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Thursday, 21 May 2009

On the road again

Two things!

First of all, apologies to Chris, who IS in the photo of the Class of '67! I must be losing my marbles, but I honestly couldn't see her there!

The second thing is a photo I received from my friend Jean in Dirleton. She had a far better day when she visited the Falkirk Wheel and got this shot of the upper part of the canal, looking back to where the wheel "docks" Obviously the wheel is on its way round, but in this photo the end of the canal is just a very solid gate, beyond which is .... a big drop! Thanks for the photo, Jean. It's excellent! Next time I'm going to walk right out to the end!

So I must get back to the adventures of the Canadian cuzzies. I don't think anyone should miss out on the opportunity to see the Forth Bridge! After all, it is famous all over the world, even if that's just because of the saying, "It's like painting the Forth Bridge!" (By the time you get to the end it's time to start again at the beginning - in other words, a never-ending job))

So I had it in my mind one day that we'd do a tour, visiting Queensferry, for views of the rail Bridge (1890), lunch and a look at the village itself, then over the more modern road bridge (1964) to Fife - the Kingdom of Fife, it is called because of the royal connections with Dunfermline since long long ago. I had two main destinations in mind in Fife, Culross and Dunfermline, so off we went.

(South) Queensferry is a very old town with a narrow main street with wee nooks and crannies to explore and terraces to walk on above the shops. The Queen in question was the 11th century Queen Margaret who married King Malcolm III. She was instrumental in bringing Christianity to her husband and his subjects, and it was she who had a church built in Dunfermline which soon became a place of pilgrimage to the devout Queen who was honoured with a Sainthood in te 12th century!

A ferry across the river was also set up in her name, and for centuries it plied across the Forth in various guises till the 1960s when the Forth Road Bridge was built.

But it was the original cantilever bridge that was to become the famous bridge, due to its unique shape, opened in 1890 to carry passengers and freight across the Forth on the trains.
When I was a child the puff of steam from an engine crossing the bridge was a thrilling sight, travelling as it was so far above our heads.
We would often cross the river on the old car ferries, and watched with interest and excitement as the road bridge began to take shape!
There is an interesting photo I once saw in the Scots Magazine I think it was, of the railway bridge from the air as a train was crossing. Now if I remember, correctly...... no, I'll look it up - Here's the story, from the Scotsman newspaper:- The bridge was a prime target for the Luftwaffe but the Nazi bombers never hit their mark. However, the German propaganda machine tried to claim success by inverting an image of the bridge so rocks in the Firth looked like clouds of smoke. It was also to do with shadows I seem to remember and could easily have been taken for a bridge on fire! It was very clever, but false!

We explored the village, noting dates of buildings from as far back as 1623, mind-boggling for my Canadians,

admired the Jubilee clock


and enjoyed the odd little view between buildings of the bridge.

Time to move on and after crossing the road bridge we entered the Kingdom, and headed west to Culross, (pronounced KOOross), an example of typical 17th century living in Scotland. It has been preserved and renovated by the National Trust for Scotland in its Little Houses Scheme and while some of the buildings are open to the public, most of the old houses are rented out, so that Culross is still a residential village and not just a museum piece. It is fascinating to explore, and I am sure I have already covered a visit here in a previous blog.

After lunch at the Red Lion, Don, Nancy and I decided to do the guided tour of The Palace, the Study and the Town House, as well as explore the old cobbled streets. We learned a lot of the history from a video at the Palace, and got a flavour of the town in its heyday, at which time the village was not the pretty white it is today. It would have been a very dull, dirty smelly village, due to the industries of the day.

Originally the sea came right up to the edge of the village, and the Town House would have overlooked the water.

An idea of how George Bruce, the merchant would have dressed in the 1700s (again from the video) I missed getting the rest of him in a photo!

In fact Bruce's Palace was built in a position where he could monitor the ships plying the river. Today the harbour has been reclaimed, and the water of the firth (estuary) is a distance away.
Photography is not allowed on NTS properties, but I took this view from one of the uppermost windows of the Study, where another merchant worked and oversaw the Forth, which would have been full of sailing ships.

This is the mercat cross and some of the wee houses on the road that leads to the Abbey. The houses are painted in traditional colours, though whether they ever appeared like this in 16th and17th century Culross is debatable,

and one last photo from Culross is the memorial to George Bruce, his wife, and their eight children - 3 boys and 5 girls - in the Abbey on the hill above the village.

I could show you far more photos, but now we are off to Dunfermline for a quick look at the Abbey before returning home.

Here's part of the ruined abbey with the tower of the Abbey church behind it!

and this is the tower of the Abbey church itself. On this side it reads - KING. On the other three sides you will see ROBERT, THE, and BRUCE - King Robert the Bruce was buried there - though his heart travelled to the Crusades and back to the Scottish Borders where it is buried at Dryburgh Abbey.

A quick photoshoot here as time was getting on and we were all beginning to wilt a little. Our last stop was at North Queensferry where you can really get up close and personal with the Forth Bridge!! It always seems to be swathed in "bandages" at the moment, poor old thing! You wanna get closer? How about this then?

Don't you feel you could just reach up and touch it?

So, the sun was slowly sinking in the west as we took our last look at the bridge that would take us homewards.

Another great day!
Talk again soon!

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