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Edinburgh To Berwick

We left Edinburgh the next forenoon with a view of making Berwick-on-Tweed our stopping place for the evening, not a long distance in miles but a considerable one measured in spots of historical importance. The road much of the way skirts the ocean and is a magnificent highway leading through a number of quaint towns famous in Scotch song and story. Numerous battlefields are scattered along the way, but we found it difficult to locate a battlefield when we passed it, and generally quit trying. In fact, in the days of border warfare the whole south of Scotland was the scene of almost continuous strife, and battles of greater or less importance were fought everywhere with the English in the centuries of fierce hatred which existed between the two nations. The Scots held their own wonderfully well, considering their greatly inferior numbers and the general poverty of their country. The union, after all, was brought about not by conquest but by a Scotch king going to London to assume the crown of the two kingdoms. The famous old town of Berwick-on-Tweed bore the brunt of the incursions from both sides on the eastern coast, as did Carlisle on the west. The town of Dunbar, situated on the coast about midway between Edinburgh and Berwick, was of great importance in border history. It had an extensive and strongly fortified castle, situated on the margin of a cliff overhanging the ocean, and which was for a time the residence of Queen Mary after her marriage with Darnley. Nothing now remains of this great structure save a few crumbling walls of red sandstone, which are carefully propped up and kept in the best possible repair by the citizens, who have at last come to realize the cash value of such a ruin. If such a realization had only come a hundred years ago, a great service would have been done the historian and the antiquarian. But this is no less true of a thousand other towns than of Dunbar. No quainter edifice did we see in all Britain than Dunbar's Fifteenth Century town hall. It seemed more characteristic of an old German town than of Scotland. This odd old building is still the seat of the city government.

Our route from Dunbar ran for a long way between the hills of Lammermoor and the ocean and abounded in delightful and striking scenery. We were forcibly reminded of Scott's mournful story, "The Bride of Lammermoor," as we passed among the familiar scenes mentioned in the book, and it was the influence of this romantic tale that led us from the main road into narrow byways and sleepy little coast towns innocent of modern progress and undisturbed by the rattle of railways trains. No great distance from Berwick and directly on the ocean stands Fast Castle, said to be the prototype of the Wolf's Crag of "Lammermoor." This wild story had always interested me in my boyhood days and for years I had dreamed of the possibility of some time seeing the supposed retreat of the melancholy Master of Ravenswood. We had great difficulty in locating the castle, none of the people seeming to know anything about it, and we wandered many miles among the hills through narrow, unmarked byways, with little idea of where we were really going. At last, after dint of inquiry, we came upon a group of houses which we were informed were the headquarters of a large farm of about two thousand acres, and practically all the people who worked on the farm lived, with their families, in these houses. The superintendent knew of Fast Castle, which he said was in a lonely and inaccessible spot, situated on a high, broken headland overlooking the ocean. It was two or three miles distant and the road would hardly admit of taking the car any farther. He did not think the ruin was worth going to see, anyhow; it had been cared for by no one and within his memory the walls had fallen in and crumbled away. Either his remarks or the few miles walk discouraged me, and after having traveled fully thirty miles to find this castle, I turned about and went on without going to the place at all, and of course I now regret it as much as anything I failed to do on our whole tour. I shall have to go to Fast Castle yet, by motor car.

After regaining the main road, it was only a short run along the edge of the ocean to Berwick-on-Tweed, which we reached early in the evening. I recall no more delightful day during our tour. It had been fresh and cool, and the sky was perfectly clear. For a great part of the way the road had passed within view of the ocean, whose deep unruffled blue, entirely unobscured by the mists which so often hang over the northern seas, stretched away until it was lost in the pale, sapphire hues of the skies. The country itself was fresh and bright after abundant rains, and as haymaking was in progress in many places along the road, the air was laden with the scent of the newly mown grasses. Altogether, it was a day long to be remembered.

Berwick-on-Tweed lies partly in England and partly in Scotland, the river which runs through it forming the boundary line. An odd bridge built by James I connects the two parts of the town, the highest point of its archway being nearest the Scottish shore and giving the effect of "having its middle at one end," as some Scotch wit has expressed it. The town was once strongly fortified, especially on the Scottish side, and a castle was built on a hill commanding the place. Traces of the wall surrounding the older part of the city still remain; it is easy to follow it throughout its entire course. When the long years of border warfare ended, a century and a half ago, the town inside of the wall must have appeared much the same as it does today. It is a town of crooked streets and quaint buildings, set down without the slightest reference to the points of the compass. The site of the castle is occupied by the railway station, though a few crumbling walls of the former structure still remain. The station itself is now called The Castle and reproduces on a smaller scale some of the architectural features of the ancient fortress.

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