“This country would be really beautiful if it was warm and sunny.”
We had just gotten off the bus in Melrose and were standing in front of Melrose Abbey in the rain.
Melrose Abbey is the starting place of St Cuthbert’s Way, a 63 mile walk across the Scottish Borders into England and out on to Lindisfarne Island.
Four transport changes between trains and buses between Aberdeen and Melrose had provided the rain further opportunity to soak through all our layers, so that by the time we arrived in Melrose, my sister, Anna, was commenting on the weather for about the sixteenth time.
Again, she said, “This abbey would be gorgeous if it was warm and sunny.”
“Yep, you’re probably going to need to quit saying that.” I offered, helpfully, “It might rain all week long.”
To her credit, she laughed.
We trudged off in the rain to find our lodging for the night.
Along the way, a friendly gentleman asked us if we were lost.
I have a knack for looking lost, even when I am not exactly lost. There is a step just before Completely Lost that I like to call Finding My Way. Somewhere between Finding My Way and Completely Lost is where I live most of the time.
But we were willing to admit defeat if this gentleman was willing to point us to dry shelter.
“Yes, actually, we’re looking for the Fauhope House.”
“Oh yes,”he replied, “I stayed there once, several years ago. I’m walking in that direction and will take you as far as the bridge and tell you the rest of the way.”
Anna and I were carrying our bag between us because we were on a sort of gravel road on which it would not roll. We later noted that having the large bag between us all day, getting it on and off buses and trains, would make us very appreciative of our tour having arranged a baggage transfer service for the rest of the week!
Our new friend told us that he was visiting the area on a motorcycle tour but that he used to come to Melrose all the time to fish for salmon in the River Tweed. He was just going for a walk to the river to remember all the good times he had there.
True to his word, he took us as far as the bridge over the River Tweed and then pointed at a spot on the hill where he thought that the Fauhope House sat.
“Tell Sheila that Jonathan said Hello, he told us as he waved us off and wished us luck on our walking journey.”
We crossed the bridge and started up the hill but we could not find any sign of the Fauhope House. It began to rain a bit harder and I could no longer see my instructions at all, so we were walking blindly towards the spot on the hill that Jonathan had pointed to.
We were probably a mile and a half away from Melrose Abbey and about to give up altogether and walk back to Melrose when I spotted a tiny sign on the ground on the left side of the road that said FAUHOPE.
“THAT? That is our sign?”
The small sign gave no indication of which direction the Fauhope House was in, but we crossed over to it and a little further down was a small gravel lane that headed straight up into the trees.
“I think this must be it.”
Huffing and puffing with our suitcase, we pushed up the lane until the beautiful house came into view. I was certain this was our spot. We rounded the lane to the back of the house where the entrance was and took a minute to catch our breath before we rang the bell.
Shelia opened the door, horrified at our drowned-rat-state, she shooed us into the house and reprimanded us for not calling her. She would have been happy to pick us up from the bus stop in all this rain! Oh dear, and we must get off our wet things and come have a cup of tea. Dear oh dear, could she make us a dinner reservation? Of course she would drive us into town for dinner. And what about a glass of sherry? Just get in here and I’ll get you your tea.
Needless to say, we were only too happy to be pampered by Sheila and to come out of our wet things and into the cozy comforts of the Fauhope House.
Once we were warm in front of the fire, Anna said that if we had not run into Jonathan, who had pointed us in the right direction, we would be referring to the Fauhope House as the No Hope House. We sipped tea with cakes and shortbread and sat by the fire before getting cleaned up to go out for dinner.
Sheila drove us back down the hill and we assured her we would be fine to walk back to the house now that we were not lugging a suitcase. We had dinner in a little pub in town and when we emerged, blessedly, the rain had stopped.
So we walked back across the suspension bridge, this time stopping to spot Sheila’s house above the yellow rapeseed fields. While we were walking back up the lane, Anna remarked, “I think that this trip is going to be the perfect mixture of adventure and luxury.”
“Yes,” I said, “It’s not so terrible to traipse around all day in the rain when you know that at the end of the road, a warm fire and a cup of tea await your arrival.”
Back at the Fauhope House, we had a spot of sherry before crawling into our big fluffy beds for the night.
Tomorrow our adventure on the trail would begin.