Scotland the Brave - Homecoming to Scotland Topped off by The Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle - 9th August 2016

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August 9th 2016
Published: August 16th 2016
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When we had worked out that we were going to be passing through Edinburgh on our way to the Highlands we thought about the thrill it would be to attend the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in the place where it all started,within the grounds of Edinburgh Castle.Within moments of going online way back at the start of this year we had booked tickets and the day was set for one of the highlights of the BBA V3.

It is going to be a long day today, as not only do we head north of the border to Scotland but we are also attending the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Edinburgh and will have a 45 minute drive to get back to our hotel after the show finishes probably around 11pm.

So our very good night’s sleep has put us in good stead for the day.

To reduce the need for having to stop in a town to find some lunch we have had a bigger than usual breakfast enjoying farm fresh boiled eggs that Sue had in the fridge for us. What a different taste these had even over the free range eggs you buy in a supermarket. She had bought them on Sunday directly from a farm.

The weather though has turned a bit on us from yesterday and it is quite overcast and a bit chilly again. So much for the British summer we are just grinning and bearing it wearing a mix of the winter and summer clothing we bought with us. We had really thought by now that the few winter clothes we have would have gone to the bottom of the suitcase.

It is not a particularly long drive today but we do expect to encounter traffic when we are near Edinburgh and heading west to Harthill down the M8 towards Glasgow and we think this will slow our progress.

We returned to the A1068, the coast road, as there were places we thought we might like to stop at even though the weather was overcast and a bit breezy.

The outside temperature was just 15C as we took a slight diversion down to the beach near Amble.

One of the frustrating things about the ‘coast’ road so far is it actually doesn’t run along the coast and often our view to the right requires us to strain our eyes even to get an idea where the coast might be. We do realise that it will get more coastal as we go north but there looks to be an interesting place or two to explore before we get that far.

Access to the beach was through a sort of regional park and then it was just a short walk through the sand dunes to a lovely stretch of beach with smooth sand and almost flat sea conditions. We say lovely because we are giving the location the benefit of the doubt that it would look even more impressive to us if the sun had been shining on it.

They are hardy people these Northumberlanders as there were families unpacking seaside equipment including body boards for the kids and heading down to the beach too. If we had a day like this in summer in NZ we would take the kids to the movies or look for an inside activity.

However we have come to appreciate that if you live in the UK you just have to make every post a winning post and at least it wasn’t raining, yet.

Further on we passed through the seaside town(now we were on the coast itself as we drove)of Seahouses which is where we would have taken the boat ride to see the puffins on the offshore islands of Farne had the puffins not left at the end of July!

The town was busy and there looked to be a lot of activity down by the small harbour so people were still taking advantage of taking the trip to the low, flat islands that were close to the coast to see the multitude of other sea bird life that live there.

The rain which had been threatening finally did arrive just as we got to Bamburgh, location of the grand and very impressive Bamburgh Castle which we had earmarked as another stop for photos and video.

We hadn’t intended going into the castle which is open to the public but rather get what most people do photograph it from the sand dunes south of the castle itself.

The first known history of the castle was in 547AD which makes it pretty old and the site may have been the ‘capital’ for a race of early inhabitants 130 years before that.

We had seen photos taken of it from the sea which are also very impressive but we weren’t going to manage that unless we waded out in the sea which we weren’t going to do with the air temperature dropping to 12C as the rain arrived.

So in the rain I made a dash through the sand dunes for a high point and took video of the castle then hurriedly returned to the car. Like at the beach a little earlier there were people rugged up against the rain and the breeze taking to the walking paths below the sand dunes. As we noted before people that come to Northumberland for summer are made of hardy stuff!

Next short diversion was a little further on as the coast road came to an end and we joined the A1, the principal road on the eastern side of the country approaching the Scottish border.

It is interesting to note that the only true motorway in the east ends at Newcastle and the main road north becomes a regional road.

Initially we thought we had missed the road out to the rather unique Holy Island or Lindisfarne as the island started to drop behind us as we joined the A1.

However we soon came across the turn off and we realised that the approach to the island is at the northern end and not the southern which actually looked close on the may anyway to the mainland.

We had seen a TV programme about Holy Island that Robson Green had done in a series of his home county of Northumberland and the unique way you have to take to get there was of interest to us.

The mainland road arrives at what essentially is the sea shore but then becomes a causeway that you can only access at low tide.

Driving along the road in busy traffic you notice what the last high tide had left on the side of the road, seaweed etc etc.And you then really do appreciate the bold warning signs that warn you not to attempt to cross when the tide is in. The actual crossing time available is quite long between the tides but apparently people do still get caught out.

We got to the car park set up to accommodate the many tourists that make the trip over to experience the island which was populated in the 6th century when a priory was built and lasted until 1536 when Henry VIII bought it to an end with the changes he inflicted on religion during his reign.

The car park was so full which led us to believe that the small village a little further on foot plus the couple of attractions such as the ruins and lighthouse would have been busy with people. And as it was just 11C outside the car we returned to the mainland over the causeway at least satisfied we had ‘visited’ the island. We should add that you can walk to the island not over the causeway but by following a line of poles set out in the muddy flats. This path doesn’t follow the road and we expect you want to have good knowledge of the tide times to attempt it too. People were out there in small groups walking to the island as we drove in relative luxury and warmth.

The weather and temperature improved to 14C as we took a short stop at Tesco on the outskirts of Berwick upon Tweed to buy sandwiches.

Here you are not sure if you are still in England or gone over the border into Scotland as the voices in the supermarket were a mix of Scottish and English. The town is actually in England so those with the Scottish accent must feel they are in a ‘foreign land’.

We took another little diversion off the A1 onto the A1107 which in our atlas has a ‘scenic ‘note to it and that is how it turned out to be. We diverted even further and found the coastal village of St Abbs and had our lunch in the car (we are still waiting for the right day to have the BBA traditional ‘boot lunch ‘sitting in the car boot and enjoying the scenery while we eat).

It certainly was a picturesque coastline as the more rugged side of Scotland started to emerge.

The hotel we booked when we made our decision to go to the Tattoo is at Harthill which is actually nearer to Glasgow than it is to Edinburgh off the very busy M8.

As expected we did encounter slow traffic on the Edinburgh ring road although it wasn’t just to do with the heavy volume of vehicles but also a broken down four wheel drive and horse float which the police at the scene were just standing around with one lane closed off completely causing much congestion as divers in the UK seem to have great problems in merging. There was ample room off the highway and why they didn’t push the vehicle off the side of the road to open both lanes again will remain a mystery.

The hotel room was spacious at the Royal although we didn’t have much time to appreciate as we needed to get back to Edinburgh to pick up the tickets for the tattoo and have something to eat before the show started at 9pm.

We drove back through lighter traffic to Edinburgh to a car park not far from the Royal Mile, the main street to the castle where the show would be performed. We had booked the car park online, a first for the BBA, and everything worked perfectly with plenty of spaces available. We had wondered what would happen if too many casual drivers turned up and took the parks available.

The city was very busy with people obviously here to not only go to the tattoo but also the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

We found the office to pick up the tickets easily enough but finding somewhere to have a meal with the places we passed all full was not going to be a simple matter.

So here we were in Edinburgh, Scotland....what else to do but have dinner at MacDonalds!

With so many people watching the side walk performers it was difficult to see uphill and gauge the size of the crowd already gathering to enter the castle an hour before the show began.

We joined the queue and surprisingly although the spread of bodies was about a dozen or more across the pathway we made quick ground to where our bags were ‘searched’ and we were on our way to finding our seats about three quarters of the way up one of the three huge stands that encircle the parade ground in front of Edinburgh Castle.

We could go through all the performers who participated but they were all magnificent, even the Nepal Army Band who gave their all to keep up there with the likes of the NZ Army Bank and a slick Norwegian Royal Band.

The young kids who rode mini motor bikes at amazing speed for their age and performed daring feats that people way beyond their age might not try and effect were absolutely magnificent too.

And what else can we add about the preciseness of the Lochiel Marching Team from our home town of Wellington, just amazing!

The American Army Bank of Europe were special too with some of their members also being singers as they jazzed the music up and got the audience involved.

All through the performance pictures relating to the band or the music they were playing was shown onto the walls of the castle and as the night got darker the sharpness of those pictures became even clearer adding to the atmosphere.

The weather was perfect and even the coolness of the air as the night went on was almost unnoticeable as the performances kept you so involved and with no half time in the near two hour show there wasn’t time to think you might be starting to feel a little cold sitting out in the open air.

All too soon the show came to an end with the massed bands creating an awesome sound as they played Auld Lang Syne.We will attach a link to a short video for those who might be interested in some of what we saw.

Leaving the area at the end of the show was a slow affair as the crowd we estimated at about 10,000 came down from the stands took time to shuffle out onto the Royal Mile and dispersed towards wherever their transport home was waiting for them.

We were a bit concerned about how we would work the barrier at the car park when we left but a quick call into the microphone at the barrier arm giving them a reference number we had received when we made the booking and we were on our way.

The drive home was much quicker as there wasn’t a lot of traffic heading our way at midnight but it was still 1.30am before we finally climbed into bed as our adrenalin was still running strongly from being present at such an amazing show in the marvellous location of Edinburgh Castle.

Tomorrow, or should we say later this morning we head to towards the heart of Scotland, the Highlands.

PS:there is only one title for this blog and that is 'Scotland the Brave'.So pick whatever video with the title you want from Youtube and enjoy the stirring music that will have the blood racing around in your veins even if you don't have any Scottish heritage.

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