Scotland Day Five: Tantallon Castle

Birds sighted: Pied wagtail, chaffinch, wood pigeon, gannet, fulmar, crow

Fulmar at their nest on cliffs near Tantallon Castle

We took the train to North Berwick (pronounced Bear'ick). From the train we saw the countryside for the first time with its rolling hills, cows with their calves at their sides, and bright yellow rape seed fields clashing pleasantly with the blue sky and darker yellow gorse.

North Berwick

Jelly Fish in a tide pool

North Berwick is a great little town on the east coast of Scotland. It has miles of beaches and cute crenellated Victorian cottages and cafes. The wind off the water was icy and the waves really rolling in. It was a great place to sit and have a picnic lunch.

Another beach at North Berwick

Tantallon rising out of the green green grass of Scotland

You have to take a short bus ride from the tourist information center in N. Berwick to Tantallon Castle. Tantallon appears dramatically out of no where as you approach, a huge red sandstone ruin rising out of the sea amid farmers' fields and pastured horses. It is a magnificent old ruin with lots of places to climb around in, including prisons and privies (in situ outhouses), which, on at least two occasions, I found myself in by wandering down what looked like an interesting passageway. The wind was ferocious while trying to climb along the battlements.

Panorama of the seaward face of Tantallon

The countryside

View from the battlements

The real attraction to Tantallon, for this Traveler anyway, was the sea cliffs that it sits on, full of fulmar, and Bass Rock, just off the coast, home to thousands of gannets. Gannets are consummate fliers and can reach speeds of up to 100 kph as they dive into the sea in search of prey. I enjoyed watching them razoring across the huge sea swells below the cliffs.

Detail of Tantallon with Bass Rock in the distance.

Bass Rock. With the exception of the lighthouse, anything white you see on the rock is a gannet. If you look closely you can see tiny white specks in the air around the rock. These too are gannets.


Too soon we had to catch the bus back to town. We ended up in the Buttercup Cafe for tea and cake. The proprietor is quite entertaining, a bit fond of taking pictures of himself wearing only an apron, but is also a rather good photographer. While drinking tea and eating coconut fairy cakes (cupcakes to those of us from North America) I was required to thumb through the proprietor's photo album. He was very taken with my photo of the fulmar at the top of this post.

Haiku and Tonka written at the Buttercup Cafe

Traveler One:
fulmars sky wheeling
wild wind red stone towers
lost in the privy

Traveler Two:
Tantallon in dream
Escapes dark reality
confused darkness with sky bright banners ripping
wind roaring through battlements

Traveler One:
Gannets skim waves high
Feathered basalt columned white
They spin off the rock like stars

Traveler Two:
mind elsewhere feet drag
anywhere but there say I
the castle waiting

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