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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, pilgrims, and conquerors going to and from Scotland.
Durham County Coal mining is a major activity in this part of England, as the richest coalfields of all are found beneath it soil. But outside the industrial towns, the countryside is charmingly unspoiled.
Darlington (Off the Motorway to the right.) Busy industrial and market town on the site of an old Saxon settlement. (Pop. 85,000) Railway factories and machine shops reflect the town's early importance in the development of locomotives. George Stephenson was one of the pioneers, and his famous locomotive, No. 1, which hauled the first passenger train in 1825, is on display at the railroad station. Darlington sits on the River Tees, giving it access to the sea. This encouraged shipbuilding as a local industry; the town is also famous for its bridge building.
Durham (Off the Motorway to the left) The county seat of Durham, and famous for its cathedral and castle. The old town sits on a rise of land surrounded on three sides by the River Ware — a fact that made it a natural place of defense in medieval times. The castle was built to defend northern English towns from Scottish invaders, hence was designed to be massive and heavy. Durham's cathedral is in the early Norman style, and is one of England's celebrated churches. Sir Walter Scott had both the castle and the cathedral in mind when he wrote of Durham: "Half church of God, half castle 'gainst the Scot." Durham University is one of Britain's leading centers of learning; when it was founded in 1832, it was the only other residential college in England besides Oxford and Cambridge.
Lambton Castle (Left of the Motorway.) Seat of the old Earl of Durham. Further to our left is the town of Chester-le-Street, a small town with an ancient history. The Romans called it Condercum, and probably started the mining works which have continued until this day.
Washington (Far off on the right, probably not visible.) The village of Washington is something of a Mecca for American visitors. It is George Washington's ancestral home. Washington Old Hall, a 17th-century building, contains portions of the original manor house where the first recorded member of the Washington family lived (1183). Later, a branch of the family moved south to the town of Sulgrave, and America's Founding Father sprang from this branch. Sulgrave Manor, of more recent date, is intact and filled with Washington memorabilia. (Technically the manor is U.S. property, a gift from Britain in 1917).
River Tyne The area of Northumberland county that straddles the River Tyne is one of the greatest shipbuilding districts in the world. The Tyne River is navigable for 14 miles inland, and its banks are lined with docks and shipyards. the Tyne flows west and north, into the wild border country between England and Scotland. (More about this later).
Gateshead Pop. 103,000. Sitting on an imposing bluff called Sheriff Hill (540 feet), Gateshead is a busy port, accommodating the largest liners. Shipbuilding and foodstuffs are its industrial activities.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne Pop. 270,000. One of the most important coal shipping ports in England. Manufacturing of railroad cars and ships. Steamers from Oslo put in here with timber for paper manufacturing. This city and the neighboring city of Gateshead pioneered the use of steam locomotives —important for getting coal to plants from the mines. Many spacious parks, including Town Moor (900 acres). The Town Moor Festival (third week in June), with much racing, drawing contestants from all over NE England.
This is the "Newcastle" of the expression "carrying coals to Newcastle" — used to describe any activity as futile as bringing coal into a city where it already exists in abundance.
Hadrian's Wall Although we can't see it here, this is the area through which the old Roman wall ran. It was 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 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 west 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!
Though this was the limit of the Roman world, it isn't yet what today is called Scotland; we have to go a few miles farther for that, to the Cheviot Hills.
Cheviot Hills This landscape is one dominated by "fells" — rocky hills, and they form a natural barrier between England and Scotland. For centuries this land was a battleground between English and Scots. Or else a waystation for ambassadors, conspirators, traders, and royal refugees like Mary Queen of Scots.
The roads running through here are full of romantic tales of runaway couples who made their way across the border into Scotland to be married. Many of them were married by the village blacksmith, who had power under Scottish law to perform the ceremony. (The marriageable age was traditionally lower in Scotland than in England).
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 to the south to plunder the prosperous English towns and farms. 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 to established hiding places. All sorts of ingenious 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 name 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 (18th century) as if in reaction, developing 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.
Jedburgh We're now in the Scottish county of Roxburgh, and Jedburgh is the county seat. Jedburgh Abbey is the local landmark. Founded by the Scottish King David I in 1118; its remains are among the largest in Scotland. Situated only 10 miles north of the border, the abbey was frequently attacked by the English. Mary Queen of Scots stayed in the town once when she was on her way to visit her lover Bothwell.
St. Boswells Today, an agricultural center. The woods around the town are popular for fox hunting.
Dryburgh Across the River Tweed is Dryburgh, site of the famed Dryburgh Abbey. This is Sir Walter Scott country, which the writer loved, wrote about, and used to go out riding. Scott is buried in the abbey, along with other members of his family.
To the left are three peaks of the Eildon Hills. When Walter Scott's funeral cortege passed through here on the way to Dryburgh, the horse drawing the hearse halted the procession by stopping, as it always had, at the master's favorite view of the River Tweed.
Farther west of here is Melrose Abbey, considered the most beautiful in Scotland. (Something to keep in mind for your return trip). The heart of Robert the Bruce is buried in it.
(COURIER: Use these long stretches to give your introduction to Scotland).
Lauder A small town (pop. 700), popular for anglers. A famous murder took place here in 1482. A man named Cochrane, a minister of the Scottish King James III and his favorite at court, was hanged by other nobles who were envious of his power. The conspirators were led by Archibald Douglas, whose cunning in the affair led others to call him "Bell the Cat."
After Carfraemill, we start to climb the Lammermuir Hills, covered with heather.
Dalkeith A small industrial suburb of Edinburgh, though having a long history. Dalkeith Palace is the seat of the Scottish Duke of Buccleuch (14th century).
(COURIER: Now give your introduction to Edinburgh).
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