Edinburgh Dùn Èideann Scotland and the origins of magic

At the beginning of this blog I said I love Ireland yet there is not a single post about it. I just want to make it right, so you fall in love with this country like I did. Why am I mentioning it right now? Well because Ireland and Scotland have quite a lot in common. The Giant’s Causeway… actually I thought about the accent, friendliness of the people and way of living.

Edinburgh castle panorama

Edinburgh was magical for me. I went alone just for a couple of days and I would like to go back. The pictures are not great. I didn’t have a digital camera at the time and the weather wasn’t the best so it’s truly better to see it with your own eyes. Short overview of my stay: Arrived and checked in to awsome hostel with great paintings on the walls and striptease in the middle of the night in the middle of our dormitory. Sightseeing of the city with Sandeman’s New Europe free tour (recommended), Ghost Tour finished in a local pub, sightseeing whiskey distillery, Literary pub tour (the best tour I have ever been on), one day tour around the castles of Scotland and Wallace Statue (I so wanted to see Loch Ness and wander the highlands but I would rather have more time to do it, rent a car and just be able to enjoy the sights as long as I want to rather than on a strict timeline).

Edinburgh castle panorama

Let’s the magic begin…

Walking the narrow streets of the old town you can feel the dumpy and dangerous atmosphere of ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ as well as magical frame of Harry Potter, you can easily imagine the witch hunts as well as murders comitted to obtain corpses for medical students… Burke and Hare, The World’s End Murders, David Hume, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Walter Scott, Irvine Welsh… drinking, thinking, writing it’s all very alive here.

With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.

R.L. Stevenson

Edinburgh history is littered with colourful characters, some of whom were merely eccentric, while others committed devilish deeds that remain notorious to this day. Let me introduce you to some of them.

BrodieDeacon Brodie is one of Edinburgh’s most infamous villains. A respected cabinet-maker with a well-to-do clientele in 1780s Edinburgh. Brodie turned to burglary to support a lavish lifestyle. He and his gang copied keys to public buildings and plundered them under cover of darkness. Brodie was caught, sentenced to death, and was hanged near St Giles Kirk on the Royal Mile. It is said Robert Louis Stevenson used Brodie as an inspiration for Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.edinburgh streets

The ‘body-snatchers’ William Burke and William Hare terrorised Edinburgh, carrying out a series of murders between 1827 and 1828. The bodies of their 17 victims were sold to Dr Robert Knox, a private anatomy lecturer in the City who needed specimens for his students to dissect. When Burke and Hare were eventually found out, Hare testified against his friend, and was released. Burke was hanged for his crimes, before having his body publicly dissected at the Edinburgh Medical College.

Edinburgh CastleThe Lone Piper. As the story goes, a few hundred years ago secret tunnels were discovered deep underground, running from the castle to other places in the city. A piper boy was sent down to investigate, instructed to constantly play his pipes, so those above could chart his progress through the tunnels. When the playing suddenly stopped, they went and searched for the piper boy but he had vanished. His ghostly pipes can still be heard playing in the castle to this day, as he eternally walks the dark tunnels beneath.Chapel Edinburgh Castle

Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson, and Alan Stuart – on Christmas Day 1950 a group of four Scottish students took the Stone of Scone (or Stone of Destiny, The Coronation Stone) from Westminster Abbey for return to Scotland. The stone was damaged and divided into two parts. After hiding the greater part of the stone with travellers in Kent for a few days, they risked the road blocks on the border and returned to Scotland with this piece, which they had hidden in the back of a borrowed car, along with a new accomplice John Josselyn. Although an Englishman, Josselyn, then a student at Glasgow University, was a Scottish Nationalist. And rather ironically and probably unknown to him at the time, Edward I (who captured the Stone in 1296 and took it to Westminster Abbey) was his 21st great grandfather. You can watch the whole story in a movie called Stone od Destiny. The Coronation Stone, is an oblong block of red sandstone, used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland and later the monarchs of England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. Historically, the artifact was kept at the now-ruined Scone Abbey in Scone, near Perth, Scotland. It is also known as Jacob’s Pillow Stone and the Tanist Stone, and in Scottish Gaelic clach-na-cinneamhain.

Greyfriars Bobby a Skye Terrier believed to have been the companion of ‘Auld Jock’ Gray a local policeman. After Gray died in 1858 Bobby is reputed to have stayed loyal to his master sleeping close to his grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard nearby for fourteen years until his own death in 1872. His life size statue is located at the junction of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge opposite the new National Museum of Scotland.

Maggie Dickson was a fish wife from Musselburgh. She fell pregnant while her husband was working away and when she gave birth to the stillborn baby she hid the evidence. For this crime she was sentenced to by hung in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket. She was hung for the required length of time and had her legs pulled to see if there were any signs of life. There was none so she was nailed in her coffin and her relatives began the long journey back to Musselburgh with the coffin in tow. On stopping for refreshments at Inveresk, noises were heard coming from the coffin, it was opened and Maggie Dickson was found to be alive. The official view was that no one could be hanged twice so she was free to continue with her life. She ran an ale house and mothered many children before dying from old age. She was known as Half Hangit Maggie and nowadays a pub bearing her name stands near the site of her failed execution.Graveyard Edinburgh

Other stories:
In the castle’s Great Hall there is a little barred window high above the fireplace; in Scotland these holes are called ‘laird’s lugs’ (Lord’s ears). In the early 16th century King James IV would spy through this little hole to eavesdrop on meetings taking place in the Hall below. So effective are ‘laird’s lugs,’ as a means of eavesdropping that when Gorbachev planned his visit to the castle for a conference in 1984, the Soviet national security insisted the hole be bricked over.

Shannon CannonEdinburgh Castle is also home to Mons Meg cannon, the enormous medieval supergun made around 1449. This cannon fired huge solid stone cannon balls- three times the size of your head. Each weighed 400 pounds and could be fired as far as 2 mile! The ritual of firinf the One O’Clock Gun still continues to this day, which takes place precisely at one o’ clock on every day of the week (except for Sunday). This ritual began in 1861 as a time signal for ships. For 26 years the Gun was fired by a man nick-named ‘Tam the Gun’ until he died in 2005. Now the Gun is fired everyday by ‘Shannon the Cannon.’

In 1836 5 boys made a very unusual discovery in a cave on Arthur’s Seat. They found 17 miniature coffins with carved wooden figures inside, all dressed differently, and arranged in 3 tiers with 8 coffins on each (1 on the final tier suggesting it wasn’t completed). The fist tier was decayed, the second less so and the third seemed recent. No one knows what they were for or who carved and put them there. So many theories abound from witchcraft to sailors charms. My favourite is that they were carved by a shoemaker who knew Burk and Hare and each figure represents one of their victims. But we will never know. They were held in a private collection until 1901 when they were gifted to the Museum of Scotland. Only 8 have survived – the rest decayed – and can be seen today at the Royal Museum in Chambers Street.

In the XVI th century the country was obbsessed with witchcraft and the Nor’ Loch proved a perfect spot for ‘Trial by Douking’ (Ducking).This would consist of a suspected witch having her thumbs and toes tied together and ducked on a specially designed ‘stool’ twice into the Loch. If she sank and drowned she would be found innocent….but dead! but if she was unfortunate enough to float and survive drowning she would be found guilty and burned at the stake on Castlehill. The decision was taken to drain the Loch in 1759 and the valley is now Princes Street Gardens.

The World's EndThe World’s End is something of an Edinburgh institution. It lies on the south side of High Street at its junction with St Mary’s Street. Edinburgh built a stone wall around the city to protect it, the Flodden Wall. Parts of the wall can still be seen, and its course ran along the west side of St Mary’s Street underneath where the World’s End is now built (the pub reuses the foundations of the wall). The main gate on this side of the city was on High Street here, and its outline is marked in the street by brass coloured cobbles. But anyway you could easely leave the city but in order to come back you had to pay a tax. Most of people couldn’t afford to pay it and that’s why it was the end of the World for them.

There is so much more to Edinburgh, museums, science, Royal Mile. I tried to give you just a glimpse on the part I love the most – stories. Enjoy the slideshow:

[slideshow]

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Corfe Castle, Wareham, Dorset, UK

corfe castle panorama

The dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle stand on a natural hill guarding the principal route through the Purbeck Hills. As you can see it guards the gap between the south of Purbeck, where Purbeck marble was once quarried, and the rest of England. Nothing could pass in or out without going past the Castle.

Corfe CastleCorfe castle is one of Britain’s most majestic ruins. It’s history can be tracked back to 6000 BC. Of course back then it was not a castle but a village. The oldest surviving structure on the castle site dates back to the XI century.The fortification of the castle was initiated by William the Concqueror to insure its durability for use as a royal fortress. In the end it was destroyed from within by a “turncoat” during the civil war, who gave entry into the castle allowing Cromwell’s army to enter the castle to destroy everything in their path.Corfe Castle ruins

Cromwell’s army fought the most remarkable Lady Bankes, a Royalist, who cared for the castle while her husband, Sir John was called away by Charles I, earning her the name “Brave Dame Mary” as well as the respect of the Parliamentary commander; who was so impressed with her courage that he allowed her to leave the castle with her garrison and the keys to the castle once the Roundheads finally persuaded her to surrender.  She was betrayed by one of her own garrison, who allowed Parliamentary soldiers to gain possession of the building, whereupon they set about destroying the edifice. The Bankes family still preserves the keys at their family home, which is protected by the National Trust.Cementary Corfe Castle Some say that probably more damage was done by the locals than by the troops as they looted the site for its limestone masonry. It was used to rebuild the pretty local village which had also suffered at the hands of the destructive parliamentarian troops.

There is also a legend which Tomas Hardy recorded concerning the disappearance of an entire Roman legion, with of course, only its ghost remaining leading to the conclusion that a massive battle must have taken place between the Celts and the Romans.The Fox Inn

Corfe castle has had a lot of reported ghost sightings that has made the BBC (Corfe Castle Murder Walks). A ghostly white lady and a weeping child are just two of the ghosts that haunt the castle. They say you can come across the headless white lady, whose shimmering shade chills the blood of those who chance upon her, and they find themselves shivering and shaking until she turns and drifts slowly away, fading into nothingness as she goes. The spirit is thought to be that of a young woman who betrayed the castle to Cromwell’s troops during the Civil War.The village

The castle was also the scene of the assassination of King Edward (Edward the Martyr) on the 18th March 978, on the orders of his scheming stepmother Queen Alfthryth. He was stabbed while still on horseback, then dragged along to his death by his horse.

There is a Legend of the pelican at Corfe castle. In 2008, there was great excitement when a stone carving of a pelican was discovered high on the keep at Corfe Castle. To the castle’s Norman builders, the pelican was a powerful religious symbol and its presence here underlines Corfe’s importance as a royal stronghold.

Back: Lady and a henchman
Back: Lady and a henchman

A pelican’s breast plumage has a reddish tinge and its beak a red tip. In ancient times, it was wrongly assumed that the pelican was pecking its chest with its bill and giving its own blood to its chicks. The pelican feeds its chicks with small fish. As the chick reaches up for the food, it was thought they were attacking the parent. When – full of food – the chicks snuggled down into the nest, it was thought the parent pelican had killed them. After three days the pelican was said to peck its own breast and spray blood on the chicks, thus bringing them back to life.

Early Christians, familiar with the legend of the pelican’s

Front: Lady and a henchman
Front: Lady and a henchman

apparent self-sacrifice, saw this as an appropriate symbol to represent Christ the Redeemer. The pelican is usually portrayed with its wings back and head down – a representation of the cross.

You may see another birds in Corfe Castle – the resident ravens, which have recently returned to nest at Corfe Castle. It was believed that if the ravens left the castle it would fall, and according to local legend in 1638 the ravens disappeared and the castle was largely destroyed in 1646.There is the same prophecy for Tower in London, so they keep breeding ravens there just in case.

Corfe Castle’s history continues to be celebrated by the National Trust with court jester days, castle quest activities and living history events. You can see my friends wearing the court clothes on the right.

Swanage RailwayThere is one more attraction nearby: the award-winning Swanage Railway currently operates on the six miles of track between Swanage and Norden, through the beautiful Isle of Purbeck, passing the magnificent ruins of Corfe Castle. The Isle covers approximately 100 square miles but it is not a true island even though the English Channel, Poole Harbour and the River Frome almost surround it.

[slideshow]

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Corfe Castle, Wareham, Dorset, UK

corfe castle panorama

The dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle stand on a natural hill guarding the principal route through the Purbeck Hills. As you can see it guards the gap between the south of Purbeck, where Purbeck marble was once quarried, and the rest of England. Nothing could pass in or out without going past the Castle.

Corfe CastleCorfe castle is one of Britain’s most majestic ruins. It’s history can be tracked back to 6000 BC. Of course back then it was not a castle but a village. The oldest surviving structure on the castle site dates back to the XI century.The fortification of the castle was initiated by William the Concqueror to insure its durability for use as a royal fortress. In the end it was destroyed from within by a “turncoat” during the civil war, who gave entry into the castle allowing Cromwell’s army to enter the castle to destroy everything in their path.Corfe Castle ruins

Cromwell’s army fought the most remarkable Lady Bankes, a Royalist, who cared for the castle while her husband, Sir John was called away by Charles I, earning her the name “Brave Dame Mary” as well as the respect of the Parliamentary commander; who was so impressed with her courage that he allowed her to leave the castle with her garrison and the keys to the castle once the Roundheads finally persuaded her to surrender.  She was betrayed by one of her own garrison, who allowed Parliamentary soldiers to gain possession of the building, whereupon they set about destroying the edifice. The Bankes family still preserves the keys at their family home, which is protected by the National Trust.Cementary Corfe Castle Some say that probably more damage was done by the locals than by the troops as they looted the site for its limestone masonry. It was used to rebuild the pretty local village which had also suffered at the hands of the destructive parliamentarian troops.

There is also a legend which Tomas Hardy recorded concerning the disappearance of an entire Roman legion, with of course, only its ghost remaining leading to the conclusion that a massive battle must have taken place between the Celts and the Romans.The Fox Inn

Corfe castle has had a lot of reported ghost sightings that has made the BBC (Corfe Castle Murder Walks). A ghostly white lady and a weeping child are just two of the ghosts that haunt the castle. They say you can come across the headless white lady, whose shimmering shade chills the blood of those who chance upon her, and they find themselves shivering and shaking until she turns and drifts slowly away, fading into nothingness as she goes. The spirit is thought to be that of a young woman who betrayed the castle to Cromwell’s troops during the Civil War.The village

The castle was also the scene of the assassination of King Edward (Edward the Martyr) on the 18th March 978, on the orders of his scheming stepmother Queen Alfthryth. He was stabbed while still on horseback, then dragged along to his death by his horse.

There is a Legend of the pelican at Corfe castle. In 2008, there was great excitement when a stone carving of a pelican was discovered high on the keep at Corfe Castle. To the castle’s Norman builders, the pelican was a powerful religious symbol and its presence here underlines Corfe’s importance as a royal stronghold.

Back: Lady and a henchman
Back: Lady and a henchman

A pelican’s breast plumage has a reddish tinge and its beak a red tip. In ancient times, it was wrongly assumed that the pelican was pecking its chest with its bill and giving its own blood to its chicks. The pelican feeds its chicks with small fish. As the chick reaches up for the food, it was thought they were attacking the parent. When – full of food – the chicks snuggled down into the nest, it was thought the parent pelican had killed them. After three days the pelican was said to peck its own breast and spray blood on the chicks, thus bringing them back to life.

Early Christians, familiar with the legend of the pelican’s

Front: Lady and a henchman
Front: Lady and a henchman

apparent self-sacrifice, saw this as an appropriate symbol to represent Christ the Redeemer. The pelican is usually portrayed with its wings back and head down – a representation of the cross.

You may see another birds in Corfe Castle – the resident ravens, which have recently returned to nest at Corfe Castle. It was believed that if the ravens left the castle it would fall, and according to local legend in 1638 the ravens disappeared and the castle was largely destroyed in 1646.There is the same prophecy for Tower in London, so they keep breeding ravens there just in case.

Corfe Castle’s history continues to be celebrated by the National Trust with court jester days, castle quest activities and living history events. You can see my friends wearing the court clothes on the right.

Swanage RailwayThere is one more attraction nearby: the award-winning Swanage Railway currently operates on the six miles of track between Swanage and Norden, through the beautiful Isle of Purbeck, passing the magnificent ruins of Corfe Castle. The Isle covers approximately 100 square miles but it is not a true island even though the English Channel, Poole Harbour and the River Frome almost surround it.

[slideshow]

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Ko Lanta Thailand

Ko Lanta Thailand

Ko Lanta consists of several islands, the two largest of which are Ko Lanta Noi (เกาะลันตาน้อย, “Small Lanta Island”) and Ko Lanta Yai (เกาะลันตาใหญ่, “Big Lanta Island”). Ko Lanta is a little less well-known than Ko Phi Phi, which has become more commercialised and corporate, there is less party and drinking and more peace.Khlong Jak Bay Ko Lanta was once known by its Malay name, Pulao Satak, which means Long Beach Island. Later, many Thais, both Buddhist and Muslim, moved to the island making the island known as the island of “a million eyes” (“Lanta” in Thai). The name may also be derived from the Javanese “lan-tas”, or fish grill (built of wood with a square grill on top where the fish are set in a circle).

And so we arrived on our paradise island. We checked into a fancy hotel with a swimming pool and headed to the beach which was… dirty, with a lot of stones, cold and with stuff floating in the water. Massacre!

The following day we decided to explore the island to find a better place. What would be more appropriate to do it with than moppets???At the time it seemed as a good idea to rent them and just drive around the island. In a short time we could have a glimpse of most of the beaches. M and A did not drive with us in the end so it was down to us to to choose a place to stay.

koh-lanta-map As you can see on the map the road on the west side of the island seems to run just next to the beach. This is almost true, as there are many resorts next to the beach which cover up the view. The main roads on the island are well paved. However the road just north of Mu Ko National Park is still unpaved dirt. That road ends at the park and so it isn’t possible to drive from that point up the eastern side of the island.

It was the first time I ever drove a moppet. Soooo scary! Everything was ok until I had to turn. I think I never learned how to do it in the end. Anyway we were driving South when we came to this steep hill and I was too afraid to drive my moppet back downhill. It was worth getting there though. We found there the place were we spent the rest of our stay: Klong Jark Bungalow. It had two features we were looking for: wooden cottages and location next to the beach. The prices were still low because the tourist season was not supposed to start until the last night of our stay. The beach was lovely and quite secluded. Next to ours there was one more resort with a beautiful restaurant and splendid food. It was so good and fresh that since I woke up I was already waiting on our evening meal.job2do-thai-reggae

All the attractions and things to do are well described in Wikitravel so if you are interested follow this link. I will write about my private memories and what happened to us.

1. One morning everyone we met asked us if we are going to the Job2do concert. “Job to do? Where is it?” And so we decided to go. The concert took place on a beach and we really had a lot of fun being reagge fans since Chiang mai. Job 2 Do (Job Bunjob) is the number one Thai Reggae Band. Their most famous song is called, well it’s called “doo doo doo”. I’m listening to it right now writing this post.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAdZzr0ysxg]
It felt good when the next morning we felt we are more than “just tourist”. We Job 2 Docould ask anyone if they went to Job 2 Do concert and when they heard we did too, we received this smile making us believe we were not strangers anymore there was something we had in common. i remember being surprised by the plastic tables and chairs, I was expecting we all will have to stand and dance. I also didn’t expect we will be able to swim in the water hahahaa I suppose this is typical for somebody who never lived next to warm sea. I never went to Ibiza or places like that where the beach parties are a regularity. I really want to take part in full moon party next time I go over.Ko Lanta Job 2 Do

2. Mu Ko Lanta National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติหมู่เกาะลันตา). The Park is really beautiful with amazing white sand beach, lighthouse and a trek up the mountain and then through the jungle. You can meet a lot of monkeys up close, see tall jungle trees and many of jungle inhabitants. There weren’t many people there at the time so it was peaceful and quiet. I would advise to make a picnic there. If I remember correctly there is a place where Mu Ko Lanta National Parkyou can buy some food but because we were out of tourist season it was closed. Hahahhaha one of us (no names) went the in panties hahaha and he survived so it’s not that dangerous.

3. Bar/restaurant at the top of our famous hill. Why is it fameous? Because no tuk-tuks go up the hill. To get to our resort we had to hitch-hike or walk. The restaurant is called Noon Sunset View Point Restaurant. Don’t miss it! I found it’s web site and it’s truly a different place than I remember. On the front page they show bottles of wine and I had a memory of it being a typical low budget place, but well things change. We were sitting on a wooden terrace under the roof, on the floor next to low tables overlooking sea and the beach. Marvelous.Sun Set View Restaurant Ko Lanta

4. The moment of happiness. You remember the first picture in this post of a sunset in our beach? This is a record of a sunset witnessing a moment of pure happiness that was acknowledged. We were sitting in hammock chairs drinking exotic coctails with umbrellas looking at the setting sun. The light of the bar was warm and pleasant the slight breeze played with shell decorations and the music was smooth. We just finished delicious dinner. I guess shrimps for me. We dined in this place almost every evening trying different dishes. You could choose from selection of Thai dishes but also freshly made fish on bbq. The grill was on the beach and you could choose the sea food or fish and watch the cook prepare it for you. Pictures of the food and the restaurant in the slide show.

5. Our last evening in Ko Lanta. We walked to the end of the beach where a beach bar was to be opened the next evening. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlB962jm5TE] The owner was bringing all the bottles, glasses and other equipment in preparation for the season. We sat down and ordered some drinks. They were all colours of the rainbow and the smile of the barman was the most beautiful and cheerful smile I have ever seem. I remember it as one of the most joyful evenings. I wished we could stay longer. We were joking, singing and ordering more and more drinks. I have a recording of our barman shaking the drinks for us. Some of them we got for free for a good start. We also took a picture of ingriediens of the best one but I never made it in Europe. I know M. wanted to make Pad Thai in Ireland but I’m not sure if he finally did it or not. We had so much fun!

Ahh Thailand the brightest memories and the most adventures, at least I know what makes my World go round 🙂 Enjoy the slideshow:

[slideshow]

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