Melrose Abbey

3 stoogesSo, we unexpectedly arrived at 900 year old Melrose Abbey, all ready to spend an hour or so running around the grounds in the drizzle.

There was an entrance fee. Of course there was. But the friendly and knowledgeable David explained that if we were likely to visit 3 or 4 Historic Scotland sites in a year, then we’d be better off with an annual ticket. And best of all, paying by monthly direct debit would cost the same overall as paying in one installment, and would mean paying less today than a one-off ticket. A quick look at the list of Historic Scotland sites convinced us both that we’d be visiting an awful lot more than 3 or 4 sites this year – perfect!

heart of Robert the Bruce Melrose Abbey

Heart of Robert the Bruce – perhaps

Tooled up with a free audio guide for Midi, a quiz-sheet for Maxi, and undivided parental attention for Mini, off we set to learn more about the monks who’d set up and lived in the abbey. Mini was obviously listening to me explain who Robert The Bruce was and why his heart was allegedly interred here – she merrily explained who King Robert was later when we visited Arbroath Abbey and talked about how he’d organised the writing of the Declaration of Arbroath.

3 little gargoyles on the south wall

3 little gargoyles on the south wall

I got distracted by the beautiful and still-intricate stonework. I liked the crouching demon and bagpipe-playing pig gargoyles best, and helped Mini spot the telltale zigzags on walls where old staircases used to be.

We 4 eldest all trekked to the top of a spiral stairwell to the very top of the abbey. Such a beautiful view! But I made the mistake of looking over the barrier, down a 25m sheer drop to the ground. I instantly lost my ability to focus, so trotted down the stairs to rescue a scared Mini and take her to ground level. Meanwhile Maxi and Midi impersonated another gargoyle very well. I’m glad that The Boss’s (far fitter) thighs burned as much as mine on the return to ground level. Made me feel like less of a loser.

Maxi reckons this must be a pirate's grave, lol

Maxi reckons this must be a pirate’s grave, lol

After answering all the questions on Maxi’s sheet, reading all the excellent information boards and counting stone-mason marks, we walked over the medieval drains to the 16th century Commendator’s house, which is now a museum. Midi tried on one of the monk habits and looked for all the world like a cream-coloured ghost. The girls spent some time colouring-in and having their imaginations fired by the little dolls while The Boss and I looked at the stones and exhibits and sniggered like teenagers at the unearthed piss pots.

I didn’t expect to enjoy the visit as thoroughly as I did; it was worth making the journey (had we not found ourselves there by accident). The rest of our day in Melrose was just as fabulous.

5 thoughts on “Melrose Abbey

  1. Does the museum mention the fact there is a contemporary Cistercian monastery an hour away?
    Glad you enjoyed your impromptu visit – hope your plans for using your Historic Scotland membership are well in hand

    • Paul, I don’t think it did, but to be honest I was skim-reading lots – my attention was mostly on 2 of the minxes who seemed determined to scale the walls. After lasting for nearly a millennia, I was afraid the abbey wouldn’t survive first encounter with my trio.

      Where is the modern monastery? Doing some Googling, is it the Mount St Bernard monastery near Coalville? It sounds fascinating, peaceful and challenging. They even have a Facebook page.

      As for the Historic Scotland membership – we visited Arbroath Abbey yesterday, and have plans to visit 3 more properties later this week. I don’t think we’d have used it even last year, but the timing is just perfect right now. Brilliant!

      • Thanks so much for that link. I had a browse – I’m quite curious about religion and how it affects people – and I was very struck by the paragraph at about how prayer is fundamentally listening and watching. It’s a very different from the impression I generally have that prayer is a one-way monologue from the person praying to their God. I’m not religious, so this is a new concept to me and it makes me see monks and nuns in a new light. I’m going to have a long ponder on it.

        One of things that I love about you Paul is that you inevitably give me things to think about; really, properly mentally chew over for ages. Thank you 🙂

  2. Pingback: Melrose on a Sunday Afternoon | (Reasons Why I'm A) Grumpy Old Trout

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