Having been possibly the last person on the planet to have read the DaVinci Code, my knowledge of Freemasons extends only to secret handshakes and the seedy local Masons' bar that housed our kids' annual soccer banquets. I did see the movie (twice--on airplanes, I really liked the part where they gallop into the fancy museum party) and developed a mild interest in the idea of an ancient order of Templar Knights.
We took Tom's mother and sister to visit Rosslyn Chapel, which was shrouded as it always is, in scaffolding, and filled with people who'd read the Da Vinci Code with far greater passion than I. An unfulfilling drive down the four lane A1 to Old Craighill Junction, Rosslyn Chapel doesn't look like much from the outside. We eavesdropped a tour, and I stood for a few minutes looking at the maize glass, an impossible piece of insider's information about North American corn, that pre-dated the European "discovery" of North America. Or, was it impossible? Weird place. I bought the Rosslyn Chapel bottle opener, the one with the Templar Knight as handle, and a piece of pretty good shortbread at the Chapel's cafe and store.
Back in Gullane I had been coveting the tomatilla-like Chinese lanterns growing in the abandoned forecourt of the empty Templar Lodge with the big For Sale sign. These lovely, delicate orange autumn flower pods dry beautifully and are a staple fall stock for us here in Massachusetts. They brighten the house from autumn harvest through long, cold winters. I wanted those flowers; that piece of home. Now. Checking out the scene, just across the street from the Oxfam charity shop , the Gullane Delicatessen and behind the Gullane One Golf Club first tee, I slipped inside the border yews, gathered an armful of glossy smooth horse chestnuts (also a mainstay of a New England autumn) and snipped a bouquet of Chinese lanterns. I greedily went back the next day for more, and hung them in upside down bunches on the whitewashed wall of our fisherman's cottage. They looked swell.
Stealing flowers from the Templar Lodge gave me a bit of the heeby jeebies. I kept looking over my shoulder at something not quite there, and Tom refused to come any farther than the horse chestnut tree.
There are all kinds of odd stories about this place. The most recent one was a few years ago, when a Japanese film company put up a 'round the clock rooftop webcam streamed back to Tokyo internet. They aimed to track UFO activity on volcanic, Traprain Law. A slab sided, sugarloaf shaped hill, home to ancient peoples for thousands of years, it stands in direct view across the fields to the Templar Lodge. Steven Prior, the defunct hotel's manager, who himself dabbled in the paranormal, told BBC reporters at the time, "Some Japanese golfers on holiday here saw something strange up there, and word of this seems to have got back to Japan. There is a long Celtic tradition of fairies on the hills ... you wouldn't take your baby up there for fear of it being turned into a changeling." Ethereal starships, hovering faeries, a million points of light; old tales talk of Templar treasure offloaded on the nearby beach, secretly borne to Rosslyn's underground chambers and vaults.
Who planted those flowers? Physalis, sprouting through macadam in one large clump, they looked purposeful and non-invasive, while they are prone towards taking over in warmer climates. Why? Did they arrive from a scattering of seeds sown by the ever present wind off the Firth of Forth? Pods from another galaxy? A last gasp effort to throw a little color at a last gasp hotel?
The Lodge was,a very long time ago, a Scottish "fortified house"built in the High Middle Ages, modestly prepared for attack. How it became a Templar Lodge, a black leather bar hotel, and eventually a conference site for UFO enthusiasts who featured shapeshifter replacement witnesses, reflects more about time and place than it does mystery or intrigue.
The village of Gullane pushed hard to retain the Templar Lodge as a hotel, but no bites. Approved recently as renovation flats and private homes; the Lodge is history. Whether or not the Knights of the Templar, alien illuminati, or simple Scottish ghosts disturb the high end conversion, is anyone's guess. I can totally imagine a brace of lost-in-space knight- ridden war horses racing through the parking lot, scooping up magical Chinese lanterns (said to be good for gout), and galloping on, over the hill, down to the sea; splashing across to Fife.