So, 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!
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.
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.
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.