York, Northumberland and the Wall, to Scotland

I am playing catch up again after two days in Northumberland without wi fi. We left York on Thursday morning, headed for Northumberland and Hadrian’s Wall.  Before we left York, the last thing we did was to walk partway around the city on the medieval city walls on what is called the Lord Mayor’s Walk.  Those walls were built partly atop Roman walls, as you’ll see in the last pic below, which shows the remains of a Roman watchtower, I believe.  The first two pics are of Monk’s Bar, one of the gates which still has an intact portcullis raised inside the gate.  On top of the bar are two statues of defenders poised and ready to hurl rocks upon the heads of those who might attempt to break through the gate.

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On our way back to the car park, where, by the way, people with disabled placards park free, we spotted this sign that almost made us drop to our knees with laughter.



Since neither Amy nor I are feeling particularly healthy (she’s picked up a cold), or bright – eyed (from not enough sleep and too much sun and driving), or slim (blaming the full English breakfasts we’ve been having for that one–my nickname is tattie and hers is piggie, which gives you some idea what we’ve been eating), we are thinking we need to get our hands on some of those bile beans.

From York, we drove up into beautiful Northumberland, where for some reason, despite the lack of trees and mountains, I felt immediately at home.  I can’t explain it, but when I saw all the homes for sale here, I immediately started scheming.  There is a house for sale just behind the Holmhead Guesthouse where we stayed, right on the Wall path.  In fact, some of the stones used to build the farm house turned guesthouse came from the Wall, as did the stones from ruined Thirlwall Castle, just above and across Tipalt Burn.  I can’t wait to share those pictures, but they’re on my camera, so not until we get home.  Here are some Amy took of Thirlwall Castle, c. 13th century.  It is a peaceful ruin, except for the bellowing of cows on the neighboring farm.  You can see how thick the walls were built for protection against wild Scottish rievers from over the border.  It had three floors, and a staircase built inside the wall for added security.  Animals and stores were kept on the ground floor, with two upper floors for living space.  I keep wondering what it would have been like for a young girl to grow up there.

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Our hosts at Holmhead Guesthouse,  Judy and Alan, were so kind and generous and helpful with information, we really hated to leave them.  They also went to great lengths to provide gluten – free breakfast items for me, and the breakfasts were wonderful.  Judy had muffins and fresh milk for tea waiting for us when we arrived that first afternoon, which really went beyond the call of duty for a B & B.  It’s a lovely place, and I am looking forward to posting my pictures of it when we get home.  Thank you, Alan and Judy for a wonderful stay.

For dinners, we walked down to the pub in the Greenhead Hotel, and I’m telling you, the cook there could cook anywhere homemade, home style cooking is appreciated.  The first night, I had a slow – cooked lamb shank, and while I finished all the meat, I had to leave some mash on the plate.  Last night, Amy and I shared a perfectly cooked and seasoned locally sourced ribeye steak so that we could share two desserts: Bailey’s cheesecake and crunchy pecan ice cream made in Northumberland.  The ice cream here is less sweet and creamier than ours–so good.  I’m ashamed to say we ate it all up without even thinking about taking a picture of it!  Below is that delicious lamb shank.


Yesterday was our Wall day, and we did it up brown.  A funny thing happened on our way to a spot we’d been told about: we missed a turn and found ourselves on a farm track obstructing a sheep drive.  The very kind owner, Jill, helped us get out of the way and chatted with us and gave us directions to the place we wanted to go, and also steered us to Housesteads since it was such a beautiful day.  I got the sheep drive with sheepdogs and four wheeler on video, which I’ll have to share on Facebook when I get home.  Jill had a great sense of humor, and we really enjoyed talking to her.

When we found the right lane, we drove to the parking area at Walltown Crags and walked a short distance up to the Wall and the remains of mile tower 49A, I believe.  The weather was gorgeous,  hot, even.  The Wall is amazing.  To think, as one man we spoke to put it, that not only is so much of it still standing 2000 years after it was built, you can walk right up to and on it.

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We have so many pictures of the Wall and of the beautiful country it runs through, they will fill an album when we get home.  From Walltown Crags, we went to Housesteads, a Roman fort and civilian settlement.  It is immense and must have been incredibly impressive when it was built because even in ruins it is impressive.  My favorite things were the spring – fed or seep filled water trough for the commander’s horses in his stable, the system of raised floors and ducting underneath to heat his house and the hospital, and the latrines with their basins for vinegar and the sponges used for arse wipes, along with large stone cisterns which caught runoff which supplied the fort with all its water.   The water trough in the stable and the latrines are below.  They were flushed with runoff carefully channeled down to the lowest point of  the hill.

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It a was fast and easy drive up to Edinburgh today.  Good thing, since Amy caught a chest cold yesterday and is feeling wretched.  It is raining here, and we are not wanting to go out, but we must get some dinner.  Tomorrow, we plan to see the Castle and the Royal Mile, and then we head north again along the coast for some beach time.  Here’s hoping we have good weather for that. So far, what we have seen of Scotland is as beautiful as the rest of Britain, but I will be happier when we leave the city behind.  That’s me, just a country girl to the bone.

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6 Responses to York, Northumberland and the Wall, to Scotland

  1. Michael Mills says:

    Hi Jean,Bile Beans was a laxative,they were devised in Australia in the 1899,they became a brand leader in the UK in the 1930s,and was still on sale until the 1980s,l don’t think you would need a laxative if you had stayed at that hotel you mentioned,some you win,some you loose,at least you quickly found a superb alternative in the Strathearn.I hope the weather holds for you,and poor Amy,still suffering,perhaps a few shots of that Whisky you tried will help her,hic.I will continue to follow your journey with interest.

    • Oh, Michael, thanks for updating us on the bile beans. That’s hilarious. Amy says no whiskey, thank you very much. I tried to get her to try it, because her throat was so sore, but she would not. However, I did try haggis this morning. Never again, although my second try of black pudding was very good! It rained today, so it was fortunate that we went to the beach yesterday. Maybe we’ll have better luck tomorrow. Cheers!

  2. Michael Mills says:

    Jean, I am so pleased that you and Amy are continuing to have such a wonderful time during your travels,you will have so much to share with your friends and family when you return home.You have without doubt seen and visited some amazing places,and it’s not over yet,in fact you have seen more of my country than I have.I am keeping Dave up to date,he is keen to know how you are both keeping,and where on Earth did you find the Bile Beans sign?,one from the past is that,and are you still being referred to as my love?.keep up the full English,and l hope Amy will soon recover from her chest infection.

    Best regards (My Love) Michael

    • Michael, I am so glad to know that you and Dave are still with us! The sign was painted on the wall of a building on Gillygate in York. Can you tell us what bile beans were? Nobody has called me “my love” since we left Wales, and I miss it. But we are still meeting the nicest people everywhere we go. We are both eating full English every morning, minus the beans. Tomorrow, it will be full Scottish, and I have said I will try haggis. I had my first Scotch whiskey tonight, and it was marvelous.

  3. DeAnna Beachley says:

    I am traveling vicariously with you both! I am reading the Outlander series at the moment and wishing to visit Scotland!!!

    • I bought the most recent one for my Kindle and Amy is reading it. I have read all of them. The first two were the best; I find the rest a bit tedious, although I like her characters. Amy also read The Highland Witch on my Kindle. I have not had time to read because it takes me so long to write in the evenings on Amy’s tablet.

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