Sunday, 15 March 2009

Diving with Sharks, Seahouses and Alnwick Castle Gardens

Friday March 13th

An ominous date for something with so dramatic a title - although you will find out that the title is more dramatic than the bite.

The Deep Sea World Aquarium at North Queensferry (just north of Edinburgh) offers divers the opportunity to get into the aquarium tank and swim with the fish. These include four sand sharks, some native British sharks, numerous flat fish and various others. So for Ben’s birthday present, I bought him and myself a dive session in the tank.

Getting to Edinburgh was relatively easy for Pat and I (she came along to watch). We drove up with the dive gear however the train which brought Ben up broke down on the way and he was delayed by just over an hour (sufficient for National Express travel delay compensation to kick in!)

The Aquarium is situated in an old quarry just under the northern side of the Firth of Forth

Firth of Forth Bridge

Railway Bridge – hence it takes all of its tank water from the Firth of Forth which was only 12 degrees when we were there. After a look around the centre, we were given a short briefing on the centre, the dive routine and the tank.

The tank is 50 m by 20 m by 3m and hence contains a lot of cold water. A covered walkway snakes through the tank and visitors can stand on a conveyor belt (a bit like the baggage conveyor at an airport) and effortlessly go around the tank watching the fish inside.

Shark with teeth

The tunnel gives some very unusual views of the fish who of course, take no notice of the people inside it.

Underneath of a flat fish

Eleven divers were divided into three groups. Because we had brought our own gear, we were group in two (groups one and three having hired gear from the centre).

Getting into our dive gear was straightforward although we were not allowed to wear fins (because of the closely confined nature of the tank) and had to over weight in order to ensure we stayed down. So entry was very negatively buoyant.


Once inside the tank, the plan was to walk/swim around the tank following the tunnel edges so that the spectators can see what you are doing (and take photographs). Whenever a shark came really close you had to crouch down and stay still, otherwise it was quite straightforward.

Surprisingly, one is encouraged to touch any of the fish except for the sharks (who apparently can be a bit grumpy).

Stroking a flat fish

Depending on the variety, the flat fish were either very smooth and soft or rough to the touch.

Because of the Scotland Ireland rugby match, there were no hotel rooms available in Edinburgh on the Saturday so we headed south to Seahouses in Northumberland for a walk along one of the best relatively deserted beaches in the North East.

Seahouses 1

Seahouses 2

The wind however was determined to make walking very hard and walking north was a bit like walking into a sand storm. So we drove rather than walked up the coast to Bamburgh Castle (which is of course one of the great sites of the North

Bamburgh Castle

East). Very little remains of the original Norman Castle unless you believe that the Normans inserted clock faces into their towers!

On Sunday we went to see the gardens at Alnwick Castle. By chance we got there just as the gardens opened and walking in was a very similar experience to that we had at the Taj Mahal when for a few moments, we had an absolutely stunning creation to ourselves.

Waterfall 1

As you walk out of the doors from the entrance foyer, you are greeted by the above sight – a living waterfall (The Grand Cascade) which walks down the hill towards you as the jets of water move down the levels. The whole of the hillside

Waterfall 2

is one large water feature interspersed with

Waterfall 3

different types of gardens.

Waterfall 4

There is also a section where there are numerous water sculptures, each with an explanation of the physics behind the sculpture effect. This is a picture of Pat behind a wall of water.

Water Sculpture

There is also a maze (always turn right to find the centre). The whole effect is very spectacular and well worth the visit. Although we were there just as spring was thinking about making itself known, there was


still a lot to see, in particular the structure of the garden which was not yet hidden behind vegetation. An unusual attraction is the

Poison Garden

Poison Garden where numerous lethal plants native to the UK are kept. The only part which did not live up to its reputation was the Tree House which whilst unusual, was heavily focused on eating rather than the gardens.

Tree House

All in all, a good weekend away with the weather doing everything possible to be nice.

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