Returning to Her Roots: Scotland and Northern England

About a year ago, Katie Barney of Easton, spent 10 days exploring her ancestral roots in Scotland and Northern England. Here, she recounts her trip:

Just a year ago, I spent a lovely 10 days exploring northern England and Scotland with Professor Henry Miller from Historic St. Mary’s City, his wife and 18 others. Almost every year, Henry leads a group of Maryland descendants, or those interested in early Maryland history, to the British Isles to explore our roots. This was my third trip, the other two to southwestern England – Cornwall, Devon, and Wiltshire (home of the Talbots and Arundels (Anne Arundel County), and the other to southeastern England (where I saw my Maryland ancestor Bishop Claggett’s plaque at Canterbury and home to John Howland, my Mayflower ancestor). I am one quarter Scottish through my mother’s side of the family and had not been back to Scotland for over 50 years and had never explored northern England.

On arrival in Edinburgh, we were greeted by a large, comfortable coach that was to take us touring. Our first stop was Traquair House, said to be the oldest inhabited house in Scotland. The house was visited by 27 Scottish Kings and Queens and dates back to 1107. The Stuart family has lived in the house since 1491. Originally a royal hunting lodge, Traquair played host to Mary Queen of Scots and later as staunch Catholics they supported the Jacobite cause. Today, the family still resides there, operating craft workshops and its own brewery, some of which we were able to sample.

Traquair House is said to be the oldest inhabited house in Scotland.

We ventured to Newcastle on Tyne for the next two nights. The highlight was Vindolanda, which in the Celtic language means “white or Shining Lawn.” It was first established as a Roman settlement between 74 and 85 AD. This massive structure is still under excavation and probably will be for years to come. Nearby, we explored the Roman fort of Housestead with views of Hadrian’s Wall and the adjacent Border Lands, followed by the ancestral home of Maryland colonist Cuthbert Fenwick.

One of the most special visits was to Kiplin Hall, home of the Calvert family, built in 1622. As a member of the National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of Maryland, I had long heard about Kiplin Hall. My old friend Peyton Fowler (a Calvert) had donated a large rug to the house and I had so enjoyed watching the video MPT had done on its history and restoration, and the work of the University of Maryland in maintaining it.

Kiplin Hall, home of the Calvert family, was built in 1622.

George Calvert was born nearby of Kiplin Hall of Catholic parents who were compelled to become Protestants. He became Secretary of State to James I, created the first Lord Baltimore in 1625 and founded the Maryland colony in 1632. The elegant brick house’s last owner was Bridget Talbot. Later that afternoon, we visited a bird sanctuary, learning that over 30,000 eagles had been killed by the electric windmills in Britain. We also experienced falconry, one of George Calvert’s hobbies.

On to York (Jorvik) with its elegant cathedral and the Jorvik Viking Centre to learn about the influence of the Vikings on Britain. We then travelled north to the Cathedral City of Durham and to the coast of the North Sea to visit the Holy Island (Lindisfarne) and the priory, which can only be visited when the tide is out. Our timing had to be perfect, otherwise we would have had to camp out for the night. Amazing how the tide was rushing in as we were leaving. Bamburgh is a small town right on the North Sea with a large castle. The Victoria Hotel was quaint but carrying my luggage up four flights was not my ideal vacation stay. However, the walk on the beach at sunset, and wandering around the 800-year-old Bamburgh Castle left me a with a special feeling for this historic and charming region of Britain once inhabited by the Celts and later the Saxons.

The 800-year-old Bamburgh Castle has a fascinating and long history.

On the way to Glasgow, we stopped at the ruins of Melrose Abbey where Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried.

Katie Barney visited the monument to Robert the Bruce.

This was the first major abbey established in Scotland by David I. In 1745 at the Battle of Culloden, the British defeated the Scots and tried to wipe out their culture of clans, wearing kilts, and playing bagpipes. Sir Walter Scott built nearby Abbotsford (1817-25) overlooking the Tweed River to unify poetry and research his historical novels. In 1822, King George IV visited Scotland and Abbotsford where Sir Walter Scott planned an event to bring back bagpipes and wear kilts. Even the King wore a kilt. Today, Abbotsford is surrounded by lovely gardens and the Tweed River.

Famed novelist and poet, Sir Walter Scott built Abbotsford in 1817 overlooking the Tweed River to research his historical novels and write poetry.

Merrily swim we, the moon shines bright,

Downward we drift through shadow and light

Under yon rock the eddies sleep,

Calm and silent, dark and deep.

~ Sir Walter Scott, 1820

I know a lot of people say Glasgow is a beautiful city but, unfortunately, where we stayed, the Grand Central Hotel, most of us did not want to venture out. The dining room was very old fashioned with its high ceiling in a long, long room, but the food was excellent – chicken with apricot pate, smoked halibut with mashed potatoes and spinach followed by fresh fruit and sorbet. Glasgow has a wealth of history and was a major part of the Industrial Revolution with a long list of famous inventors and inventions – refrigeration, flush toilet, piano foot pedal, Gin and Tonic, rolled oats, the ATM, writers, doctors, and scientists – Sherlock Holmes, John Napier, Adam Smith, Ian Fleming and Sean Connery, to name a few.

Stirling Castle is a must-see. High on a hill built of an ancient volcanic core, the castle overlooks a charming town with the Rude Church, one of the first churches in Scotland to experience the Reformation and the coronation of James VI in 1567. Mary, Queen of Scots, mother of James VI, languished in prison as John Knox preached a fiery sermon. The castle has oak carved heads on the ceilings, a royal garden, elegant restored rooms, chapel, great hall, and recreation of a 1500’s kitchen. Also seen that day were the Firth of Forth and Culross, featured in “Outlander.” The next day was a visit to the Forth bridges and Craigmillar Castle (also used in “Outlander”).

Stirling Castle is high on a hill built of an ancient volcanic core.

I had always wanted to return to Edinburgh, visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse, travel up the Royal Mile and see the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. I was not disappointed. The rain held off, though a pigeon decided to poop on my blue sweater. If you have not heard of the Tattoo, it was not only marching bands, lots of kilts and bagpipes, but performers from all over the British Commonwealth. Almost three hours of pure magic on a starry, glorious night. Held on the Castle esplanade, the Tattoo takes its name from the cry of inn-keepers in Belgium and the Netherlands over 300 years ago. They ordered “Doe den tap toe” (turn off the taps) when the fifes and drums of the local regiment marched through the streets signalling the soldiers to return to their barracks. There is no other spectacle like it in the world. I am still basking in its glory. So, I bid farewell to the home of my Kennedy ancestors (did not get to Ayrshire), but will return.

Edinburgh Castle is one of the oldest fortified places in Europe and is the most besieged place in Britain.

Balmoral Fruit Cake

Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire is the Queen’s favorite summer residence. The castle was built in 1390 and was bought by Prince Albert in 1852 for Queen Victoria. Thought to be too small, the original building was torn down and another castle replaced it. Here the royal family spends time outdoors – hiking, riding, picnics, grilling, and just relaxing. In 1997 it was here that Prince William and Prince Harry learned that their mother had died. The castle is open to the public from March through July but check the website for exact dates.


1½ sticks butter

¾ cup sugar

3 eggs, separated

2½ cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ cup candied orange peel

¼ cup citron

½ tsp. fresh grated nutmeg

½ tsp. caraway seeds

½ cup blanched almonds

2 tbls-¼ cup brandy


Preheat oven to 325º. Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Combine flour, baking powder, orange, citron, nutmeg, caraway seeds, and almonds. Add to butter and sugar.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into batter. Add brandy (up to a ¼ cup). Grease a loaf pan. Line with paper and grease again. Add batter. Bake 1 hour until toothpick comes out clean.

~ Katie Barney is a local author and world traveler. She is the author of The Enchanting World of Food by

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