Reached Scotland on the Lands End to John O’Groats Challenge

On the 14th April 2021, I reached the England / Scotland border on the Land’s End to John O’Groats virtual Kickbike challenge. This also marked the 67% (2/3rds) completed point in 50% of the time I allocated to complete the challenge. At around 300km ahead of schedule, I am about 6 weeks ahead of where I need to be. Since the last blog post about this challenge, I have received two postcards, both related to the Scottish or Caledonian Border.

8th April 2021: Hadrian’s Wall

“As any proud Scot will tell you, the Romans never made it there. Although there were settlements over the border, and even a few successful spats with Pictish tribes, Scotland never became part of the Roman Empire.

What did worry the Roman outposts in the north of the country, however, was the real possibility that those tribes might successfully take territory back, and repel their armies. Defeat to a Roman general was unthinkable, and construction on Hadrian’s Wall began in 122AD, so that the Roman armies based at the far north edge of the territory could control who came in and out of Empire territory.

Every Roman mile (not quite as far as a modern mile), there was a milecastle – a fortified manned post for extra security. With a wall that was fifteen feet high and ten feet thick, getting through was difficult. Unsurprisingly, it was so well built that much of it still stands today.

If you fancied a further challenge, there are many walks and hikes along the 73 miles of wall, and hiking holidays that take in the full distance are a popular break for the keen walker.” (from postcard email).

14th April 2021: England / Scotland Border

“You are at the border of England and Scotland.

Although Hadrian’s Wall might have marked the border between Britannia and Caledonia, it lies a long way south of the current country border. Scotland’s only land border, the divide now spans the 96 miles from Marshall Meadows to Solway Firth.

The border has been a moveable feast for centuries, and the border lands were long in dispute, changing hands on many occasions. The Treaty, and subsequent Acts of Union in the early 18th century Great Britain – although Scotland retained some separate laws.

With those separate laws came some interesting differences. The age of legal capacity is two years lower in Scotland – 16 rather than 18 – leading to a tradition of young couples eloping to Gretna Green just over the border into Scotland, so that they could marry without their parents’ permission.

Prior to 1940, a quirk of Scottish law allowed for a wedding ceremony to be conducted by just about anybody – as long as there are witnesses present, all a couple had to do was agree to be married to each other. The Old Blacksmith’s Shop at Gretna Green was a particularly popular place to stop, hence the phrase ‘anvil priest’ being in common use in the area. One such anvil priest was Richard Rennison, who by the time the law changed in 1940 had performed over 5000 ‘irregular marriages’.” (from postcard email).

One Comment

  • Mum

    Hi James, That was very interesting about Hadrian’s Wall. I am so glad the Romans didn’t get to Scotland or we wouldn’t have our Scottish Ancestors. Hate to think that we would have been Italians.

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