Thursday 7th August - It was a 7.40am start as 42 residents of Winthorpe and local villages set off with our coach driver, Peter Seymour of Travel Wright, Newark, on a 296 miles journey to visit the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
A short coffee stop was made at Lotherton Hall, an Edwardian home, formerly the home of the Gascoigne family and now owned by Leeds City Council. A lunch stop was made at Durham. Dominating the city skyline was the awe-inspiring 11th Century Cathedral with its three massive towers. Nearby was the Castle, also 11th Century, now used by the University for Student Accommodation. Our last stop before Edinburgh was at the 18thCentury Otterburn Mill in Northumberland.
Our stay for the next three nights was the 120 rooms Ramada Jarvis Hotel at Livingston, 17 miles outside Edinburgh.
Friday 8th August - On a bright sunny morning we visited the city of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. The main shopping area of Princes Street and its Gardens were alive with the sound of many groups of musicians and applause given to the skills of the jugglers and a ‘Houdini' escape artist.
August is the month of the Edinburgh International Festival. Founded in 1947, it is a festival of performing arts that takes place in the city. Top class performers of music, theatre, opera and dance from around the world are invited to perform.
The afternoon visit was made to the Royal Yacht Britannia, permanently moored as an exhibition ship at the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre, in the historic port of Leith. Britannia was built in 1953 at the shipyard of John Brown & Co. Ltd. in Clydebank as a Royal Yacht for the Queen and other members of the Royal Family. She has sailed the world many times and played host to many of the world's dignitaries. Retired in 1998, she is now owned by The Royal Yacht Britannia Trust.
The highlight of the day was the evening performance of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Running during August as part of Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo celebrates 59 years of music and spectacle. Performing in the Esplanade, against the world famous backdrop of Edinburgh Castle and with a colourful kaleidoscope of music, dance and drill displays were:
The Massed Bands of Her Majesty's Royal Marines.
His Majesty The King's Guards Band and Drill Team of Norway.
The celebrated Massed Pipes & Drums and The Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
With acts from Australia, the United States of America, Canada and the Far East, along with The Massed Highland Dancers and Members of the Territorial Army, who were celebrating their Centenary Year.
In the cool of the evening and with the fluttering of flags high up in the stands, each flag representing the nations performing, the delicate play of lights on the colourful musicians and dancers, together with the excited murmur and applause of 9,000 spectators was an experience not to be missed.
The performance ended with a flag-lowering ceremony and the haunting sound of a Lone Piper playing a lament high up on the Castle ramparts.
Saturday 9th August - Raincoats and umbrellas were in use during our visit to the Falkirk Wheel. The Falkirk Wheel, named after the nearby town of Falkirk in central Scotland, is the only rotating boat lift in the world. Opened in May 2002 by Queen Elizabeth 11, this exceptional feat of modern engineering, whose architecture has been linked to double-headed Celtic axes, is designed to connect two of Scotland's great historic waterways, the Forth & Clyde and the Union Canals. The wheel, which has an overall diameter of 110 ft. (35 mtrs.), has two opposing arms each carrying a water-filled caisson. These caissons carry the boats from one level to the other. Due to the fine balancing and gearing, it only uses the same power as six electric kettles to turn the vast 1,800 tonne Wheel. Boats, that used to take all day to travel through the now redundant 11 locks, take only 15 minutes and at no cost.
Our ‘Falkirk Wheel Experience' was a one-hour round boat trip tour. With Alison, our guide on board who explained the safety and operational details, we then set off from the Visitors Centre in the basin of Forth & Clyde Canal and ascended via the Wheel to the Union Canal. We travelled along the aqueduct through the tunnel to the south basin of the Union Canal before turning around and returning.
After lunch and with warm sunny weather, we made our way north to go over the Firth of Forth at Kincardine Bridge, close to the new road bridge seen under construction. Following this pretty route alongside the Firth of Forth eastwards, the 2,400 megawatt coal-fired power station of Longannet was conspicuous by its 600 ft. (183mtrs.) chimney and the absent of cooling towers, relying on the river water as a coolant. Passing the Rosyth Naval Base, home to Britain's nuclear submarines, and then over the Forth Road Bridge at Queensferry and back to Livingston.
Sunday 10th August - Leaving at just after 9am we travelled down the A702. This part of Scotland was very scenic. The landscape of the 15 miles range of the Pentland Hills, with many of its peaks rising above 1,800ft. (570mtrs.) was of rich lush grass, Beech and conifer trees, amongst burns, cleughs and glens. These, with the white cottages, provided a great variety of scenery in this relatively small corner of Scotland. Through the town of Biggar, known for its Gasworks Museum and stopping at Moffat Woollen Mill famous for its Scottish knitwear. Continuing our journey into the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the three well known peaks of Whernside 2,419ft, (736mtrs.) Ingleborough 2,373ft. (724mtrs.) and Pen-y-ghent 2,273ft. (693mtrs.) were easily visible, before we entered the market town of Skipton for our lunch stop. Skipton, home to the Skipton Building Society, is known as ‘The Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales.' Guarding one end of the main street is Skipton Castle with its massive twin towers. Owned by the Clifford family, this 900 years old building is one of the most complete and best preserved castles in England. Our last stop was Ferrybridge Service Station before arriving back in Winthorpe at 7pm.
Pat Finn. August 2008.
There are many things that I will always remember in this short break, but I will only mention two:
It was 9pm, there was a hush in the crowd and with darkness falling when the great oak gates of the Castle opened. Into the night air, came the swell of the pipes and drums of the massed bands, led by The Band of The Royal Marines, as they marched out in their hundreds across the drawbridge into the Esplanade. It was breathtaking.
Alison, our boat guide, had us in stitches with her humour in the explanation the ‘Wheel's' operation. I am sure she would have made a good after-dinner speaker. Could she be persuaded to come to Winthorpe?