9 Oct 2009

Sir Walter Scott's house and York

The Abbey in Bath

On the 9th morning we were out again - this time to York. But on the way we stopped at Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott's house. It's a lovely old farmhouse which he renovated and enlarged. There's a huge library full of really old books, mostly first editions, because he was a collector. He also had a bust of Wordsworth in his study. He must have really liked Wordsworth! Somehow I thought Walter Scott was older than Wordsworth, mainly because of his poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel which I had memorised when I was in Form 3! I also loved his novel Ivanhoe. Abbotsford is actually in the border country between Scotland and England. This is a truly beautiful part of England - with lots of old villages, woody hills and streams.

After Jedburgh we passed through the moors - just along the border. It is a rather bleak and lonely region - with craggy hills and poor-looking brownish grass. They look stark and lonely with no human habitation for miles around except for some sheep. The main economic activity here is sheep rearing because the soil is not very fertile - rather chalky we were told.

We stopped for lunch at a rest area just off the highway near Newcastle - fish and chips again! Our next stop will be York, which is another very old town. It used to be called Yorwich (Jorwick) . Because of a huge jam on the highway, our coach driver took evasive action and used the country lanes. This is more interesting actually because we drove through James Herriot country. I could see apple trees, pastures where cattle are grazing, beautiful English cottages and we even passed the veterinary clinic that James Herriot used to work in although he changed the names in his book. His real name was Alf White and the town is called Thirsk. I've read some of his books and enjoyed them very much, especially All Creatures Great and Small.

The town of York dates back to the Romans and some parts of it are even medieval. Constantine the Great was actually born in York - in a garrison where his father was a soldier. After the Romans came other Germanic tribes and later the Vikings who actually gave it its name. In 1066 though, The Normans conquered England and William the Conqueror made York his base. He found that the Roman walls were strong and made use of these ramparts and the castle, strengthening it even further. So the buildings in York have an interesting mix of eras. The guide told us that York has some of the most truly medieval architecture in the whole of England!

We had a walking tour of York and passed through a very narrow street called The Shambles. This place used to be the slaughter house for buthering animals and entrails as well as other animal parts could be seen strewn all over the street. The meat that has been butchered would be hung on hooks outside the shops. As there were no forms of refrigeration in those days the meat would be left hanging on the hooks sometimes for days until someone bought them. This place in those days was a mess, hence the word 'shambles' which still carries the same meaning today.

Since the beginning of the 20th century however, the meat industry has become more hygienic and the Shambles was no longer used as a slaughter house. Today it is a kaleidoscope of beautiful arty shops and glamorous boutiques.

Our hotel in York is also the Ramada but it is a renovated Manor house. It gracious beauty is charming and welcoming. The dining room is the original dining room of the former owners and has beautifully panelled walls and dates back to the Georgian era.

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