June 28 – Maybe I'm A-mazed
In search of Crichton Castle, Lothian
Revived by my snack, I settle back and enjoy the scenery of Midlothian. There's nothing spectacular about it, really; there are no rugged fells or soaring peaks here. Indeed, the rolling hills and broad expanses of pasture land remind me of a number of eastern states – North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee.
The road we're on parallels the River Esk, a tame ribbon of water that winds around hillocks and boulders in its way. The fields are sectioned off by the low stone walls that range across this island; sheep and buttercups fill the pastures.
Despite the outward likeness of the terrain, there's something special about this land that can't be named. Perhaps it's knowing the history so well; knowing the turmoil of centuries of struggle and battle that have taken place here makes the tranquility which reigns now so sublime.
I awaken from my reverie and consult the atlas in my lap as we pass a sign that reads "Carlops." It seems we've been traveling in the opposite direction from which we should have been traveling for quite some time. We reverse our course, heading toward Penicuik where we plan on picking up a road of color. We've been on the clear roads for a while now, and while they are picturesque and enjoyable, if we're to see Crichton, then I need to stop enjoying the scenery so much and get serious about navigating.
After driving around in figure eights for another hour, continually passing signs that point the way to Bonnyrigg, which I easily locate on the map and direct Robin away from, frustration begins to set in. Somehow we've ended up back near Penicuik and what happens next unfolds in slow motion before my eyes.
Rounding a sharp bend, I notice two sheep pressed up against a low fieldstone wall, as if to give us as much room as we need to get past them, even though they're on the opposite side of the road. Just then a car approaches from the other direction; the sheep startle and it's a sudden matter of fight or flight for them. They choose flight and dart into the road in a panic just as the car passes them – dart into the road directly in front of us. Robin stomps on the brakes as the sheep, having expended their adrenaline, amble nonchalantly into the grass on the other side.
We were fortunate there was no one behind us. If there had been, we'd have been involved in a nasty traffic accident. The sheep, and our car, make it through this encounter unscathed but we reach for our drinks as if the bottles hold something a little more bracing than water or Pepsi.
These roads are supposed to be marked, I whine to myself. As we approach a town I tell Robin "Look, we're not men. We can stop and ask for directions". She laughs and pulls into a petrol station and proceeds to consult with a man that appears. The conversation she recounts to us once she's back in the car is hilarious:
"Where are we?" (I imagine this said in a plaintive, waif-like voice).
"But we can't be in Bonnyrigg!"
"Chrrrrrist lass, where do ye want to be going then?"
"Crichton Castle." (I imagine this said with a measure of hope and trust in this kind native Scot, to steer us along the right path.)
Despite his willingness to help, the directions he gives us don't seem to match up with the roads on the map once we're out in the countryside again. We drive around for at least another hour before finally spying a castle high atop a hill in the mist. Crichton Castle, at last.
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