Monday, 27 October 2008 When I first started traveling to Scotland, I stayed a few nights every year with my friend Elaine, in
Dunfermline. I'd met Elaine while running a trans-Canada camping tour in 1994, and mentioned to her that I'd always wanted to
visit her home country. She was gracious enough to invite me into her home. On my first trip, in 1998, she met me at the airport, and I
followed her home in my rental car--a great relief for someone terrified of driving on the other side of the road for the first time. (I ran
over three traffic cones before I got out of the airport.) I stayed four nights, afraid to get in the car again, and took the train daily
into Edinburgh to see the sights. Every year thereafter, I spent a few days at Elaine's; when I arrived, I'd ask her what was
new, and she always said that nothing much ever changed. We joked that it was Brigadoon. Elaine seemed to be as much a confirmed
bachelorette as Mr Tattie Heid was a bachelor.
One year I arrived, and something was new. Elaine had a bump.
Elaine and Gary married, the bump is now in school, and a second bump has emerged a couple years agone, confirming my theory that children make time pass more quickly. Every year since the appearance of the first bump, I've tried to arrange to visit Elaine, but our schedules never seem to match up. This year, with five nights in Edinburgh, I'm determined to find time to visit. There is also the matter of Dunfermline Abbey [Undiscovered Scotland], which I have not set foot in since perhaps 1999.
I take the train north across the Firth of Forth this morning. Polly is in school; the wee bairn sits on Elaine's knee as we drink coffee and catch up. (Embarrassing, but true...I have at the moment forgotten the lad's name. James, I think.)
After, I spend a considerable time exploring the abbey, which I understand much better now, thanks to my abbey survey. Queen--later Saint--Margaret founded a Benedictine priory here in the eleventh century, and her son, David, sponsored its rise to abbeyhood, in his mother's honor, in the early twelfth. The large disused nave still stands; the rest of the original church was lost in a series of collapses over the centuries. A new church, still in use today, was built on the ruins of the eastern end in the early 19th century, and from the side, the whole looks like two mismatched parts stuck together. The remainder of the abbey, now in ruins, was used as a royal palace by the early Scottish kings after independence was won from England. Robert the Bruce is entombed in the church--all of him but his heart, anyway.
And that's it for abbeys--I've seen twenty-three, and one priory. Here's the scorecard:
Cistercian, 10--Melrose, Rievaulx, Byland, Fountains, Jervaulx, Sweetheart, Dundrennan, Glenluce, Kinloss, Deer.
Benedictine, 6--Hexham, Durham, Whitby, St Marys, Pluscarden, Dunfermline.
Premonstratensian, 4--Dryburgh, Easby, Egglestone, Fearn.
Valliscaulian, 1--Ardchattan Priory.
I stroll up the street to the Bruce Tavern. The pub seems to have been spruced up since last I was here; I recall it as rather a dive. I keep hoping they'll be selling "The Bruce" t-shirts, but no luck. I have a Belhaven's Best and peruse the various pictures on the walls. There's a poster advertising an appearance in Dunfermline by the Battlefield Band, Saturday last. That would have been fun, but it was the night Jan was in town, which I'd not have missed even for the Batties.
I have a Scotch pie at Stephen's Bakery for old time's sake on the way back to the train--it was Elaine who got me hooked on those. Back in Edinburgh, I visit the Cadenhead's shop, and have a chat with Mark before buying five 20cl bottles: Aultmore, Dufftown, Glen Grant, Tomatin, Jura. The first four are distilleries I'm unfamiliar with; Jura is one I'm not too fond of, but I've never had any but basic distillery offerings.
Whisky forum member Willie JJ, heretofore unmet, arrives at the shop, and we arrange to meet later at the Bow. Drop my goods back at the guesthouse, have dinner at Milne's (back to pub food!), and meet Willie for an entertaining evening of pintery, dramage, and blether. He gives me three more samples, including one sent along by forum member Ras Mazunga of the Netherlands, who has been very complimentary of this website: Springbank 97/08, 59.4%; Old Masters Glenrothes 17, 54.1%; and a Laphroaig 7yo, 57.6% (the latter from Ras.)
Despite having had plenty with Willie, I pop into Smithie's Ale House, back near the guesthouse, for a final, and thoroughly unnecessary, pint.