York to Edinburgh (via Carlisle)

On The Road Travel Essays

back to index


York to Edinburgh (via Carlisle)

Leaving York  The roads running west of York are based on the old Roman roads which were built to facilitate the march of legions to forts near the Scottish border. Many old Roman remains have been unearthed in this part of England.

Heading north, the Motorway follows the Swaledale, the broad valley of the River Swale. As you pass the little junction known as "Scotch corner," you're reminded that this is the route used for centuries by traders, conspirators, royal refugees (like Mary Queen of Scots), and traders going to and from Scotland.

Bowes  This town goes back to the Roman fort called Lavotrae, as do many of the villages along our route. These are the Tees Hills, popular for English tourists and hikers.

At Brough we're crossing the backbone of the Pennine Mountains, which run north and south.

Appleby  The road runs right through this country town, seat of the district of Westmorland. The writer W.T. Palmer pronounced this "probably England's quietest and smallest country town" — and little has changed in the town over the centuries.

Penrith  An old market town on the north bank of the River Eamont. Pop. 10,000. Called the "northern gateway of the English lakes," since many visitors to the Lake Country enter it here. The red sandstone Penrith Castle was built by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later to become the infamous King Richard III. A popular legend claims that a giant once lived in the area and was buried in the churchyard of St. Andrew's Church. Such a grave does exist, and from its proportions one would have to infer that the occupant stood 15 feet high.

Carlisle  Pop. 80,000. The county seat of Cumberland, in which England's Lake District lies. England's highest mountain, Mt. Scafell (3210 ft.) is in the county. (The highest mountain in the British Isles, however, is Ben Nevis (4406 ft.), in the Scottish Highlands).

History: Was a settlement long before the Romans. Travelers between England and Scotland stayed at local inns, and this prompted the development of the town. Romans called it Luguvallium, and established a large cavalry camp on the outskirts. (Many Roman remains can be found in the City Museum). Visitors interested in Roman Britain start from Carlisle to explore Hadrian's Wall, north of the city. Carlisle was an important border fortress during the wars between England and Scotland, and was occupied by one side and the other repeatedly. In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the pretender to the English throne, entered the town in a great procession, headed by one hundred pipers, and made the city his headquarters. (In 1746, at the Battle of Culloden, the prince was defeated by an English army). With all this fighting, Carlisle remained a walled city far longer than most towns — 700 years.

Cathedral: Carlisle's cathedral is one of England's smallest, its founding going back to King William Rufus (11th century). Sir Walter Scott was married here in 1797. Carlisle Castle. Its oldest part was built by William Rufus, and it functioned as England's northern bastion, the "Gateway to Scotland." Mary Queen of Scots was confined in the castle in 1568. She had been deposed as Queen of Scotland by rebellious Protestant Scottish nobles, and Elizabeth of England couldn't afford to have her free in England as long as English Catholics were eager to rally to her cause. (Mary claimed that she, not Elizabeth, was the rightful ruler of England — as well as Scotland). So Elizabeth had Mary confined here. But she was allowed to receive messengers, and she managed to communicate with Philip II of Spain and the Pope in Rome. These letters were intercepted by Elizabeth's agents, and Elizabeth, learning of Mary's plot to have her assassinated and to seize the English throne with the help of Spain, was forced to bring Mary to trial and to have her beheaded. On Lowther Street stands the Congregational Church, where the pastor was once Thomas Woodrow, grandfather of Woodrow Wilson.

Carlisle Today: A growing industrial center, mainly for making cookies and carpeting. Tourists start form Carlisle to explore the Eden River Valley to the south, where the old breed of Dairy Shorthorn cattle still exists.

Hadrian's Wall (Leaving Carlisle)  Although we can't see the wall from here, this is the area through which the old Roman wall ran. Built in 120 A.D. on orders of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Attempts to subjugate the wild Picts and Scots to the north were frustrated again and again, and the more civilized Roman Britons to the south were always threatened by raiding parties. This wall was Rome's way of saying that it had reached the limits of its power to the north: the Scots could keep their country. The wall was 20 feet high, and 8 to 10 feet thick. Legions could walk along it. Along the wall were 81 forts, set at intervals of one mile, each fort garrisoned by 100 men. Between the forts were watchtowers and armed camps. Today the wall is no higher than 6 feet at most. Its remaining stretches are east of here. But at least we know that this spot was as far north as Rome's reach ever got: there will be few Roman ruins from this point on!

Gretna Green  The roads running through this area are full of romantic tales of runaway couples who made their way across the border into Scotland to be married. Here at the village of Gretna Green, the local blacksmith had power under Scottish law to perform the ceremony, and couples flocked to him by the hundreds. The marriageable age was traditionally lower in Scotland than in England. The anvil over which the ceremony was performed is still visible in the smithy's shop.

Dumfriesshire  We've entered the county of Dumfries, an area of rich farmland and quiet country villages. This is Robert Burns country, esp. the town of Dumfries, the county seat some 10 miles to the west. The inns of Dumfries are where Burns used to eat and drink: e.g. the inn called Hol i' the Wa'. Burns loved to wander through the countryside of this area, and he worked a farm near here for some years. While there, he wrote Tam O'Shanter. Burns died in Dumfries in 1796.

Ecclefechan (A small town so watch for the road sign.)  This little town (pop. 600) has one claim to fame: it is the birthplace of the British writer Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881). His house, on the main street, contains furniture from his London home. After his death, his remains were brought back to Ecclefechan for burial in the local churchyard.

Lockerbie  A small town that is the center of a rich agricultural area. Scattered remains of Roman campsites, used when the Romans still had ambitions to subdue the Scots, have been found outside the town.

The Scottish Lowlands  Scotland is really two countries, the Highlands and the Lowlands. The Lowlands, as you can see, are a mild, fairly flat region, well suited to farming and cattle raising. The people are mainly Anglo-Saxon in origin, and have been influenced by centuries of contact (not all of it friendly) with England. The Highlands are a rugged and wild country, the people Celtic in origin, and for long they were isolated in mountain villages and lonely castles. Here in the Lowlands, Scottish history was largely a series of wars and skirmishes with the English. In this border region between the two countries, the Scottish Lowlanders often ventured south to plunder the prosperous English farms and towns. These Lowlanders were organized into gangs, often led by Normans from Scandinavia, and they raided English border farms for their cattle, bringing it back up north. All sorts of tricks and schemes were invented by these peoples, including the art of blackmail. They offered "protection," Al Capone-style, to English border towns upon payment of "donations." One of these gang leaders was named Douglas — an old family in Scotland — and the Douglas family figured prominently in border wars and wranglings for centuries afterward. After years of violence, the Lowlands settled into more peaceful ways in the 18th century, and as if in reaction, developed a reputation for solid sobriety. James Boswell, e.g., was a Lowlander (his biography of Johnson is nothing if not sober). Douglas Haig, a leading British general of WW I, was a Lowlander, and typified the breed.

Moffat  In the 18 century, a popular mineral spa, on the banks of the Annam River. Some of the spots near Moffat have picturesque names. E.g. a large circular hollow in the hills is called The Devil's Beef Tub, because it was here that the Lowland cattle rustlers brought their spoils. Tweed's Well is another place: the source of the River Tweed, which runs east to the North Sea. A scenic waterfall is known as Grey Mare's Tail.

Beyond Moffat, we leave Dumfries county and enter Lanark county. The heights we cross are the Lowther Hills. About 4 miles before Abington, the road crosses the River Clyde, which flows north to Glasgow and becomes a major site for shipping and shipbuilding.

Continuing northeast on A 702: small towns, mainly farming communities. From Biggar to West Linton run the Pentland Hills (on our left), popular for hikers and nature lovers from Edinburgh.

(COURIER: Use the long stretches between Lockerbie, Moffat, Abington, and Biggar to give your introduction to Scotland. After West Linton, start your introduction to Edinburgh.)

TAKE THE FIRST STEP

BROWSE TOURS REQUEST INFO
passports educational travel logo

passports Educational Group Travel partners with teachers across the United States to provide high-quality educational travel experiences to their students. Educational tours visit destinations around the world - primarily France, Italy, England, Spain and Costa Rica - at low, guaranteed prices.


Passports, Inc., ToursOperators & Promoters, Spencer, MA

STAY CONNECTED

Educational Travel Link Icon   Facebook icon   Twitter icon   Pinterest icon   Blog icon

For updates on educational travel tips, ideas and news, subscribe to our newsletter:

CONTACT US

passports
7 Midstate Drive Suite 102
Auburn, MA 01501

1-800-332-7277
Email Us

© Copyright 1992-2018 Passports Educational Travel | All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy