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Edinburgh To The Borders

Two men above all others and everything else are responsible for the romantic fame which the bleak and largely barren Land of Scots enjoys the English-speaking world over. If Robert Burns and Walter Scott had never told the tales and sung the songs of their native land, no endless streams of pilgrims would pour to its shrines and its history and traditions would be vastly second in interest to those of England and Wales. But the Wizard of the North touched Scotia's rough hills with the rosy hues of his romance. He threw the glamour of his story around its crumbling ruins. Through the magic of his facile pen, its petty chiefs and marauding nobles assumed heroic mould and its kings and queens, rulers over a mere handful of turbulent people, were awakened into a majestic reality. Who would care aught for Prince Charlie or his horde of beggarly Highlanders were it not for the song of Burns and the story of Scott? Nor would the melancholy fate of Queen Mary have been brought so vividly before the world, but wherefore multiply instances to illustrate an admitted fact?

In Edinburgh we were near the center from which Scott's vast influences radiated. The traditions of Burns overshadowed Southwestern Scotland and the memories of Scott seem to be indentified with the cities, the villages, the solitary ruins, the hills and vales of the eastern coast. We note as we pass along Princess Street, one of the finest thoroughfares in Britain, the magnificent monument to the great author, the most majestic tribute ever erected to a literary man, a graceful Gothic spire, towering two hundred feet into the sky. The city is full of his memories. Here are many of the places he celebrated in his stories, his haunts for years, and the house where he retired after financial disaster to face a self-chosen battle with a gigantic debt which he might easily have evaded by a mere figment of the law.

However, one can hardly afford to take from a motor tour the time which should rightly be given to Edinburgh, for the many attractions of the Athens of the North might well occupy a solid week. Fortunately, a previous visit by rail two years before had solved the problem for us and we were fairly familiar with the more salient features of the city. There is one side-trip that no one should miss, and though we had once journeyed by railway train to Melrose Abbey and Abbottsford House, we could not forego a second visit to these famous shrines and to Dryburgh Abbey, which we had missed before. Thus again we had the opportunity of contrasting the motor car and the railway train. I remembered distinctly our former trip to Melrose by rail. It was on a Saturday afternoon holiday when crowds of trippers were leaving the city, packed in the uncomfortable compartments like sardines in a box, not one in a dozen having a chance to sit. We were driven from Melrose to Abbottsford House at a snail's pace, consuming so much time that a trip to Dryburgh Abbey was out of the question, though we had left Edinburgh about noon. By motor, we were out of the city about three o'clock, and though we covered more than eighty miles, we were back before lamp-lighting time. The road to Dryburgh Abbey runs nearly due south from Edinburgh, and the country through which we passed was hardly so prosperous looking as the northeastern section of Scotland, much of it rather rough-looking country, adapted only for sheep-grazing and appearing as if it might be reclaimed moorland.

The tomb of Walter Scott is in Dryburgh Abbey, and with the possible exception of Melrose it probably has more visitors than any other point in Scotland outside of Edinburgh. The tourist season had hardly begun, yet the caretaker told us that more than seventy people had been there during the day and most of them were Americans. The abbey lies on the margin of the River Tweed, the silver stream so beloved of Scott, and though sadly fragmentary, is most religiously cared for and the decay of time and weather held in check by constant repairs and restoration. The many thousands of admission fees every year no doubt form a fund which will keep this good work going indefinitely. The weather-beaten walls and arches were overgrown with masses of ivy and the thick, green grass of the newly mown lawn spread beneath like a velvet carpet. We had reached the ruin so late that it was quite deserted, and we felt the spirit of the place all the more as we wandered about in the evening silence. Scott's tomb, that of his wife and their eldest son are in one of the chapels whose vaulted roof still remains in position. Tall iron gates between the arches enclose the graves, which are marked with massive sarcophagi of Scotch granite. Dryburgh Abbey was at one time the property of the Scott family, which accounts for its use as their burial-ground. It has passed into other hands, but interments are still made on rare occasions. The spot was one which always interested and delighted Scott and it was his expressed wish that he be buried there.

We had been warned that the byways leading to the abbey from the north of the Tweed were not very practicable for motors and we therefore approached it from the other side. This made it necessary to cross the river on a flimsy suspension bridge for foot-passengers only, and a notice at each end peremptorily forbade that more than half a dozen people pass over the bridge at one time. After crossing the river it was a walk of more than a mile to the abbey, and as we were tempted to linger rather long it was well after six o'clock when we re-crossed the river and resumed our journey. Melrose is twelve miles farther on and the road crosses a series of rather sharp hills. We paused for a second glimpse of Melrose Abbey, which has frequently been styled the most perfect and beautiful ecclesiastical ruin in Britain. We were of the opinion, however, that we had seen at least three or four others more extensive and of greater architectural merit. Undoubtedly the high praise given Melrose is due to the fame which it acquired from the poems and stories of Scott. The thousands of pilgrims who come every year are attracted by this alone, since the abbey had no extraordinary history and no tomb of king or hero is to be found in its precincts. Were it not for the weird interest which the "Lay of the Last Minstrel" has thrown around Melrose, its fame would probably be no greater than that of the abbeys of Jedburgh and Kelso in the same neighborhood. Abbottsford House is only three miles from Melrose, but it is closed to visitors after five o'clock and we missed a second visit, which we should have liked very much. Upon such things the motorist must fully inform himself or he is liable to many disappointments by reaching his objective point at the wrong time.

We returned to Edinburgh by the way of Galashiels, a manufacturing town of considerable size that lay in a deep valley far below the road which we were following along the edges of the wooded hills. This road abounded in dangerous turns and caution was necessary when rounding sharp curves that, in places, almost described a circle. We had a clear right-of-way, however, and reached Edinburgh before nine o'clock. A delightful feature of summer touring in Britain is the long evening, which is often the pleasantest time for traveling. The highways are usually quite deserted and the mellow effect of the sunsets and the long twilights often lend an additional charm to the landscapes. In the months of July and August in Scotland daylight does not begin to fade away until from nine to ten, and in northern sections the dawn begins as early as two or three o'clock. During our entire tour we found it necessary to light our lamps only two or three times, although we were often on the road after nine o'clock. Though Edinburgh has unusually broad and well paved streets, it is a trying place for a motorist. The people make little effort to keep to the sidewalk, but let the fellow who is driving the car do the looking out for them. In no city through which we passed did I find greater care necessary. Despite all this, accidents are rare, owing to the fact that drivers of motor cars in Great Britain have had the lesson of carefulness impressed upon them by strict and prompt enforcement of police regulations.

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