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Melrose Abbey at night © Robin Simpson

June 29 – That Old Time Religion
Melrose at night - A midnight mission

In less than five minutes we're dressed and out the door. Like a couple of teenagers embarking on a clandestine midnight outing, we leave the television on to mask the sound of our actions, creep down the stairs, and ease the front door open. Oh, the temperature has dropped drastically. It's cold, so cold.

We get the giggles as Robin starts the car, leaving the headlights off until we pull out onto the road. Melrose is deserted and eerily misty. In no time at all we've driven up High Street and made the turn onto Abbey Street.

Will it or won't it be lit up? "It is! It is!" Robin's bouncing up and down in her seat as we pull into the car park across from the abbey.

I stand shivering with my hands in my pockets as Robin rummages around in the trunk of the car for her tripod. She stops and looks at me as we hear footsteps, then voices, echoing through the narrow vapor-filled streets. The footsteps and voices are getting closer, and closer.

A man and a woman, returning home from a pub perhaps, appear walking down Abbey Street. They don't seem to notice us and soon disappear into the fog. There's something about this night that reminds me of Halloween as a child. The thrills, the chill, the outright fun. We, of course, hope for all treats and no tricks as we cross the road.

The abbey is magnificent lit up in the night, a golden glow cast upon it by several spotlights strategically placed at the foot of the ruins. Through graceful arches we can see the Eildon hills, completely black, against the sky which seems to turn from cobalt to violet to black before our eyes. Robin puts a leg of her tripod through the wrought iron gate and adjusts the settings on her camera while I look around.

I notice a path, running down the length of the fence that surrounds the abbey, set back behind some trees and wonder aloud if we can get down there. Wondering is all it takes to get us moving. Soon we're creeping down a dark alley, a building on one side of us and trees, shrubs and tall iron fence rails on the other side. The abbey is gorgeous, so solemn and serene in the night.

The alley bends sharply and Robin turns to me. "If someone walks out of there I'm gonna scream". Our laughter echoes through the night. Stopping for Robin to take a few more shots I peer into the darkness. At the end of the alley I can see a playground, the swings hanging motionless. The child in me wants to go down there and have a little fun, but I'm trembling with the cold now, and so is Robin.

Back at the car park Robin can't get her tripod to collapse. She bangs it on the paved surface a few times, the sound reverberating through the streets. Again we hear footsteps and see a man approaching from down Abbey Street. He turns into the alley. We get the giggles again imagining what would have happened if we'd met him around that dark bend on our way out (man). Finally Robin realizes it's not the tripod that's malfunctioning, it's her hands; we're both shivering now with the cold.

It's a short journey back to Torwood, where our room is exactly as we left it – lights on, TV blaring, night clothes strewn where we tossed them in our hurry to be on our way. With cups of hot chocolate from the tea tray to warm us, we settle in, too wound up to even consider sleep.

It's just past midnight and there's a program on that catches our attention – a game show called 100% Sex. I will omit further description here, as I'd like to maintain this as a family site. Suffice it to say, our midnight mission that reduced us to giggling teenagers continued on into the night. This show was hilariously bawdy. Benny Hill probably chuckles from the grave whenever it is aired.

After scribbling addendum in our journals, it's lights out. This has been such a long, incredible, fun-filled day, but some sleep is definitely in order. Tomorrow we will greet Melrose Abbey again, this time in the morning light, then move north toward Laurieston via Linlithgow Palace, stopping along the way to make another dream come true – a visit to Torphichen Preceptory in West Lothian.

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