree branches.

Hawthornden Castle was built in 1638 by poet William Drummond. A little research has brought me to the brink of jealous delirium as I have learned that part of the castle is now used as a retreat for writers and artists.

Each year the Hawthornden Castle Fellowship offers five writers a place here for a month of seclusion. It’s alright if you need a moment to let the idea sink in. We have time.

Somehow we are nearing the end of our walk. Already? Well believe it or not, we have been away for hours.
We’ve taken so many detours and stopped so many times to try and memorise the exact undertone of sweetness in the air, that by the time we have journeyed through the last of the forest trails and are making our way up the stairs and through the archway leading to Rosslyn Castle, we are well and truly knackered.

The castle was built after the battle of Roslin, but much of it was destroyed by fire in 1447. The only part that is still inhabitable is the five storey house that was built as part of later restorations. If you are feeling particularly burdened by cash, you can even stay here.
For the moment let’s set aside plans to visit the famous wee Rosslyn Chapel. We’ll wait until the construction work for the new visitor’s entrance is finished, and hope that visitors will once again be able to at least get close to the outside of the chapel without having to shell out the £7.70 entrance fee.

Thank you for reading. Over the past two years I have so enjoyed sharing my  adventures on this wee patch of the internet. I enjoy all manner of enthusiasm and supportive comments. You are welcome for cake anytime. Let’s have a seat just here and enjoy a bit of sun, shall we?

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