Unless you're an albino monk who's been busy wreaking vengeance on non-believers, you've probably heard that the Da Vinci Code is blitzkrieging the box office and eliciting shrugs from critics around the world. Nowhere is there more interest in the film than Edinburgh, where the 'Da Vinci phenomenon' (as the book and film are routinely referred to) is seen as the joker in the city's many drawcards.
Less than 10 miles south of Edinburgh, I went to check out Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland's contribution to the Da Vinci phenomenon. The film climaxes at this humble 15th century church which, after much map-muddling, I found near the village of Roslin. I should have just followed the tourist buses that have formed a determined scrum around the ancient building.
The first thing you notice about Rosslyn Chapel is the scaffolding exoskeleton as this worn old nugget is renovated. The church reputedly pocketed £7000 a day as a location fee and it looks like much of that is being used to make sure there's something for the tourist throngs to see.
'Oh man!' an awed Canadian exclaims as he walks through my photo of the entrance arch. 'This is all so freakin' quaint.'
The Chapel is massive, possibly freakin' massive, but anything this size is hardly quaint.
Construction began in 1456 as the Scottish Earl, William St Clair, sought to build a church that could serve as a priestly college for the area. Another William St Clair was buried in full armour below the chapel in 1650, which would certainly have caught the imagination of author Dan Brown as he was researching his story of Knights Templar guarding the sacred relics of the church. The vault beneath the chapel became something of a Christian lost-and-found office through the church's history, so when Tom Hanks cracks the code at the movie's conclusion it's possible that he could have found the grail at this small church.
Today however, it's a challenge to even get a peek at a stained glass window as a thick wall of tourists shuffles in front of every relic. With the noise of so many accents and a lightning storm of digital flashes it's hard to believe Rosslyn is actually a functioning chapel. There are services on Sundays and tour buses are turned away for local weddings. I try to light a small taper up the back of the church and find myself the subject of a movie tie-in photo. Handy.
Up on the gantry that curls around the chapel's roof, things are quieter. The crowds are wary of heights. I look out onto the moist green country and the ruins of a castle yet to feature in a bestselling novel or blockbuster film. Just near the chapel, Roslin village life rolls on. This is also the place where Dolly the sheep was cloned and I can't help thinking that this is too much of a coincidence not to write a thriller sequel about.
Best Tourist History Insight: 'Yeah, I think Scotland had a queen of their own once, but she married Billy Conolly in that film' - Overheard in an Edinburgh Guest House
Och-o-meter: 3 separate people have said 'och' to me, though one guy was from Yorkshire.
Album of the moment: Red Hot Chilli Pipers - a bagpipe best of that may strike some copyright problems in the States.
Scottish English in a jiffy: 'Noooooooooo'. Scottish stretch the vowel in 'No' depending on how actively they disagree with you. You might start trying to pay a restaurant bill and they'll say 'Noooo', but if you insist they'll reply with 'Noooooooo' and if you keep trying they go on until they pass out from lack of oxygen.