“From this place words may fly abroad. Not to perish as waves of sound but fixed in time. Not corrupted by the hurried hand but verified in proof. Friend, you stand on sacred ground: this is a printing office.”
Today has been an awesome day: not only did I get my Scottish castle fix, but I got to visit a working commercial letterpress printer from the 1800s!
Hermitage Castle, just off the A7 as you cross into the Scottish Borders, is a solid fortress and pictures do not give you an idea of the scale of the place. As you get close you are engulfed by its shadow and size, the imposing architecture and strong lines dominating amongst the purple flowers of the fields around. Open only during the Summer (you’ll understand when you see the grass paths and stone steps) Hermitage Castle is full of stories and intrigue, the information boards around providing an excellent summary of “the guardhouse of the bloodiest valley in Britain”. There’s also a little chapel ruin to the side, which is not only excellent in its own right but gives fantastic views of the castle and its surroundings.
Robert Smail’s Printing Works might just be my favourite tourist attraction ever! I was like a kid in a candy store viewing all the amazing array of machines, tools and typesets that this Victorian – and still working – printing shop has to offer. Only open Mondays, Fridays and Weekends with narrow set tour times it is worth ringing ahead to make sure they’ll be open, but you’ll be in for a treat if they are. Taking just over an hour the tour gives you a chance to find out about the printers, as well as how the tools of the trade work. It also gives you a hands-on experience in creating your own letterpress bookmark, something I geeked out a little doing. The shop is also likely to suck money from out of your pocket. There are many gorgeous items, including prints created in-house available.
Whilst I was in Innerleithen awaiting my printing works tour, I visited St. Ronan’s Wells and tasted the water (following the footsteps of Sir Walter Scott no less)! Then decided to go back into town and have some irn bru ice cream which was wonderfully tasty.
An excellent day and I seem to have landed on my feet again with another gorgeous B&B this time situated in the Ettrick Valley with stunning vistas out of my bedroom window. Wifi is a bit dicey though; photos (and there are many) might have to wait a day or two!