Monday, June 22, 2009


i'll say it again: ever since i was a wee lass, i've wanted to travel to scotland. somehow i learned that my dryden heritage, my dad's side of my family, emigrated once upon a time from scotland. and i learned that scotland was this far-away, magical place with castles and monsters lurking in deep lakes and bagpipes and mountains. and i was hooked. i've always wanted to go!

so when i was thinking about the things i wanted to do in scotland while exploring this land of my dreams, one of the things i had hoped to do was to go see my ancestral village. wherever that was.

so, i called my dad. i asked him where we came from. he had no idea. "but," he said, "you might want to check out the dryden family reunion website. i bet they'd have something on there." sure enough, they did! i checked it out, and it just so happens that the drydens came from a little village called roslin, near edinburgh! what a serendipity!

it also happens to be that rosslyn chapel, made famous from the da vinci code book and associated with the knights templar and the holy grail mythology is ALSO in roslin. omg, imagine that! that my ancestors might have at one time in ancient history been involved in the building of this chapel! maybe they were knights templar too, or protectors of the grail! how cool would that be?!

so OF COURSE when i discovered that rosslyn chapel was actually IN roslin village, and that my ancestors came from roslin, and that roslin village was just outside of edinburgh, and that we were going to be spending several days in edinburgh, OF COURSE we had to go to roslin! how could we NOT do that?!

so this was the plan: it was mother's day, and i was going to catch the bus to roslin to go to church that morning in rosslyn chapel. and everyone else was going to meet up with me later in the afternoon for some sightseeing. only problem: once i finally made my way to the bus stop in edinburgh (like a half hour away by foot!) i discovered that there were no buses to roslin that day. can you believe it? i came home crying, and was extremely disappointed. but then we went to holyrood house and had a cool bus tour of the city of edinburgh, so i got over it. AND it was GREAT that we actually had one more full day in edinburgh before we left for inverness. so it was decided that we would go on monday instead, our last day in edinburgh, and a regular work day with a regular bus schedule.

so the next day was monday, and i knew the way to the bus stop already (including the short cuts by this time!) so we all got up, got packed, and headed out. it took a good 40 minutes or so by bus to get to roslin, but it really didn't bother any of us: the weather was AMAZING and the scenery was incredible! rolling hills, sheep, pastures with wildflowers and hay, cute little cottages, distant mountains... it was exactly as i had pictured it!

we arrived in roslin, a sleepy village with one main street, a cafe, and a little war memorial along the road to rosslyn chapel. we made our way along the quiet roads to the chapel, which was under major renovations after centuries of disuse and neglect. pictures were not allowed to be taken inside the chapel, and the structure was covered by scaffolding and a metal roof to keep the rain (of which there was PLENTY in scotland) out of the already mildew-stained chapel. it was difficult to find any good angle of the church to get a decent picture of it, but guests were allowed to climb up on the scaffolding to get a good view of the surrounding countryside. it was from this vantage point that i could see the ruins of rosslyn castle (where william st. clair/william sinclair lived and he was the guy with this vision of building the chapel).

being the typical american out on an ancestral pilgrimage of sorts, i couldn't help asking the women in the visitor center a few questions about my last name. specifically, if they knew of anyone with that last name ("i don't know anyone by that name, but i HAVE heard it before") and if there were any road signs or anything with that name on it ("yes, at the end of the road take a right and you will see dryden grove and a bit further down there is dryden farm."). i know i looked like a dork asking these questions to total strangers, i'm sure i sounded like a real american after all, but i was so thrilled by their answers that i didn't even care how stupid i must have seemed to them. AND they were incredibly kind and patient with me, like virtually every other scot i met there.

rosslyn chapel is a working chapel, and we arrived right in time for the afternoon prayers. it was very moving to sit quietly and pray in the same chapel where my ancestors likely once worshipped. and where some of my distant relatives today still attend church services. i felt warm and rooted and heavy, like my feet were planted and my heart was vibrating. it was so amazing and beautiful, i wish i could have stayed there forever.

but time passes quickly, especially with a toddler; gracie was starting to fidget and it was soon time to go.

we set out in the direction of dryden grove, and found it quite easily as roslin has basically two roads: one going north/south, and one going east/west. it was along a quiet neighborhood street, right at the edge of town. in fact, i almost missed it! the walk was so peaceful and the area was so beautiful, that we happened to come across dryden grove before i even realized it. adam had to point it out to me, and i'm glad he did or i would have walked right past it!

just past dryden grove is a little footbridge along a path which many cyclists and pedestrians were using. i think there was a hiking network or something like that, and this road was one of the pathways in this route. it went past a cow pasture, a sheep pasture, and then through the forest before opening up into a clearing with a sign that read "dryden farm."

a bit further down, and we were actually IN dryden farm, which was a HUGE operation. aaaand, this is how cool my family is, dryden farm is actually the farm where dolly the cloned sheep lived for many years! no kidding! i'm not making this up, you can read about it online! just google "dryden farm" and it's like the second thing that pops up! isn't that cool?!

there was this big farm office building with a pretty garden in front, and so i figured why not look like a REAL tourist and ring the bell to introduce myself? i was soooo nervous -- what if they answered? what would i say? "hi, you don't know me but my last name used to be dryden and i think we should exchange emails so i can get to know you better." right. lucky for me (or lucky for them, or unlucky for both of us maybe) no one was around, so i didn't get the chance to look dumb. but that would have been pretty cool, i think. or pretty dorky. i still can't decide.

behind the offices there was another big lot with low buildings and farm equipment around, and off in the distance was a tower which i recall reading about on the internet when researching the town of roslin. it was called the dryden tower, and i don't know exactly why that is since the drydens were not really the type of people who back in the day would have had the resources to build a tower. i think the tower is actually not all that old (maybe from the 19th century) and is probably called the dryden tower because it's likely on the land that is owned by dryden farm. but yes, my family is that cool that they own a tower and it has our name on it. yes yes, i know, i'm awesome.

it was getting late in the day, and it was still another 40 minutes back on the bus before we got to edinburgh, and we had a few more things in the city that we wanted to see before checking out the next morning. i really could have stayed in roslin FOREVER, cuz it was SO CUTE and i was so moved to be standing there, walking along the same paths as my ancestors, touching the same stones as them, hearing the same wind in the trees as my distant relatives today. i feel incredibly fortunate to have had this opportunity, and to share it with the rest of the briggles who were INCREDIBLY gracious with their time and WANTED to come to roslin with me! (thanks, guys!) and how cool also to bring gracie, the newest dryden, and to show her the place where her people once lived. it was an amazing experience!


Anonymous said...

Hello the briggles! Just a comment for your info. The Dryden Grove you saw at, one time was a real grove of beautiful beech trees and was known locally as the Craw(crow) Woods. Here you would have seen hundreds of crows roosting each night. They were cut down to make way for the farm workers housing on the Dryden farm estate you saw.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!