Thursday, August 30, 2012

Scotland day 7

Fish selection in Arbroath.  Smokies are on the left.
After a yummy lunch with my theology/theatre colleagues on Friday, the conference was done and Dean and I left St. Andrews (sorry we didn't have another day to spend there to enjoy the town).  We headed north up the coast and stopped at Arbroath, a fishing town, to check out the seafood.  Dean had been told to try a smokie, so we parked at the harbour and walked around.  There were plenty of fish shops scattered around the area, so we walked into one and Dean picked up a filleted, smoked fish. He said it was pretty tasty, but it took a bit of work to eat around the bones.  Dean and the car both smelled like smokey fish for the next day (ew!).

We continued our drive up the coast, stopped at some wild crags for a bathroom break (in the public toilet, not off the crag), went for a wee walk in the windy hills, and then decided it was time to get on the road and find our lodging for the night - I had been warned that it was a bit tricky to get to.  We overshot our turnoff once, then went too far back, then wandered around the countryside for a bit going back and forth on twisty roads before we finally spotted what looked like a castle and after a few tries, found the road that led to Ethie Castle. Apparently, signage and clear directions seem to be a sign of weakness for the Scots. 

Ethie Castle.  Me obviously not wanting to part with the castle.

The castle was appropriately impressive when we drove up. A very pleasant matronly lady opened the heavy wooden door and showed us around to the breakfast room and then up 2 flights of winding stone steps to our room on the third floor overlooking the garden.  Our private bathroom was up a few stairs, down a hallway to the right, down a few more stairs, and then to the right.  Hmmm, that was going to be tricky in the middle of the night if I had to unload the bladder.  Due to the castle being an actual home for a family, we couldn't really go wandering around, but we did peek in a few doors that were ajar.  The gardens outside were magnificent!  After lugging our suitcases up the stairs, we went to the closest pub for a quick bite to eat:  soup and sticky toffee pudding.  The food was good and the company of loud locals (and a herd of thirsty Scottish golfers) made the meal quite entertaining.  We couldn't understand much of what was being said, the brogue being quick thick in this part of the country, but certain words that begin with "f" are always easy to pick out in any conversation.

View of the castle gardens from our bedroom.

We headed back to the castle to relax for the evening; with no television and no internet, both of us picked up a book (yes, its' true!)  I was surprised to see how many little rooms and hallways and stairs going every which way were in the castle.  Most castles are built one section at a time and this is obvious by the strange layouts that seem foreign to those of us used to living in modern buildings.  Our bedroom was large and equipped with electric heating pads.  Yes, we used them.  Castles are not known for their warmth.  We slept in one of the softest king sized beds I have ever been in and the next morning enjoyed a hearty breakfast of farm fresh produce, meat, and eggs with 4 Germans and 3 dogs in front of a roaring fire.  The breakfast room was filled with stuffed wildlife heads gazing at us as we ate.  I have never felt closer to Queen Elizabeth.

Breakfast with the dogs in the castle
On the recommendation of our host, we drove a few minutes up the coast to Lunan Bay to see what she said was one of the best beaches around.  She was right.  Green hills, sandy crags, wild waves, brilliant sun, crisp wind off the sea, flat sand for was gorgeous!  I pulled off my socks and shoes and went for a run, skip, and twirl in the water.  There were a group of kayakers on the shore who waved at me before they set off to tackle the surf...crazy guys!  Dean found the jellyfish amusing and tried to get them to snarl at him, but they were playing dead.  We had to leave all too soon to get to Edinburgh.  Sigh!  It was one of the most beautiful places in Scotland we visited.  But I think I am saying that about pretty much everything we saw.

Lunan "take your breath away" Bay
One of the things I noticed about this trip was that beauty, real beauty (not just pleasant appearance) has power: it brings life, enlarges the spirit, stills confusion, and inspires one to give thanks.  I now see why theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar began his treatise by addressing the necessity of recognising the beauty of God.  Here are a few quotes from him:

We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. 

Catching sight of the glory always involves being transported by it.

The One, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, these are what we call the transcendental attributes of Being, because they surpass all the limits of essences and are coextensive with Being.

one more installment to come...


No comments: