After two gorgeous days of blue skies and sunshine, today was gloomy and cold which set the tone for the days activities. We took a walking tour of York which is less than an hour outside of Harrogate. It’s an interesting city loaded with history and ancient architecture.
As we wandered through the streets of York, the guide from CIE Tours shared stories associated with the town’ s history including pointing out the place where people were hanged. This little street called The Shambles was populated with tourist shops and cafes but was once known for its butcher shops. Peter went into a rather graphic account of how the streets were once flowing with blood and animal parts hung from meat hooks in the street as the butchers showcased their product. I cringed.
Next we walked to York Minster, this incredible medieval cathedral located in the center of town. I had seen this gothic landmark looming in the distance and as I walked toward it, it became more and more magnificent. When I arrived at its doors, I was in awe by its beauty and energy. Known officially as the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York, it is the largest cathedral of its kind in Northern Europe. Its halls are adorned with dramatic sculptures and other works of art. Fifteen Kings, from William the Conqueror to Henry the VIII align a choir screen at the very front of the church.
At this point we were free to wander the church at our own pace and meet back at the bus at 11:00. I ended up getting completely lost and was so captivated by each corner of this place from the monumental stained glass windows to the tombs and the cavernous downstairs area, time seemed to get away from me. There was a memorial candle area which prompted me to light a candle for my mom and pulled me out of my cathedral trance long enough to look at my watch and realize I had about ten minutes to head back to the meeting place. I’m not sure how I did it but I made it back to the meeting place with a few minutes to spare.
We motored on via the Yorkshire countryside and I witnessed the dramatic Yorkshire moors on one side of the street enriched with a dense fog. “Yep”, I thought to myself, “this is exactly how I always imagined England.” (that impression probably ingrained in my mind’s eye upon reading Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights as a teenager.)
It started getting progressively rainy as we escalated and by the time we crossed the border into Scotland, it was beyond dreary and freezing. Still we stopped at the border and people took pics of the Welcome signs into Scotland. While it was gloomy, the beauty of Scotland was evident. Fall colored forests occupied the landscape on both sides. While England is relatively flat, Scotland is hillier. We stopped at a place called Abbey Bridge Tollhouse to use the facilities and neighboring the café was this ancient 12th century monastery known as Jedbugh Abbey.
After a long gloomy day, we finally made it to Edinburgh and are staying at the Norton House Hotel & Spa which is the nicest hotel we’ve stayed at. It’s rustic but elegant and very homey. The food was great… at least my food was. Most everyone in my party had something called Haggis which is a Scottish dish made with sheep heart, liver and lungs. No thanks. I had the stuffed pepper which was delicious.
Dinner was accompanied by two rounds of entertainment. The first was a Scotsman playing the bagpipes. The second was a guy with an accordian with a woman on keyboard playing something that sounded an awful lot like polka. The accordian player poked fun at the English, the Scottish dialect and even got the audience to participate.
This place is a spa and we’re here two nights. Tomorrow we explore Edinburgh and we have the option of staying a full day or a half day. I’ve decided a half will do. I’m going to come back and have a massage and relax. This place is just too nice to not take advantage of.