Railways and castles

Dollarbeg Castle.

Several months ago we visited Waterloo and I mistakenly joked that poor General Blucher had nothing named after him while Wellington got all the glory and the footwear. I was soon corrected and enlightened: Blucher also had footwear named after him. And then today I find another Blucher link.

We spent today travelling North to Edinburgh. I talked with the boys about the huge range of things invented by Scots and their reputations as engineers. Of course one thing they did not invent was the steam locomotive: George Stephenson, an Englishman, has that distinction – although many, many Scots went on to tend the beasts. Anyway, it turns out that Stephenson’s first locomotive ran in 1814 and was called, you guessed it, Blucher.

Now while the British may have pioneered the railway, they’ve also made a right, royal mess of it. Our second trip today confirmed our first impression – British rail is just so much poorer than mainland European rail. The carriages have more people jammed into them with less space and there’s just no space for baggage. Today our carriage had baggage piled all over the place and lots of nervous people watching their distant bags.

Eventually we arrived in Edinburgh and breathed the clean air of Scotland. We got our hire car and headed out – on the wrong side of the road. I’ve got so used to driving on the right that I’m having trouble adjusting back. So we progressed North to cries of “On the left, Evan!”.

It took about an hour to reach Dollarbeg Castle our new home for the week. Now our in the ten days we’ve been in the UK we’ve spent a night in a lousy hotel, had a week in a very nice but cramped canalboat and then three nights in an awful apartment in Windermere. Now just to provide contrast we’re staying in a Castle. Dollarbeg was built in the early 1900s as home to a railway tycoon (thanks again to George Stephenson). A few years ago it was sub-divided into a number of apartments and its lands became home to an up-market housing estate.

Dollarbeg is, however, a genuine castle. And we’ve got a lovely apartment with welcoming hosts who have salvaged our opinion of British holiday homes and their owners. The contrast just makes us laugh with joy.

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