Monday, February 16, 2009

A short break in Scotland

Okay, I finally found a few minutes to post a quick note about our short break last week – two whole days in Edinburgh, and two days where we were travelling on the train. Prior to that I'd been pretty much housebound for six months, because my bone condition played up and I was immobilised with my leg in a cast. My creative well was completely drained as a result!* I came out of the cast in January and going to Edinburgh was a celebration. It felt like being let out of prison! In fact I was so happy on the train that I believe I was embarrassing to be with. :o)

The journey to Edinburgh from our home in Yorkshire takes about three hours, and the train goes up the east coast through Northumberland – an amazing journey, with lots to see. I’d taken my e-reader to read on the way up and a print out to edit on the way back, and I did neither. I was literally glued to the window for three hours, both ways. Like a little kid, yes! I couldn’t help it. The views were amazing, and I hadn’t been out in so long that everything looked startling and fresh to me. Add to that that it was snowing – particularly on the train journey back, when we actually travelled through a snowstorm – and that made it an incredible trip.

We were extremely lucky because the days we were in Edinburgh itself were both dry and sunny, so although it was freezing cold we didn’t have to worry about sliding around in ice and snow. I can’t walk far but our hotel was right next to the Royal Mile, so we had lots of pretty shops, restaurants, coffee bars and rustic pubs just a few feet away. I was in heaven, watching the world go by.

Edinburgh is a super place for a city break. We hadn’t been in about 5 years, which was far too long. When we got there the city was filled with happy Welsh rugby fans, because they’d won the Six Nations match the day before. Lots of international visitors too, even though it was off season.

Here’s Edinburgh by day. Me outside Castle antiques on the Royal Mile, and in the photo below you can see the outline of the Castle on the mound, taken from just off Princes Street.

It’s hard to believe it was freezing cold with such a beautiful sky! Below, a blurry pic of Edinburgh by night, with the Castle in the far background. This skyline was taken from the North Bridge, and you can see roof of Waverley Station in the dip below. It was so cold and windy that we couldn’t hold the camera still, but it was such an amazing sight we had to capture it for the memory book.

And here I am enjoying the wonderful hospitality and ambience of Edinburgh by night. :)

The handful of shots below are from the journey back. For the first hour of the journey from Edinburgh through to Alnmouth the landscape is very sparsely populated, there are no stops on this part of route, and very few crossings or towns to be seen. You can see what a winter wonderland it was in these photos.

The train slowed going through this wintry forest, it was like something from Narnia!

We just managed to catch the edge of this snowy ravine from high above as we passed over it, which again was like something from Narnia or Lord of the Rings.

The landscape changes as the train moves down the coast and there are more signs of life, cattle and wildlife, (I saw all manner of birds and beasties from pheasants to shaggy highland bulls!) and more villages and rail crossings.

The train goes right along parts of the coast of Northumberland and I was mesmerised by the snow and seascape. We love Northumberland, a truly unspoiled part of the UK, and after a previous visit to that part of the country I set my first novella, SUMMER LIGHTNING, on the Northumberland coast. (As an aside, my Hero was a marine conservationist (inspired by the coastal locale) and one reviewer referred to him as a “tree hugger” which brought no end of amusement as I pictured my imaginary hunk hugging trees. Naked, of course. Can I be a tree? :)

I’ve always had this weird fascination with the image of a snowy beach. My heroine in DOUBLE DARE, Abby, has the same fascination. She gets her snow-filled beach at the very end of the book. And here it was for me, briefly. I was in heaven. Wish I could have been standing on the beach when it was snowing...

As the train travelled south there was gradually less snow on the ground, and especially in the city areas we could see how differently the weather had affected the landscape. This is the city of Durham just as the train pulls into the station from the North. Great view from the station! You can see both the cathedral and the castle on the hilltop at the far side. Durham is a favourite weekend retreat of ours but we usually drive, so it was a real treat to see it from this angle. I love the way the snow highlights the angles of the houses in this picture.

That's it folks! I got home invigorated from our wonderful trip, my creative well refilled, so there are now no excuses and I’m back to work. :)

*It was thanks to Alison Kent I became aquainted with the notion of the “creative well.” It’s such an accurate way of describing it, and the fact that living life tops up our creative energy. Thanks to Alison!


Janine Ashbless said...

Oh, that's lovely. I love Scotland - and Durham too (I went to Uni at Durham) and now I want to go travelling North again!

You know - I was looking at the snow while I was walking the dogs the other day and I thought there is something about snow and woodland and water - a river, a pond - that really hits me at a very deep level with a sense of seeing into another world. It's really unsettling. Maybe it's due to a childhood brought up on Narnia, as you say. I don't know. Glad I'm not the only one though!

Saskia Walker said...

Now why doesn’t that surprise me? Something about reading Wildwood, I guess. :) Have you seen Shymalan’s Lady in the Water? It wasn’t as strong a film as I’d hoped, but I loved the concept. We saw some great frozen ponds on the train ride. Ponds in particular strike me as giving off this other worldly suggestion, perhaps because they are living, yet cut off, so it seems like they must be somehow attached to another world.

I’m glad I inspired you to travel north again! I couldn’t get enough of looking, to the extent that when I got home I was headachy and I realised I’d nearly sent myself snow-blind peering out the window constantly. ;o)

Elle Amery said...

Thank you for that lovely tour, and for all those pictures. Was that you peaking behind that knight? :) I know what you mean about not being able to keep your eyes off the landscape while traveling by train. I just love train travel. Glad you had a treasured time.

Saskia Walker said...

Hi Elle! Yes, that's me and my new pal. I wanted to bring him home with me. :)

Julia Templeton said...

I'm glad you had such a wonderful time on your vacation, Saskia! What lovely pictures!
I can see why you traveled by train...and I don't blame you a bit for not touching that e-reader or those edits.

Saskia Walker said...

Hey Julia! Thanks. :) The view was a pretty good excuse! :)

Nikki Magennis said...

Your holiday sounds lovely, Saskia! And what pretty pictures. I took about three hundred hoar-frost photos on a recent trip up north - I think car journeys do the same to me as trains do for you!

(But I should add that it is the law when you're in Scotland to come and visit me. That goes for Ashbless too, in case she's reading this.)

; )

Saskia Walker said...

Awww, thanks Nikki. I promise I will not break the law next time around. :) Hopefully we'll also have longer then.

Janine Ashbless said...

I too am a law-abiding citizen Nikki! I'll be back, as the Terminator said.