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Michael’s Travel Diary

Monday, 08 Oct 2007

MapStill catching up....

Wednesday morning (26th Sept) we left Edinburgh and headed south for about 15 minutes until we reached a small town called Roslin... or Roslyn, or even Rosslyne. As with many old town, and I mean OLD, the spelling of the name has changed over and over again, as the ruling force in the area (Normans, Saxons, French etc.) have seen fit to spell it. Anyway, getting back on track... the town is famous for two main things, the old Roslin castle and the old Roslin Chapel. More recently though, the Roslin Chapel has become a huge tourist destination due to it's inclusion at the end of the Da Vinci Code.

The outside of the chapel really isn't much to look at, mainly due to the scaffolding that is all around it. But this scaffolding is actually open to the public, so you can climb up the steps and have a look at the roof of the chapel and examine the outside. Unfortunately, being outside, it has deteriorated extensively. The inside, wow. The entire inside of the chapel has been carved immaculately. The pillars are carved, the walls are carved, the roof carved. There are stories that go along with every carving, and it is easy to see why the chapel was used as a source of symbolism for the Dan Brown book.

One of the best stories though was that of the master and apprentice pillars. The master carved detailed pillar at the front of the chapel, and a fine job he did. He left the town for a couple years to search out an intricate pattern for the pillar opposite at the front of the chapel, and in that time the apprentice carved the second pillar even more beautifully that the master's original pillar. The master, so enraged with being shown up killed the apprentice upon returning to the chapel. This story itself formed the basis for a wall carving at the far end of the church.

Upon leaving the Roslin, we made the 90 minute drive north to St. Andrew's. The home of golf is a town that it would appears survives purely on golf tourism. The British open has been played countless times on the Old Course at St. Andrew's and over the years, the St. Andrew's gold course has continued to grow. There are now 6 18-hole course, with a 7th course (Castle Course) due to open next year, as well as a 9-hole golf course, numerous driving ranges and practice areas, and 3 club-houses. Sitting along side the beach, it is a true links course, with hardly a tree in sight, just waist high grass that has been blown flat due to the sea-breeze... don't expect to find your ball in there though!

Dad, having played the Old Course many a year ago as a 15 year old, was keen to play it again, until he found out it was £125 a round.... instead, we played the newest of the courses Strathtyrum, at a reasonably cheap £24 a round. Even this course, the most modest of the 6 18-hole courses, was immaculate. The fairways, wide and manicured, but deadly rough and deep bunkers making it a challenge. The hire clubs we had, a full set of Callaway's, having been used for no more that half a dozen rounds in the past I bet. But the weather, cold (but dry) and windy, wreaked havoc with our games... that and the fact we hadn't played a full round in at least two years. As we approached the final hole, Dad led by 1 stroke, and I holed out on the 18th for a bogey 5. Dad, asking what the score was, finally found himself needing a 12 foot putt for a double bogey 6 and to tie the game - and the lucky mongrel hit it. Probably twice as long as any put he'd made all day! We had an awesome time out there, then headed over to the Old Course to have a look around. The greens on the Old Course look smoother than a pool table with green felt just rolling away meticulous in all directions. Regardless of the fact it's a gold course and you may hate the game, the place is beautiful, especially as the mist glare with the sun setting gave everything a green dream like haze. Hard to explain, but it really was pretty. One day I'll play there....

After dinner and a couple drinks at one of the local bars, we jumped in the car and headed off towards Loch Ness, the last stop before the flight back to London.

It was a long drive, and was dark before we were too far down the road. We pushed on aiming for the souther tip of the Loch, so that we could drive along it the following morning towards Inverness. Eventually we had to stop, and paused at a place called Roy's Bridge for the night, about 30 miles from our intended destination. It was a small B&B and the bar was WELL stocked with single malt whiskeys, and a more than happy to sell them bar tender. Dad and I sat there listening to the stories of these different distilleries and then sampling their whiskeys.

The following morning, we set off for Inverness, driving along side Loch Ness, with Mum constantly looking for the monster. Eventually we arrived in Inverness, dropped off the car and headed to the airport for the flight to London. An uneventful flight, and we caught the bus into London from the airport and I dropped Mum & Dad at their hotel in Mayfair and headed out to Andy's place in Acton Town. A couple beers and a quiet night.

Friday morning I woke up and started trying to sort out my visa and eventually found that it had already been sent! Yeah... I met up with Mum & Dad at Westminster Abbey and we did a tour there and then I dragged them round town to see some of the less exciting sights of London - Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square etc. An early evening and we went our separate ways (me back to a couch in Acton Town) and had a VERY early night.

Saturday morning 345 am - alarm goes off and we get up to catch up bus into London, bus time 410 am. By 450 am we were climbing off the bus at Trafalgar Square and wandered up to the Shaftsbury Road Walkabout where we met Dad out the front... well, what a waste of time that was. Had a top morning drinking a few brews with the old man (everyone else we were with was still crook from Oktoberfest earlier in the week), but the football Grand Final was boring as hell. Congrats to the Cats though.

Dad and I stuck it out till the end (more than many others) and then headed back to the hotel for a couple hours snooze. Back up at midday, we headed out for a feed, and then to Westminster Parliament to catch up with Jess Muddit and do a tour of the parliament. The parliament tour was awesome, as we headed through the house of lords and the house of commons. The interior of the former palace just beautiful And it was cool catching up with Jess too! After the tour, the four of us (Mum, Dad, Jess & I) headed out to one of the local pubs for a couple brews before Jess headed off and the folks and I looked for a feed. After a traditional dinner of bangers & mash, I pushed off back to Andy's to catch up with those in the house of the living dead and the folks went back to their hotel.

The Sunday morning, I bailed from Andy's at 8 am with all my stuff to Mum & Dad's hotel. I dropped my bags there and the three of us headed to the She-Bu Walkie to watch the NRL Grand Final. This was an exact repeat of last year with the Shaftsbury Ave / She-Bu combination for the AFL / NRL Grand Finals. And like last year, I was standing in the line at the She-Bu Walkie waiting to get in, and I was standing in front of someone that I didn't know, but as we waited a mutual friend came up and joined us... that place is weird like that.

In early, I enjoyed a jug of snakebites with Mum and Dad and watch the Storm beat Manly into the ground which was fun! A meat pie, for a late breakfast and we left after the game and took Mum to Harrod's to say she's been there. After that, back to the hotel to pick up my stuff, and then a farewell to Mum and Dad as I left London for the homelessness of Southampton / Isle of Wight!

And that concludes the UK Road Trip with Mum & Dad.... and everything since then in the next installment :-)