Walking a Mile on Their Hobnails

We said farewell to our lovely hosts at Kingsway Guest House, Lizzie and Gary, and their adorable son. I highly recommend staying with them if you’re ever in Edinburgh.

Kingsway Guest House

We hit the road today for our next destination being Brookford B&B in St. John’s Town of Dalry, near Castle Douglas in the Dumfries and Galloway region (south west corner). Now if we had gone straight there it would have only taken us a couple of hours. Do you really think we went straight there? Of course not! Don’t be silly…

No, we drove due south for a couple hours first. Now, when I did my research planning this itinerary I failed to recognize that Hadrian’s Wall is actually well south of the Scottish border. I had it in my head that Hadrian’s Wall effectively WAS the Scottish Border. My sincere apologies to Scotland. Yet another unintentional deviation from the Everything Scotland theme of our trips to Scotland. Unless you look at it from the perspective that Hadrian’s Wall was built to keep the hoards of ancestors of Scotland out of Britannia. Yes! Let’s go with that. And at least now Dan can say he’s been to England.

We visited Housesteads Roman Fort along Hadrian’s Wall, near Bardon Mill. What a fascinating place! It’s a short half-mile walk from the main entry to the site, where a small museum and gift shop are located. The museum is really well done, and very interesting.

Housesteads Fort, Museum, and Giftshop

The remains are the most complete of the Roman forts along the Wall. You can see where each of the military buildings were placed throughout.

Panorama facing south, standing on one of the building walls.

Of particular fascination are the latrines – they also are the most intact Roman latrines in the United Kingdom.

The Roman latrines.

It is remarkable to walk along the walls and contemplate just how much effort was put into building it, how the different parts were strategically placed to make best use of the existing landscape. For example, the granaries were placed near the top of the hill, the stables and bathhouse were midway down to facilitate water flowing down the hill to fill the troughs and baths, and the aforementioned latrines were at the lowest corner of the entire thing. The barracks were at the east end, up the hill from the latrines, while the baking ovens were at the far west end to avoid fires burning down the barracks.

The ovens.

The outside walls, including the north wall itself, were easily three feet thick. The guard wall along the north Wall has long since fallen (or been pushed over to reuse the stones for other purposes).

The Walls – my foot is there for scale.

Needless to say, we ended up staying there a good two hours longer than I planned for. We ended up dropping planned visits to Gretna Green (sorry Chelsea, no surprise vow renewal photos) and the Twelve Apostles Standing Stones.

We did very briefly stop at Bonshaw Tower in Kirtlebridge, though, which was more or less on the way to the B&B. This is where my Auntie Janice should really start paying attention, because Bonshaw Tower is the seat of the Irving family. It is a four-story tower built in 1570 as a power base for the Irving family, but it is believed that the Irving family have lived at the site since at least the 1300s. The property remains the private family home on a beautiful piece of land, but the tower is now available to book weddings. We did not realize we were supposed to pre-arrange a visit, which it turns out we didn’t have time to really do anyway, but we’re pretty sure we technically trespassed to get this quick photo of the tower…Our sincere apologies to the resident Irving family…

Bonshaw Tower

Bonshaw Tower – Seat of the Irving Family

When I looked for a place to stay in Dumfries and Galloway I wanted something central, that we could do day trips from to any of the corners of the region. What I did not realize when I chose Brookford was just how central it was; that being, pretty well off the beaten path. The drive from Castle Douglas was all on narrow roads with plenty of curves and hills, and the ridiculous 60-miles-per-hour speed limit. I did not go 60 miles per hour. That’s insane. And I should have taken Gravol. But the place is worth it! A lovely little town nestled in the hills, and Brookford is perfect. Ronnie made us supper of Haggis stuffed chicken breast with peppercorn cream, garden fresh potatoes, Scottish carrots, and something like eggplant that I don’t remember what he called it, followed by sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream. Sigh. So good!

We are exhausted now, but at least we can have an early night. Plenty to do tomorrow, but we probably won’t get to everything again. Good night.

Adelle and Dan

P.S. I forgot to mention, the Roman soldiers wore leather shoes with hobnails attached to the bottoms for traction. They look sort of like baseball or soccer cleats. Hence the reference in the title of today’s blog. …traction, or perhaps an additional weapon? Imagine kicking someone in the face with nail studded shoes. Just saying.

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