We needed a walk after breakfast. We’d made a start on the fruit and cereals… and there was toast. We may not have bothered had we realised that the plates soon to be delivered would feed the pair of us for a week. We certainly wouldn’t need lunch…Two or even three of everything; all the usual suspects like eggs, bacon grilled tomatoes and sausages… but also potato scone, black pudding and haggis. The Old Aberlady Inn did us proud. We really needed a walk!
So off we went in search of the 18th century ‘Mercat Cross’ I had seen marked on the board the night before. We hadn’t far to walk… which was probably just as well… before we found it on the main street. We must have passed it in the dark last night. A thrush… a mistle thrush I think… looked down on our activities from an overhanging branch as we walked beyond the worn stones. We had spotted something else.
I’d seen something marked called the ‘loupin on stane’. The last word, I had understood, but it wasn’t until I saw the mounting block outside the church that the penny dropped and I understood the rest. Loupin-leaping-loping… stone steps to help those who needed it onto their horses after church. Of course!
We wandered into the graveyard, looking at the tombs. It was far too early to expect the kirk to be open, even in summer. In January we had no chance. There were a good many stones from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as well as the burials of the Earl of Wemyss and his family and a rather curious and weatherworn carving that caught my eye. Probably because of the twin theme again, even though this was only a few hundred years old.
We found more information boards behind the church looking out to sea, telling of the ancient hillfort that had stood here, the castle ruins and the smugglers cave that had, perhaps, once been a souterrain… those enigmatic underground spaces that could have been used for anything from storage to ritual. It was from Aberlady that the mother of St Kentigern who we had first met in Aspatria and kept stumbling across, is said to have been cast adrift in the coracle and there is evidence of yet another Culdee chapel that once stood close to the present church. There was, it seemed, a lot to explore here and, given the welcome we’d had, we would be more than happy to come back.
We wandered round to the door… we had to at least try after all. It was locked, of course, but I was looking at a photograph in the porch of the Aberlady High Cross… We had, it seemed, stumbled across another! Turning to leave we were greeted with a cheery good morning by a gentleman who introduced himself as the Beadle of the kirk. We were lucky, he said. Normally the church wouldn’t be open, but he had just popped along to put the heating on for the cleaners… he turned the key in the lock… Had we come to see the Aberlady carved stone?
We just looked at each other. A random stop in a random place, guided by the Wemyss Hotel… a random need for a walk right then… and we randomly arrive on the doorstep at just the right time to be allowed in and given a guided tour…? Even for us that is pushing coincidence a bit! And, apparently, there was a stone…