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Romantic Journeys

Scotland; not all bare knees and barley soup!

Edinburgh from Calton Hill

Yes, this is a country which formed a cuisine around oatmeal. But when we think of Scotland, we also think of Mary Stuart, the Edinburgh festival, whisky, tartans, frugality, the Loch Ness Monster, and certainly the ear-assaulting cacophony of bagpipes. It is true that Scotland is a land of stoic and hardy men with bare and knobbly knees protruding beneath their kilts, who, in every sort of blustery weather, stand guard outside the magnificent Edinburgh Castle. Watching these gentlemen stand tall and proud against a frosty highland breeze gives a glimpse into their character.

A lone piper

A real Scot is toughed at an early age. But beneath that hard exterior lies a soul of the romantic. For what could be more romantic than the wild and wind-swept Scottish sea coasts, or the medieval castles shrouded in history and folklore? Or the Sweetheart Abbey, a monument, like India’s Taj Mahal, built to commemorate a great and lasting love?

South of the town of Dumfries, near the coast of the Solway Firth, Sweetheart Abbey was founded in 1273 by Lady Devorgilla of Galloway, in memory of her late husband, John Balliol. When she died, her body was laid to rest before the high alter and a casket containing her husband’s embalmed heart was placed beside her.

Sweetheart Abbey, a monument to love

The Cistercian monks chose the name “Dulce Cor” or Sweetheart, in her memory. The Abbey was not Lady Devorgilla’s only act of charity; she also endowed Balliol College in Oxford in 1282. Her son John Balliol, who became King of Scotland at the behest of King Edward I had his regalia stripped from him by Edward when he didn’t toe the line.

Despite the ravages of time, a substantial part of this impressive abbey is still standing, including the nave, the choir, bell tower and the stonework of the great east window. Sweetheart Abbey also has the most complete precinct walls still surviving round a Scottish medieval monastery.

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