Daily Archives: June 5, 2022

Our temporary backyard

Our days started to follow a pattern. We spent the mornings exploring nearby points of interest, then returned to our digs in the afternoon to work on admin when the offices opened in New York. That synced perfectly with our age-adjusted energy levels, especially after a good lunch.

I pore over the map to find places to visit. Jack wants to see every castle ever built; I want to see graves. Often we just want to appreciate the stunning scenery. Before we came to Dumfries and Galloway I had the impression that the landscape would be flat agricultural land and we’ve both been surprised and entranced by the rolling hills and deep forests of hardwoods, territory not unlike where we both grew up in Pennsylvania. It’s pristine clean, with nary a scrap of trash to be seen, and even when the sun doesn’t shine, the sky is dramatic with cloud patterns that would inspire any artist.

We took off one morning to visit what was bound to be a sad place. On the way we passed a gypsy caravan.

After about an hour’s drive and a few wrong turns we finally arrived at our destination.

For those of you too young to remember, a few days before Christmas in 1988 Pan Am flight 103 was destroyed by an onboard bomb as it flew over Lockerbie, Scotland, en route from London to New York. All 259 passengers and crew died. Parts of the plane landed on a suburban street and 11 residents of three houses also perished.

Thirty-five of the passengers were students at Syracuse University heading home for the holidays after a semester abroad.

The bomb was eventually traced to Libyan nationals and in 2003 Muammar Gaddafi finally accepted responsibility.

Whenever we visit any kind of memorial I read every name, pronouncing it in my mind. I know how quickly even the most horrific events fade into history and I want each person to be remembered and honored, even by a stranger. I was heartened to see that there were other visitors to the memorial garden during the time we were there.

Lunchtime lead us to a farm market and café that was recommended by our Airbnb host. After three years in SE Asia, this kind of shop display is an eyeopener.

Luckily, vegans and vegetarians are also respected here in the UK and there are always options for me too.

We walked off the calories on a pretty little trail around the farm where we met some of the Beltie Beef cows that end up in the butcher case.

Someone on the farm enjoys chainsaw sculpture.

Jack finished off his lunch with his beloved apple crumble, and then it was back to our cottage for more banking fun.


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It’s a sure thing

Discussing our poor luck with castles over a home cooked full Scottish breakfast, Jan, our diminutive Irish landlady, at least I think she said her name was Jan, said, in her heavy Irish brogue, “Well you needn’t go far. We’ve our own just over in the village, don’t ye know.” I’m pretty sure that’s what she said. It was something like Closeburn.

We punched our best guess into Google maps and sure enough a pin appeared on the screen. What could go wrong? We cranked up our trusty Vauxhall and plotted a course to our very own castle. Basic rule of thumb should you find yourself driving in Scotland is when you do find yourself on a path that is too narrow to fit your car between the weeds you are lost and it’s time to consider extricating yourself. Well, that’s our newly revised rule. It started out fine.

I missed the first turn. I mean it was so improbable and narrow that I was sure it couldn’t lead to a castle. Marce said they hold events at this place. Not to worry, Google plotted a new workaround that completely circumnavigated the village. The closer we got to the pin the more narrow the road became, following the familiar pattern. (We have no photos of this.) Now we’re down to muddy narrow two track heading down towards a dip at a turn where, if I’m any judge, some other idiot became mired in mud.

I could see a fancy wrought iron gate just beyond. That’s got to be it. You see how this works? We judged the mud wrestling pool as passable and didn’t slow down until we found ourselves in somebody’s courtyard. I did take note as we passed that the gate was chained and padlocked. Closed. Waving politely we motored on through, eventually finding the narrow road that I missed in the first place.

We decided this afternoon’s adventure had to be a sure thing. Caerlaverock Castle, that’s the ticket. Famous, moated, triangular, medieval stronghold walls with a gorgeous renaissance palace within those walls. In short, a “please exit by the gift shop” kinda place. And we even heard rumors of overnight campervan parking! Worth the hour drive while the authorities make life difficult with regulations to buying the camper van.

Never ones to follow directions, first we entered via the gift shop which featured actual stone carvings from the castle.

As we made our way towards this amazing castle pleasantly nestled down in the valley below us, we noticed an uncomfortable amount of fencing around the structure.

We reached the drawbridge and were crestfallen to read the sad news. Closed. It seems the structure is unstable. We could walk the perimeter though.

At various points along the path Marce found the augmented reality plaques. She dutifully downloaded the app and watched every one of the animated characters who told what life was like in the castle.

You can visit the foundation of the original castle which had man made canals to the sea back when sea levels were much higher.

Nice idea, but apparently the castle flooded and the sea was destroying it. It had to be abandoned and rebuilt on higher ground.

So let’s see, I think that leaves our castle record at 0-4 attempts. We will press on regardless! We are Escape Velocity.

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