Roslyn Chapel

Trip Start Oct 02, 2007
Trip End Dec 15, 2007

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Friday, November 23, 2007

We visited first visited Roslin Chapel, which is 6 miles south of Edinburgh, before we headed north to Inverness. The Roslin Chapel was made famous by the book DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. The most notable thing about the Roslin Chapel is not the link to the book, but the elaborate stone carvings. All of the aisle columns are elaborately carved and on the transoms crossing the side aisles one can find the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Cardinal Virtues and a Dance of Death.
On a slab in the north aisle depicts a knight with a dog at its feet. "The story goes that Sir William Sinclair, an ancestor of the founder of the chapel, wagered his own lands against the much larger lands of Pentland by asserting that his hounds would catch and kill a deep that had eluded the royal hunt before it reached a certain burn in the hills. The dogs caught the deer just as it reached the burn, and the king immediately gave Sinclair the land. In thanks for the gift, Sir William ordered a church to be built in the hills. This foundation, called St Katherine in the Hopes, now lies buried under the waters of Glencorse Reservoir." (Discover Scotland)
On the right front of the chapel, there is a pillar carved by the apprentice of the master stone mason. While the master stone mason was traveling in Italy, the apprentice had a vision on night showing him what he needed to carve. Believing that the master stone mason would never return, the apprentice convinced priest to let him carve this pillar. After the pillar was completed, as task that took between 2-3 years, and the pillar in place, the master stone mason returned home from his travels. He saw what the apprentice had done, and in a fit of rage, he kill the apprentice. The other stone masons saw what the master stone mason had done, and ended up killing master stone mason. The pillar the apprentice made is called the Apprentice Pillar. There is another pillar opposite the Apprentice Pillar that is not as intricately carved call the Master Stone Mason's Pillar.
In 1996, in an effort to restore the chapel, the Roslin Chapel Trust erected a superstructure above the chapel to help dry out the roof and ceiling. This superstructure allows visitors a view of the roof and stone masonry outside the chapel. According to the guide, before the superstructure was built, the ceiling of the chapel was tinged green from the moisture; now the ceiling is turning back to its natural color. Once the exterior restoration is complete in 2018, they plan to open the chambers under the sanctuary floor. These chambers are thought to hold the missing statues in the chapel along with other artifacts from the building. Rumor has it that by playing certain notes on period instruments, the floor will open and revel gold and jewels the likes of which man has never seen. Last fall, a man studying this tried just that, but alas, nothing happened.
After a frigid 90 minutes at the Chapel, we headed north to Inverness. Just before crossing the river on the Fourth Road Bridge, I had to pay my first toll of my trip. While on the Forth River Bridge, one notices to the right (East), the Forth Rail Bridge. It is a hideous sight, such an ugly bridge. The Forth Rail Bridge has a storied history. In the mid 19th century when rail was stretching across Scotland, and almost no challenge seemed too difficult. Crossing Firth of Forth seemed to be insurmountable, until an engineer named Thomas Bouch, persuaded North British Railway to build across the Firth of Forth. Four days after Christmas 1879, the first bridge to be completed (Tay Bridge), collapsed sending a Edinburgh train and 79 people to their deaths.
Amazingly, public opinion swayed the directors to begin a search for new designers to finish the project. They hired Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker, who had been responsible for much of the work on London's underground subway system. The designers threw out the original suspension bridge design in favor of a cantilever design-which at the time was revolutionary. One of the designers, Baker, believed the most hazardous task of construction would be the raising the piers, however, the most hazardous part of construction was the towers which rose to a height of 360 feet above the sea. 57 people died during that phase of construction, however, most fell to their deaths-mostly likely-due to the pub next to the construction site. In 1890, the Forth Rail Bridge was completed. Rumor has it that it takes a year to paint the entire 145 acres of steel on the bridge and that a team of painters continually paints the bridge.
After driving for several hours up A9 toward Inverness, I turned off-curiosity-the highway to check out Queen's View. I hadn't seen anything about Queen's View in my search of places to visit, so I had to check it out. This was my first exposure to a single track road in Scotland. Much like the single track roads of Switzerland, except for crazier grades and curves. Queen's View is a lookout point above the Lock Tummel and the mountains of Schiehallon rising to the west. Its said that in 1866, Queen Victoria visited (and praised) this spot during a tour of the Highlands. It is believed that before Queen Victoria visited, that Mary Queen of Scots visited this spot back in 1564. The sweeping views of the Lock and hills is quite beautiful. I can see why the Scots created a park in this spot.
We explored of few other places in this area including, without much success due to winter time closures including the Blair Castle. One other place I wanted to visit was the Bridge of Tilt. Honestly, I was expecting a bridge that titled. Nope! What it was is a town named Bridge of Tilt. I was hoping the Discover Scotland books would have something about this town, and since I have no internet access here, I guess I will have to research it later.
You know, one would think I would have learned my lesson after the first day in the UK, but noOoooo, Melinda and I go on a hunt for a place to stay once we arrive in Inverness. Between our lack of cold hard cash, and most lodging choices closed down for the winter, we found our choices lacking. Just outside of Inverness, I stopped by a hotel which must not have been busy, because they dropped their rates from 102.50 a night per person to 90 a night (this is in pounds), I thought it was a good deal, but Melinda didn't think so and given how tight I am with finances, we decided to continue west. We drove for another 15 minutes before we found a B&B that wasn't closed (or so we thought), the husband was really inviting and would have let us stay, but the wife (who returned home 20 minutes later), was not so inviting (ok, inviting is not the right word-bitchy is more like it) about renting to us for the night or about suggesting lodging at all in the area. I'm sure her husband got an earful later. Finally, after another 15 minutes drive west we ended up in Drumnadrochit (home of the Urquhart Castle) for the night.
All this trip I have been careful about having a room with En Suite facilities, this place didn't have that luxury, instead the bathrooms where downstairs and down the hall. They were cold too, very cold, not something you want to experience in a middle of the night bathroom run. Otherwise it was ok, a bit dated and the heating in the room never fully warmed the room up.
We ate this evening at a Scottish Pub/Hotel (Benlevy Hotel) just down the street. Good food, good beer and a really friendly dog.
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