Monthly Archives: March 2014

England, Day Nine – Hadrian’s Wall Then On To Scotland!

Saturday, May 25

We wandered around the gardens of our B&B, the Ashcroft Guest House. The owners are dedicated gardeners and their hard work was evident. These show the view from our window and flowers along the walkway in the garden.

Haltwhiste B&B View    Haltwhiste B&B Garden

I tried out my infrared lens. The garden had a lot of good texture contrasts between the plant material and stone but I think I really need some clouds to break up flat area of the sky.

Haltwhiste B&B IR

After an enjoyable breakfast overlooking the garden, we spent a little more time with the Romans before heading north to Scotland. Housesteads Roman Fort was our destination. We got an early start so there weren’t too many people around but there were crowds arriving as we left. The fort is located on a hill so there was a bit of a hike but it was warm and sunny and we enjoyed the walk.

Housesteads Up The Hill

There were plenty of sheep but they mostly ignored us, either eating or dozing in the sun.

Housesteads Sheep 1    Housesteads Sheep 2

The fort was much the same as Vindolanda except there didn’t seem to be as much active excavation going on. The best part was that we actually got to see part of Hadrian’s Wall.

Originally the wall was around 20 feet tall. After centuries of weather and the locals harvesting building materials from the wall, it’s considerably shorter.

Hadrian's Wall

Housesteads was built at this location for the strategic views over the hilly countryside. There were periodic towers along the wall, milecastles, or “fortlets” (their word not mine), with turrets spaced between them for additional lookouts. Jim’s photo below shows the North Gate.

Hadrian's Wall, Housesteads Roman Fort

From the English Heritage site, “The north gate opened onto land north of Hadrian’s Wall, beyond the Roman Empire. It was a formidable building with two arched passageways flanked by tall towers that contained guard rooms for the soldiers who patrolled the walls.”

When we had our fill, we wandered back down the hill. These little sheeplets had the right idea on a lazy Saturday.

Hadrian's Wall Sheeplets

As nice as a nap in the sun sounded, we wanted to head on down the road towards Scotland (or would that be up the road?) We saw the Welcome to Scotland sign in Gretna and had to stop for a quick snapshot. Two Scottish cyclists were doing the same thing and we all kind of laughed and one of them said “Has to be done, doesn’t it?”

Welcome to Scotland

Across the road is the First and Last House in Scotland built in 1830. It served as a tollhouse and wedding venue for about 100 years.

First and Last House In Scotland

In 1753, Parliament decided marriage could only be performed in a church and that the participants had to be at least 21 years old. English law also required an announcement of the couples intention to marry several weeks in advance – the predecessor to the “if anyone knows of any lawful impediment” part of the wedding ceremony.

Scotland had lesser restrictions – there was no notice required, boys could be 14(!) and girls 12(!!) and the couple simply had to agree to be married in front of two witnesses. Catering to eloping couples seeking these “Irregular Marriages” became a big business.

Once Scotland established a residency requirement of 21 days, the marriage boom in Gretna slowed but the border marriages still had novelty value and were performed here until the mid-1900s. The First and Last House is now a tea room.

We stopped in Dumfries where the River Nith runs through town. We were really fortunate to have such good weather.

River Nith

We had lunch at the Three Crowns Tea Room and then strolled around the pedestrian area to stretch our legs. On our way out of town we got stuck behind a parade. We had to poke along for a mile or so but we at least got to listen to bagpipes while we were waiting.

It was great to see so many place names from my favorite Proclaimers songs.

Place Names from Proclaimers Songs

We stayed off the main roads and saw some pretty countryside on the way to Glasgow.

Farmhouse on the way to Glasgow

It’s mostly sheep country,

Sheep on the way to Glasgow

but some people run cattle as well.

Calves on the way to Glasgow

We drove through several small towns and passed at least one hardware store with the requisite old dude sitting out front. Apparently some things are universal. We stopped at a little market in Carsphairn that was pretty old time and had about half the stock behind the counter.

We made our way to the Belhaven Hotel in Glasgow, took a short walk and ate a little supper before retiring.