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The Great North Road page 2

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From this busy city of coal-mining and engineering interests the road proceeds to Gosforth. Newcastle's beautiful park, Jesmond Dene, is on the right. The villages of Wide Open and Seaton Burn conduct to Blagdon Park, seat of Viscount Ridley. Just within the park wall, on the left, is the old Kale Cross of Newcastle, removed and presented many years ago. The river Wansbeck is crossed into Morpeth, a queer old-fashioned town with an old castle-keep and a quaint old gaol. A steep rise out of Morpeth brings the road upon a lofty table-land, followed by a steep and winding drop at West Thirston to the ancient Gothic bridge across that rock-strewn stream, the lovely Coquet. Thence a rise, equally steep, to West Felton and Newton-on-the-Moor; and the approach to Alnwick. This grim little town has, as its chief feature, the castle of the Percys, Dukes of Northumberland. The barbican-gate looks upon the street with all the appearance of the entrance to a gaol. The castle is said to cover five acres.

Although so medieval without, it was remodelled within, about 1855, by the then Duke. The most picturesque view of Alnwick Castle is that from the Lion Bridge, by which the town is left behind. The Lion Bridge takes its name from a figure of the well-known Percy lion, stiff- tailed upon it.

Across the wind-swept moors the highway approaches the Northumbrian coast, passing Heiferlaw Tower, North Charlton, Belford and Warenford; followed by Middleton, Buckton and Fenwick. Then there comes into view, at Beal, the misty shape of Holy Island, the ancient Lindisfarne. It is "Holy Island" because it was here in a.d. 634 that St. Aidan began his Christian mission. Passing Haggerston Castle and Seremerston, the road becomes commonplace at its approach to Tweedmouth; but the view across the Tweed, towards Berwick, is interesting, for not only Berwick's roofs and steeples, but the early seventeenth century bridge, form striking objects in the view. This, the first bridge to be built between the shores of this broad river, was one of the first works after the accession of the Scottish king, James VI, to the English throne as James the First. It has become too narrow for modern traffic and is shortly to be supplemented by a new bridge. In the distance away to the left is the imposing "Royal Border Bridge," a lofty railway structure opened in 1850.

Berwick-upon-Tweed and the territory around it were formerly a kind of neutral ground between the often warring countries of England and Scotland; and generally were referred to in Royal proclamations as "Our Kingdoms of England and Scotland and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed."

Thus it is that only when we have come three miles out of Berwick are we said to have entered Scotland. In ordinary geographical usage, that would have been done on crossing the Tweed. But it is at the end of those three miles north of Berwick that we enter Scotland, at Lamberton Toll. No tollgate is here now, but only the old tollhouse, at which used to appear a notice which, for a combination of the trivial and the tremendous, it would be difficult to surpass. It read: "Ginger Beer Sold Here, and Marriages Performed on the Shortest Notice." For it must be understood that not only Gretna Green, but any place across the Scottish Border and any officiating person would suffice to complete a runaway match in the eye of the law.

Halidon Hill, the bleak down on the left, is that battlefield where Edward the Third defeated the Scots in 1333.

Passing the Flemington inn, the road approaches the rocky coast at Burnmouth and Eyemouth and soon passes through the little town of Ayton; rising to Heughhead and descending to Houndwood, in the valley of the Pease Burn. Here is "Grant's House," the name of a railway station and a hamlet. There is a level run and a descent to Tower Farm and the Pease Burn, and then steep rises and descents up to a down from Cockburnspath, where a ruined old red sandstone tower keeps a futile watch. "Co'path Tower" is in what Cromwell, in one of his dispatches, refers to as "the strait pass of Copperspath." Here the Scottish General Leslie was posted before the Battle of Dunbar, 1650. Had he held this strategic post and not descended into the vale, he might not have been defeated, as he was by Cromwell, in the meadows of Broxburn.

Crossing the ravine of Dun-glass Dene, and past Broxburn village, we are at Dunbar town, a small fisher port, set amid red rocks. Thence to Belhaver, West Barns and Beltonford, to East Linton, with the hills and golf courses of North Berwick on the right, and the great hill of Traprain Law on left. It was during excavations of recent years on Traprain Law that a great hoard of silver plate that had been lying hidden there since the sixth or seventh century was discovered. This, one of the greatest finds ever made, is now chiefly in the Museum of the Royal Scottish Society of Antiquaries at Edinburgh.

At Haddington, to which we now come, is a ruined abbey. In the roofless nave, whose floor is a grassy level, is buried Mrs. Carlyle, wife of Thomas Carlyle. The levels onward from Haddington, at Gladsmuir, Macmerry, Tranent and Prestonpans, resounded on a day in 1745 to the sound of battle, for it was at Prestonpans that Prince Charles's clansmen utterly routed General Cope's army. At Levenhall begin the Edinburgh tramlines. They lead into Musselburgh, that queer old town which, with Fisherrow, borders the river Esk. The arms of Musselburgh are quaint and curious, for they display three mussel-shells and three anchors, and the motto "Honesty."

Within four miles of Edinburgh we come to the coast at Joppa and Portobello, and then, after passing Piershill Barracks and Abbey Hill railway station, and Calton Hill, find ourselves at length at the conclusion of our journey, at the General Post Office, Edinburgh. Before us is "the finest street in the world," Princes Street; we are in the New Town of Edinburgh. On the opposite side of the valley is the old original historic Edinburgh: with the Castle on its crag, and all the neighbouring lofty houses, defined sharply against the skyline.

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