1 October 2010--A pretty dim day, starting out, and it quickly becomes a good deal dimmer, both literally and
figuratively. After breakfast, I pack up my stuff and walk up to town to call my accommodations on Holy Island. I am
deeply dismayed to find out that I don't actually have accommodations on Holy Island. Some sort of mix-up--at the
moment, it appears that I failed to confirm my booking. I will have to check the email trail later.
I decide to drive to Alnwick to ask for help from the tourist information centre there. I doubt very much they can find me a room on Holy Island at this point; but it's worth a shot, and if it fails, I'll take a room in Alnwick.
Along the way, I pass a hamlet called Hartburn. A hart is a deer, and a burn is a stream, but the acid reflux idea is hard to shake. Just the other day, I read that William de Hartburn changed his name to William de Washington more than three hundred years ago. No doubt he'd been traumatized by the ribbing he took in middle school. Whatever the reason, we Yanks are fortunate he made the switch, for one of his descendants was (you guessed it) the Father of our Country, and we might elsewise be sending our congressmen to Hartburn DC.
Alnwick is a handsome and interesting-looking town, even in the increasingly dismal weather. I find the information centre, where a very nice lady spends altogether too long trying to find me a room on Holy Island. We finally give up and start looking around Alnwick. It quickly becomes apparent that B&B rooms in town are generally more expensive than I want to pay for.
It occurs to me to go to Coldstream, just over the Scottish border. I'd looked at it while planning, drawn in part (okay, entirely) by a pub called the Besom, included in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide. I'd eventually passed it up, but it fits in perfectly now, being an easy drive from Holy Island, which I still hope to visit tomorrow. I drive up across the Tweed and start poking around town. Find a room at a hotel in the center of town; it isn't very high standard, but the price is right, and I'm happy to have it.
I take a walk around town. It's not very big. Coldstream's main claim to fame is as the origin of the Coldstream Guards, a regiment whose history dates to the mid-17th century. It played a pivotal role in the restoration of the monarchy in the wake of the Civil War, and has served Britain with distinction since. I learn a good deal about it in the small museum just off the market square.
In Henderson Park, there is homage to the six members of the Guards who have lost their lives in Afghanistan.
There was an abbey here at one time. Nothing of it survives, but the Penitent's Walk and the Nun's Walk, atop the riverbank, are reminders. I end up at the bridge over the Tweed, built in the 1760's. Robbie Burns was here, crossing the bridge for his first step ever on English soil, at which point he recited a few lines of poetry praising Scotland. Could be a little more gracious, hmmm? A plaque on the bridge commemorates the event.
During my brief rest back at the hotel, the sky breaks, and the late-afternoon sun shines down the High Street. I saunter down to the Besom for dinner and pints. It's a handsome pub, filled with photos and memorabilia of the Guards, and busy on a Friday evening. The day has not gone as planned, but it's turned out okay.