Not a Grail in Sight

This is my last really touristy day. Tomorrow morning, I take the train back to London, and then fly home on Sunday. So, probably no pictures on those days. Maybe even no posts at all.

Today, I took a bus tour out of Edinburgh again. My main goal for this trip was to see Rosslyn Chapel, and we got to see that, but we also went to Dunfermline Abbey and Stirling Castle. I was interested in seeing both of these places, so that was cool.

I have to admit, I was a little leery of this tour. It’s touted as the Quest for the Holy Grail tour, and rides on the popularity of Rosslyn Chapel that grew up out of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. I kinda hate that book, and I really didn’t want to be sitting through discussions of the Priory of Sion1 and the Magdalene bloodline, and all that garbage.

Fortunately, no one on the tour seemed too interested in this aspect of it, and our guide instead spent the day filling us in on the stories of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. Far more interesting stuff, in my opinion.

And I got some neat pictures.

This is the rail bridge crossing the Firth of Forth, just north of Edinburgh. It's almost 125 years old. Apparently, it was being built just after another railway bridge over the Firth of Tay had collapsed, dropping a train into the water and causing numerous deaths. This one is intensively over-designed in order to avoid something similar.
This is the rail bridge crossing the Firth of Forth, just north of Edinburgh. It’s almost 125 years old. Apparently, it was being built just after another railway bridge over the Firth of Tay had collapsed, dropping a train into the water and causing numerous deaths. This one is intensively over-designed in order to avoid something similar.

The rail bridge is one of two current bridges crossing the Firth of Forth here. The other one is for cars and trucks. It’s about 50 years old, and is suffering from being overburdened. Another bridge is being built, and should open next year. I really hope they call it the Third Firth of Forth Bridge.

After this quick stop, we were on for Dunfermline Abbey.

It's actually Dunfermline Abbey Church. This wall is about all that remains of the abbey itself.
It’s actually Dunfermline Abbey Church. This wall is about all that remains of the abbey itself.
This is the grave of Mary Wallace, mother of William Wallace. Because William Wallace was quartered and his remains scattered, this is about the only site where there's a grave that's associated with him. It's an interesting grave - it's in the Christian abbey churchground, but has a number of pre-Christian features: it's got a mound, and is planted with a hawthorn tree, which is the tree of life.
This is the grave of Mary Wallace, mother of William Wallace. Because William Wallace was quartered and his remains scattered, this is about the only site where there’s a grave that’s associated with him. It’s an interesting grave – it’s in the Christian abbey churchground, but has a number of pre-Christian features: it’s got a mound, and is planted with a hawthorn tree, which is the tree of life.
Inside the church, below the pulpit, is the grave of Robert the Bruce.
Inside the church, below the pulpit, is the grave of Robert the Bruce.

From Dunfermline, we continued our journey and our history lesson until we reached the Bannockburn memorial.

The whole Bannockburn memorial is pretty huge. There was no place I could stand to get the whole thing in one picture and still be able to tell what everything was. The centre has a flagpole flying the Saltire - the flag of Scotland. Around it, is a stone wall with a wooden ring circling the top carved with a poem welcoming everyone to Scotland. Then there's the cairn inside, with a quote from Robert the Bruce on it and, out the far side of the ring, a statue of Robert the Bruce on a horse.
The whole Bannockburn memorial is pretty huge. There was no place I could stand to get the whole thing in one picture and still be able to tell what everything was. The centre has a flagpole flying the Saltire – the flag of Scotland. Around it, is a stone wall with a wooden ring circling the top carved with a poem welcoming everyone to Scotland. Then there’s the cairn inside, with a quote from Robert the Bruce on it and, out the far side of the ring, a statue of Robert the Bruce on a horse.

Next stop was Stirling Castle. Up until the time of James VI2, it was the royal residence.

These are the inner gates, taken from the wall of the outer defences. It's a little smaller than Edinburgh Castle, but otherwise has a similar feel and design.
These are the inner gates, taken from the wall of the outer defences. It’s a little smaller than Edinburgh Castle, but otherwise has a similar feel and design.
This is the Great Hall, where meals were served. It's essentially a big barn with a roof made the same way the hull of a ship is made. The sandstone is washed with lime to preserve it, and the second coat of the limewash is coloured gold. Originally, all the buildings were this colour as a display of the royal wealth.
This is the Great Hall, where meals were served. It’s essentially a big barn with a roof made the same way the hull of a ship is made. The sandstone is washed with lime to preserve it, and the second coat of the limewash is coloured gold. Originally, all the buildings were this colour as a display of the royal wealth.

I tried to get a picture of the inside, but it was crowded all four times I went in, and I didn’t want just a picture of a bunch of other tourists. So, you’ll have to use your imagination.

One of the other buildings is the palace, and it’s got a few restored rooms.

James IV built the palace for his queen, Margaret Tudor, the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots, and elder sister of Henry VIII. He died before ever visiting, which is why none of his furniture is here. This is the room where the king would have met important nobles. Note the colourful faces on the ceiling - they show all manner of people of the day.
James IV built the palace for his queen, Margaret Tudor, the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots, and elder sister of Henry VIII. He died before ever visiting, which is why none of his furniture is here. This is the room where the king would have met important nobles. Note the colourful faces on the ceiling – they show all manner of people of the day.
This is the queen's bedroom. It's been decorated as it would have been in the 16th century.
This is the queen’s bedroom. It’s been decorated as it would have been in the 16th century.

After Stirling, our last stop was Rosslyn Chapel. It’s a beautiful little church, despite the mutilation it has suffered over the years. The restoration is top-notch, and the interior carvings are just overwhelming. But, as it’s a working church, they do not allow photography inside.

So, all I';ve got for you is a picture of the outside. Even the outside is pretty cool, though.
So, all I’;ve got for you is a picture of the outside. Even the outside is pretty cool, though.

The lady who gave us our history talk at the chapel did a wonderful job of showing why the chapel is both important and interesting without resorting to conspiracy theories. She did give us some of the more interesting interpretations of some of the carvings, but stressed that, because none of the original documents exist anymore, no one can be sure what was intended. And that means, she says, that anyone can interpret it any way they want.

A good answer, in my opinion.

Then back to Edinburgh. I’m probably going to turn in early tonight – my long holiday is catching up to me.

And, as I said, tomorrow I start my journey home.

  1. Which was totally made up by a French dude in the 1960s to prove that his family was heir to the throne of France. []
  2. Who became James I of Britain. []

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