June 27 – A Castle of Kings
Arriving in Melrose, we drive into the center of this lovely little town before we realize that we've passed right by our bed and breakfast – Torwood Lodge.
No worry, there's a little roundabout at the top of the hill on High Street, so back we go, veering off to the right when we should have veered left where the road splits. No worry, we turn around again and make the hairpin turn and pull into the car park laughing.
Alan, the proprietor, greets us with a genuinely warm smile and informs us that his wife, Yvonne, is away at a meeting but will return soon. He asks if we want help with our bags and we gratefully respond in the affirmative. Which is the heaviest, he wants to know. It's mine, I admit with a measure of embarrassment.
Being a first time traveler to the UK, I have over-packed somewhat and over the past week have added at least ten pounds (in weight – not currency – how I wish it were only £10) to my bag. Corrie arrives, a lad of about sixteen years old and Alan points to my bag telling Corrie to grab that one, which he does with good-natured ease. After several trips up and down the stairs to stow our many smaller bags in our rooms we sign the guestbook and inquire as to a place to do laundry the next day and good place to eat in town soon ... very soon.
Alan responds that the laundry question would be better answered by his wife, assuring us again that she will return soon, then shows us a binder with menus from several pubs and restaurants. He makes his recommendation, The Royal Arms Inn, which we agree to take. But first we need to freshen up and scope out our new "digs".
Since Robin and I are more night-owls than Dana, we have taken the twin room just across the hall from her single room which boasts a tremendous king-sized bed. Soon Dana joins us and we ooh and ah over the view out of our floor-to-ceiling bay window. I'd looked at pictures of these rooms online before leaving home and it's an eerie feeling to be standing here now looking out of this window, which I had looked out of through my monitor. It's like stepping into cyber space for a moment.
I sit down on my bed next to the window, and sigh, smiling. The hills are a misty blue-green and rays of dim sunlight pierce the clouds, shining down on the Young's garden which includes a wide expanse of lawn, flowers and fruit trees. Horses graze beyond the fence. Just on the outskirts of Melrose, Torwood has a rural feel to it similar to Bessiestown. I like it here already and am thrilled with the prospects of staying here for the next three nights.
Down the stairs we go, refreshed and heading for town, and in walks Yvonne, uniformed in the Scottish version of Girl Scout leader. I like Yvonne immediately; she has an elfin look about her and her accent is wonderful. She welcomes us, and adds her confirmation that the Royal Arms Inn is indeed a good place to eat.
As for the laundry, she tells us there's not a laundromat in Melrose and kindly offers to do our laundry herself. It's an offer we just as kindly reject. A week into our trip, we all have jeans and many other articles to be laundered. We decide to discuss our other options with her in the morning and leave her to her family.
We are seated quickly at the Royal Arms Inn. Tended to by a courteous lad who seems to be somewhat amused to be waiting on Americans, I order a Prawn Club. This towering sandwich of prawn mayonnaise (as I've learned to call shrimp salad), cucumbers and tomatoes on brown bread, accompanied by hot, crispy chips goes down quite well with a half-pint of Tennents lager.
Our waiter clears the table and points out the board which lists the daily 'sweets' specials. I'm not much of a sweet-eater, a Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar lasts me three days, but I'm tempted by the fact that Robin and Dana have already decided they're having the Sticky Toffee Pudding that they're so fond of, and that there's several mysteriously named fruity desserts listed.
Feeling somewhat traitorous, I decline the Sticky Toffee Pudding, and opt to try the Lemon Lush. "I have no idea what it is," I tell the waiter and stop him as he opens his mouth to tell me. "No, no, no. I want to be surprised." He walks away laughing and shaking his head.
Lemon Lush ... whew, whoever named it certainly chose the correct word. With a lemon sponge cake base, three inches of a lemony concoction that seems to be a cross between lemon cheesecake and lemon chiffon pie filling, and topped with generous amounts of whipped cream this dessert defines decadence. I can't begin to finish it, but make a valiant attempt. I urge Robin and Dana to dig in with their forks. It's so good I can't bear the thought of leaving any on the plate, even if I'm unable to make room for it myself.
We do a little window shopping on the way back to the car, noting the location of the bank, which I need to visit before we head out in the morning, since the cash advance that I got in York is practically depleted.
Calling it an early evening, we return to Torwood where Dana retires with her books to her room, and Robin and I spread out postcards, books and journals on our beds, making our nests in this cozy room with the intoxicating view of the Borders.
A long soak in a steaming bath relaxes me and we chatter away over cups of tea. Darkness has descended by the time we finally wind down completely. It's been another long incredible day, this first full day in Scotland.
Also on Mostly Medieval:
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In the Exploring the Middle Ages section.
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In the Downloads section.
The Merkat CrossBooks for all ages, movies, costumes for Halloween and Ren Faire, music and more – all related to the Middle Ages.
In the The Merkat Cross section.