Baden-Powell Council BSA at the
1998 Blair Atholl Patrol Jamborette

Days 5 and 6: York, England to Edinburgh, Scotland

Day 5: Sunday, July 19th - York, England

Former capitol of northern England, it's the only city in England still within its medieval walls. It served as the capitol of northern England for years. William Wallace ("Braveheart") sacked it for Scotland, then retreated back north. At the York Castle, of which only Clifford's Tower now remains, the entire Jewish population of York was slaughtered in one night. The narrow, winding streets of York positively drip history, and after three visits it's still my favorite place in all England (I do stay out of the Castle at night, though - can't be too careful).

After waking up on Sunday morning in the Scout Hut (what a shame few American troops have them), we walked the few short blocks to Bootham Bar, the nearest gate into the walled city of York. A note on York terminology - gates are "bars", streets are "gates", and bars are "pubs" - got it? Bootham Bar lets you onto High Petergate (Peter, of course, took the obligatory picture of the sign), which leads to York Minster - the largest Gothic cathedral north of the Alps. There was a service going on, so we couldn't tour the main part of the Minster, but we climbed the tower (whew!) anyway. From there, we walked through the Shambles - the narrow, winding streets take you back to the Middle Ages, when this was the butchers' neighborhood - the overhanging upper stories of the houses gave a place to hang the meat out of the hot sun. There wasn’t any meat hanging out when we were there - no hot sun, either - but we did visit a few Scottish Shops and a Teddy Bear Store (no Britannia Bears, but Dan added to his growing flock of stuffed sheep).

In the Shambles
From the Shambles, amble over in increasing rain to see York Castle Museum, a history of life in York over the years. The museum has everything from bathrooms and kitchens to Roman helmets and music boxes. (at right, Dan and Jamie watch a mechanical Al Jolsen).

At Jorvik Viking Centre we took a "time train" ride through time to a reconstructed Viking village, sights, smells and all, and say the excavation of the actual village site. The book says that the Time Cars seldom break down, so we were fortunate to experience a rare collision of cars - twice. Each time, we got out and were led through the back alleys of Jorvik to the Secret Command Centre, to board yet another Time Car, which at least gave us an interesting view of how Jorvik Centre works. An unexpected visit to the York Dungeon gave us a good idea of disease and torture through the ages (ecch).

York Castle Museum

We left York at dinner time ("Thank You" to Arthur Benson and the rest of the Lord Mayor's Own (York) Scout Group - we'll be back!). On the way north, we stopped at a motorway rest stop for dinner and an impromptu birthday party for Dan. (You can make a very convincing birthday cake out of little square plastic-wrapped desserts, lined up tightly in rows. It is more convincing if you remove the plastic first, but what the heck.) As night fell, we drove north into Scotland at last, to stay overnight at Bonaly Scout Training Centre in Edinburgh.



Dan and his flock of sheep, 
asleep on the motorway to Scotland

Day 6: Monday, July 20th: Edinburgh, Scotland

While I returned Moby Dick to the van hire service out by Edinburgh Airport, Pete and the group took the bus from Bonaly into Edinburgh. By the time I'd found the rental company, left the minibus, ridden my own bus into Edinburgh, and climbed the hill to Edinburgh Castle, the group had had breakfast and Pete was just getting up to the ticket window. Talk about timing! The plaza outside Edinburgh Castle is the site for the Military Tattoo, which is held in early August each year. When we were there, the huge stands were being assembled, an impressive sight in themselves, although they do block the view of the castle from the Royal Mile.

The Castle is an interesting place, sprawling over the top of a hill overlooking Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth, and after the guided tour we took the time to see the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Scone (pronounced "Scoon"), on which, legend says, the Kings of Scotland were crowned, including MacBeth and John Baliol. The Stone was taken to England in 1296 by King Edward I, and was just returned a few years ago. One guide book described the return as "an attempt to convince the Scots that Union is really a Good Idea", and notes that legend said that the real Stone of Destiny was covered with rich carvings, whereas the stone Edward took to England is basically a plain cubical stone. I don't know about that, but I can vouch for the fact that the one which was returned is pretty plain. Wonder if there's a real Stone, still in Scotland, tended by the descendents of the monks from whom Edward took this stone? The jewels are housed in a building next to the Scottish War Memorial, a very moving hall bearing the names and regiments of the Scottish dead from the First World War.

Edinburgh Castle
After lunch, we entered the Royal Mile, en route to Holyroodhouse Palace, still a Royal residence. The mile-long street was full of Scouts in uniform, from many countries, all headed for Blair Atholl. Along the way we saw the city through the Camra Obscura, and visited Tron Kirk and the Museum of Childhood. The Museum of Childhood was founded by a City Councilman who hated kids, and wanted to put a statue of Herod at the entrance. Fortunately, perhaps, he was dissuaded, and the museum is a fascinating look at the objects of childhood from the 19th century to today. One case was devoted to Scouting and other youth organizations, and there were large collections of toy cars and trains. 
Scouts were all over the Royal Mile
After Holyroodhouse, we walked back up hill, stopping to pick up a few things at the Scout Shop on South Bridge, and paying our respects to Greyfriars Kirk graveyard and the grave of Greyfriars Bobby, the terrier who lived there for fourteen years at the grave of his owner (nod to Walt Disney). Dinner at a pizzeria in Grassmarket (the waitress was from Syracuse - small world), and bus back to Bonaly for our last night before the Jamborette.
Andrew at Greyfriars Bobby's grave

Tuesday, July 21st: A coach picked us up at Bonaly, along with contingents from Canada and California, and, after a stop for lunch (fish & chips) at Pitlochry, we arrived at Blair Atholl and the grounds of Blair Castle by 1 PM. The Scouts were met by the Scottish members of their patrol, from the Forth Valley Area, and headed off to Murray Subcamp to settle in and make acquaintance, and the Jamborette was underway.

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