Apologies for not getting a blog post up the last couple of days–our fun has extended into the evening and I’ve fallen asleep without getting the blog written and pictures uploaded!
So, let’s see…where did we leave off?
Monday we visited Saint Andrews, with its beautiful picturesque ruins of castle and cathedral. Of course it was drizzling too, so it was quite the right atmosphere for wandering medieval ruins! Saint Andrews is important for many reasons–among them, it was the site of John Knox’s original joining up with the beginnings of the early scottish protestant movement (and George Wishart, who was burned at the stake here), and where he was captured from the siege of the castle and taken away to be a galley slave for some time. It’s also the site of the high kirk of Scotland, the cathedral, for many years–some call it the seat of the Scottish church.
in the castle courtyard
checking out the old entrance tower
standing in front of the high altar at St. Andrews Cathedral
Tuesday we visited Stirling, including climbing up the 246 stairs of the William Wallace Monument, which is already on top of a steep hill, so it was a workout–all before lunch! We learned a bunch about the Scottish Wars of Independence (in the 12-1300s). After lunch (soup and sandwiches for most of us…or two kinds of soup, no sandwich, for Teri! You all knew I was indecisive, right? heehee) we walked up yet another steep steep hill toward Stirling Castle. They aren’t kidding when they say it’s the most defensible fortress around. On the way up we stopped at the Church of the Holy Rude, which is so far everyone’s favorite church building. Not only does it still have its original medieval timber roof, and not only was the organist practicing while we were there (which definitely adds to the atmosphere), and not only is there a ton of information AND volunteer church members to ask questions of, but it’s also the only standing church in Scotland that has been the site of a coronation. That’s right–James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England), son of Mary Queen of Scots, was crowned king of Scotland in this very church when he was 13 months old. It was the first Protestant coronation ceremony, and the preacher was none other than John Knox! It was quite a place. When we’d poked around the church a bit, it was off to the castle. We didn’t have anywhere near as much time as we’d hoped (we spent a long time at the Wallace Monument in the morning and early afternoon), but we still caught a guided tour and had some time to run around enjoying the view and the beautifully restored parts of the castle–so you can see what it would have looked like during the time of the Stewart Kings/Queens who so loved the place. You can see why–it’s awesome.
at the top of the Wallace Monument (246 steps and a hill), with Stirling Castle tiny in the background
looking out at the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, from the Wallace Monument
Church of the Holy Rude, Stirling
entering Stirling Castle
Wallace Monument from Stirling Castle
Wednesday morning we went to an early morning communion service at St. Giles Cathedral, then spent some time chatting with the Associate Pastor there. She told us more about the church building, about its history, and some about the congregation today. After a cup of tea, we walked down the Royal Mile to the Scottish Parliament, where we met with Kez Dugdale, a member of the Parliament for the Labour Party. She and her assistant Greg spent–are you ready?–TWO HOURS talking with us and giving us a private tour of the Parliament building. It was awesome. We learned so much about Scottish politics and society, about how the parliament works and what they can do, and all kinds of other things. It was one of the highlights of our trip so far to chat with Kez and Greg, and we are super grateful to Teri/John’s friend Ewan Aitken (a member of the Iona Community!) for setting that up for us.
at St. Giles, chatting with one of the pastors
it’s early morning at St. Giles…
chatting with Kez and Greg
the end of our tour
We took the opportunity for a free afternoon in Edinburgh–some wanted to visit the museum, others do some shopping, and a few of us even climbed Arthur’s Seat (the highest point in Edinburgh, an extinct volcano, with incredible views–especially on such a sunny day!). Teri even got a sunburn (which will surprise no one, of course). Then it was off to the train station to head to Glasgow for a couple of days. We’ll be here seeing the sights and learning more about Scotland…and then it’s off to Iona on Saturday!
from the top of Arthur’s Seat, looking down at Edinburgh Castle
for the Doctor Who fans among us…