Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Principia Consortium Field Trip

My studying here in Glasgow is through a program the university has with liberal arts schools in the States, specifically with their Honors Program. There aren't very many schools that take part in this program and Christopher Newport is the only one in Va. So as a stipulation of the program, everyone participating is required to take the class Scottish Enlightenment: Ideas and Influences where basically we talk about the major figures of the Scottish Enlightenment and their contributions to the era. Another part of this program was a planned field trip which we took part in this weekend. There are only 10 people participating in the Principia program this semester so we're a pretty small group.

The day started off with everyone boarding a small, yet very comfortable bus, at 8:45am. Then we were off to our first stop, Robert Burns's Birthplace. Robert Burns is a very famous Scot because of his poetic contributions. He is celebrated throughout the world on his birthday (which I talked about in a previous blog). He also has more monuments and statues around the world than any other author. It's about a 45 minute drive from Glasgow to Alloway where the Burns Cottage and Birthplace Museum are located. Once we arrived in Alloway we headed to the Burns' Cottage, but unfortunately we arrived early and it wasn't open yet so we took a wee walk through the town. The town is really only made up of one street so we meandered for a while then decided to head back. Once we got into the site our Professor who was accompanying us told us some facts about the house before we were joined by a tour guide who would be accompanying us until we reached the museum, a short walk away. The cottage was built in 1757 and is still standing today in great shape with only one mishap occurring during a winter storm soon after Burns' birth. His father fixed that wall very well and it is in great shape today. The cottage is made up basically of four rooms, one to keep the animals at night, one for milking, churning, and cheese making, one as a parlor/family room, and one as the bedroom. This was typical of the time and the Burns were not terribly poor people. They had some cows and William Burns was a groundskeeper for a more prominent member of society in the town.

One of the scarier aspects of the cottage
After we looked through the cottage we took a walk along a path that lead to the Birthplace Museum. The path is fondly called Poet's Path and has statues depicting several works by Burns along the way, the most notable being Tam o' Shanter (a poem about a drunk man and witches). We stopped by the Auld Kirk which was built in 1516 but has been in ruins since Robert Burns' time in the town, yet it is the resting place of Robert's father William. His gravestone is inscribed with Burns' eulogy on the back. There is still a lot of superstition surrounding the Kirk and many patrons are afraid to walk by it at night. Across the street from the Auld Kirk is the newer Church which was built in the 19th century. We then walked towards Brig o' Doon which has a beautiful bridge and gardens. It is adjacent to the Burns Monument and Gardens, which was our next destination. We went into the monument which has some lovely views of the town but is in need of some TLC. The paint was peeling in several places and it looked as though it hadn't been dusted in several years. Our last stop in Alloway was the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. Here the tour guide left us and we were free to explore the museum and get lunch. Becca and I being the fiscal curmudgeons we our took the packed lunch route but everyone else in the group got lunch from the cafe in the museum. The food looked really good by the way. Then we went into the exhibit, which isn't very large but you can only have so much stuff to commemorate one guy. I learned about Burns' reputation with the ladies, which is quite extravagant. He fathered 16 children to 5 women, several of his illegitimate children were raised by his wife as well. Burns was a pretty famous man even in his own time, which is strange for a poet. He sold out the first edition of his poetry collection in 6 weeks. There was more information about the time as well as references to the level of influence Burns really has (they alluded to some pretty interesting people...). But probably the most interesting fact I learned is that Robert Burns died on my birthday in 1796. I know, that's really cool.

William Burns' grave

These poor people lost 3 children in 3 days

remnants of the auld kirk

and the newer kirk

Burns Monument

After the museum we made our way to Culzean (kul-layn) Castle which is absolutely stunning. It is right on the water and is associated with a large piece of property with several gardens, walking trails, ponds, and a deer enclosure. We had about 2 hours to wander around the grounds as we wished. Unfortunately the actual castle was closed to visitors but we got to see a good deal of the extensive grounds. Most of the class went together to wander but a couple of people went their separate ways. We started off by going up to the castle and looking at the structure and then wandered down to the beach to climb some rocks. Then we ventured into the woods in an attempt to find the Swan Pond. Along the way we passed the old gunpowder tower as well as some other vestigial structures. Upon making it to the pond we watched to birds for a little while then headed to a pagoda where the family used to keep monkeys. After that Becca and I decided to check out the adventure playground while the others went to find another beach. Unfortunately the playground was intended for people under 16 and there were a lot of kids and families there so we didn't stay long. We decided to leisurely walk back to where the bus was getting us and pass the walled gardens and a greenhouse on the way. The gardens weren't all that spectacular since we're just starting to get any semblance of warmth over here but it was interesting none the less. The greenhouse was also very pretty. It's not really a greenhouse per se but I'm not exactly sure what you would call it. It was made mostly of glass and had potted plants in it though. We made it back to the bus after a lot of walking but it took a while to get everyone back. We were then off to get back to Glasgow. It was a really great day and I had the chance to get to know some of my classmates a little better. It was also really great to see such a beautiful castle and a location of such cultural importance all in one swoop. I am very grateful the program planned this trip and the people in charge are trying to have some more afternoon outings planed so I'm really looking forward to those.

Arch that was made to purposely look like it was in ruins

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