I’ve been so busy having little adventures over the last couple of months, that I’ve neglected this blog for some time. After a visit to Dryburgh Abbey on Friday, I’m inspired to write about the experience.

I have to say that one of the things I will most miss about living in Scotland is the excellent public transit network. I realise that Canada is bigger and less populated than the UK, but we could really learn something from their example. We have been able to take ‘city’ buses (as opposed to City Link buses) to destinations as far away as the Scottish Borders — a two hour trek! — and all for very reasonable prices.

The ruins of Dryburgh Abbey in the Scottish Borders

Friday morning we boarded a bus to Dryburgh Abbey. When I asked the driver for a return ticket (Ron travels free on his bus pass for 60+), he thought for a moment and printed off one for St. Boswell’s — £11.90. Ron settled in to read for the duration, while I was happy to sit back and just watch the scenery.

At Earlston (home of the 13th century laird and prophet, Thomas the Rhymer), two passengers got on — one a man in his 60s, the other in his teens. They sat behind us and chatted for a bit, then the older fellow gave Ron a bookmark for his book — a business card for his new online venture for an old passion: archery. He introduced himself as Mick, and the younger fellow as his student, Alex. When Mick learned we were Canadian, he invited us to visit sometime and have some free lessons. When they’d boarded the bus, I’d heard him ask for a ticket to St. Boswell’s, so knew he would know exactly which stop we needed to disembark.

On reaching St. Boswell’s, he told us that we had a bit of a hike ahead of us. Because I’d checked out the route on Google maps, I told him we were quite content to make the 20-minute trek. He recommended a couple of places for us to stop (the local church for a reasonably-priced and tasty lunch, the local pub for a good pint, and a local cafe/bookstore/antique shop), and we headed off. Uncertain when we saw no signs directing us towards Dryburgh, we stopped a little further along and asked a postman. He told us we were on the right track, but that it would take us longer than 20 minutes to walk. Turned out he was right. Dryburgh was almost 4 miles from St. Boswell.

Sir Walter Scott's tomb in the north transept of Dryburgh Abbey

Initially annoyed that Google had steered us wrong, I found my irritation diminishing as we walked along the same route that Sir Walter Scott’s funeral cortege travelled when taking him to his final resting place in Dryburgh Abbey ruins. The countryside is lovely and, other than having no sidewalks or even shoulders to take one out of the path of cars, serene. Thankfully, traffic was light and between cars, the birdsong was spectacular! We crossed over the Tweed, trudging uphill then down, with Scott’s beloved Eildon Hills (said to be home to Merlin — though a different Merlin than the one popularised in English tales of King Arthur) visible in the distance.

The Temple of the Muses overlooking the River Tweed

We finally reached the Abbey and asked one of the employees of Historic Scotland whether there was a shorter route back. At first, when we told him we’d walked about three miles from town, he said, “Oh, it’s not nearly that long!” We told him that the road signs told us it was at least three. “You mean you came by the ROAD?! That’s nearly four miles!” He suggested a different route back — one that took us along the river, past the Temple of the Muses, over a suspension footbridge and along the other side of the river to St. Cuthbert’s Way. Despite a brief hail shower, the walk was delightful! No traffic sounds — just the river, the birds and the smell of wild garlic that blanketed either side of the footpath.

When we got back to the bus stop at St. Boswell’s, we discovered that the next — and last for the day — bus to Edinburgh left at 17.35. That gave us more than an hour to kill. We decided to go the cafe that Mick had recommended. On passing the community hall though, Mick appeared and invited us in for the archery demonstration. And even better than that? When the archers took a break, waiting for the next demonstration to begin, he invited us to have a try. I missed the targets on my first two attempts, but with a bit of instruction and the suggestion that I quit trying to hit the target, I drew the bow, released the arrow and made my first “kill”. I’m hooked!

Oh yeah — and Google maps? When I checked what I’d printed out, Google maps had told me to disembark at Newton St. Boswell’s, which is down the A68 from St. Boswell’s. Had we done so, we would have travelled over busier roads, we wouldn’t have chatted with Mick, and I wouldn’t have had a chance to play with bows and arrows. All in all, a really great day! (And the Abbey was lovely, too!)

detail of The Muses

Footbridge over the Tweed (looking down from the Temple of the Muses), leading towards St. Cuthbert's Way

Wild garlic!!!!