The first time I trod on Scottish soil was back in 2015 when we crossed the Union Chain Bridge. We'd taken a holiday in Northumberland and as we were in the very north of England we decided to hop across the border. We didn't see much of Scotland, just a couple of days in Eyemouth, which is about eight miles north of Berwick upon Tweed, but I knew that I'd like to visit again and so I popped Visit Scotland on my 50 Before 50 list.
I've been watching the deals on Groupon and when a suitable offer came up, we jumped at it and spent last weekend there. The hotel was situated in The Borders, again, not too far into Scotland, but as we were only going for the weekend we didn't want to be travelling too long.
Somewhere I've always wanted to go is Gretna Green so we decided that we'd stop off on the way up. Back in the 18th century, marriage laws in England were tightened and couples were unable to marry under the age of twenty one without their parents' consent. The law in Scotland was different and with a more relaxed arrangement, many young couples simply eloped across the border in order to marry. Gretna Green was the first village in Scotland and situated on the route from London to Scotland, so very convenient. Any responsible person was able to conduct the marriage but the local blacksmith often carried them out 'over the anvil' and so the village blacksmith and the blacksmith's anvil have become the enduring symbols of Gretna Green weddings.
Round the back of the blacksmith's shop is a museum dedicated to the history of Gretna Green which is accessed through the Lucky Arch.
The area around the blacksmith's shop has been geared up for tourists with souvenir shops, a lovely food hall and a restaurant, and there's also a courtship maze. Weddings are still performed here and there was a bride and groom who had just tied the knot during our visit.
The Big Dance is the title of this thirteen foot tall sculpture of two clasped hands which was created by artist Ray Lonsdale, it stands in the centre of the courtyard.
After a whistle-stop tour, we continued on our way up through the Ettrick and Yarrow Valleys, such stunning scenery.
The drive was a little hair-raising at times with sheer drops at the side of the road, but the views were breathtaking. We encountered birds of prey soaring above the valleys and so many sheep grazing on the hillsides.
Eventually, we reached Ettrickbridge, our destination.
I knew straight away that I was going to like it here. Look how these traffic cones have been yarn bombed.
A small village, there's only one pub, The Cross Keys, which is where we stayed. This is a 17th century former coaching inn and we got a warm and friendly welcome from Trevor, our host. The room was clean and comfortable and the food was wonderful, we really enjoyed our stay.
The view from our room.
On Saturday, we decided to head towards Edinburgh. In hindsight, we should have planned this trip more carefully as the one-way traffic system coupled with a lack of car parking spaces and poor signage let us down. After trying for what seemed like an eternity to find somewhere to park, we gave it up as a bad job and decided, instead, to head to Portobello, a coastal suburb of Edinburgh.
I'm always happy to get a beach fix and so is Archie. Here he is doing what he always does as soon as his paws touch the sand.
Unfortunately, we hadn't taken into account just how windy it was. Can you see how the sand is blowing around?
Archie wasn't happy about the wind, here he is looking rather windswept, and it was only minutes after this photo was taken that he was trying to rub sand out of his eyes with his paws so we decided to call it a day and head back to the car.
We spent the rest of the day driving back towards our digs, stopping off at little places along the way and taking in the wonderful scenery. Mick got a new car last week and the sat nav would insist on taking us down little winding back roads, he needs to have a look at it and program it better, but we got to see some fantastic sights this way.
It was raining hard on Sunday morning so we decided to head back home after breakfast. On the way, we saw signs for Hadrian's Wall. I'd visited a different stretch of the wall on a school trip many years ago but Mick had never seen it before so we took a little detour. In AD122, the Emperor Hadrian ordered his soldiers to build a 73 mile coast to coast wall between Roman Britain and Scotland.
Some parts of the wall have stood the test of time better than others, but it's amazing that something nearly two thousand years old is still standing.
The glorious view back towards Scotland.
We had a wonderful weekend and I know we've only touched the surface of Scotland, there's so many more places to discover. I'm sure we'll be back again.