Saturday, October 27, 2007

Day 20: Edinburgh

We were up early the next morning, as I wanted to visit Edinburgh. Actually, I wanted two days in Edinburgh. Or a week. Or a month. We just couldn't figure out how to fit it in, along with everything else. So a day trip had to suffice.

Friends, and the Rough Guide, warned in strong terms against taking a car into the centre of Edinburgh. We decided to chance it anyway. In fact, we found a car park fairly easily, only a few blocks from the centre of town. As long as we didn't translate the hourly rate into New Zealand dollars (around 3 dollars to the pound), the prices didn't seem too bad! We put enough money in the meter to park there until 1 p.m., and I had about fifteen minutes to walk down to the Balmoral Hotel near Waverley Station where I had arranged to meet my long-time e-mail friend M (see her blog at Creative Voyage), taking photographs on the way.

I had a lovely time talking to M while P went off and explored on his own. M and I strolled along Princes St and had refreshments in the cafe at the National Gallery. (The building on the right in the photograph:)

Busking Scottish style:

Edinburgh is quite similar to Stirling in some respects - both are centred on a long hill, sloping up to a high point which falls off abruptly with steep cliffs. In each case, the castle is located at this high point. Edinburgh, of course, is much bigger. A few hundred years ago the Old Town became very crowded, dirty and unsanitary, and a New Town was built on the other side of Princes St. Between Princes St and the Old Town was once the "stagnant, foul-smelling Nor' Loch, into which the effluent of the Old Town flowed for centuries." It has been drained, and in its place now run the railway line and the very attractive Princes St Gardens.

The tower which can be seen behind the gardens is the High Kirk of St Giles, the original sole parish church of medieval Edinburgh:

After a couple of hours talking to M it was time for another meeting - with my (third) cousin S, a fellow genealogist. Again we met on the steps of the Balmoral Hotel, and spent his lunch break chatting at the Palm Court tea rooms inside the hotel. I'd hoped to catch up with his daughter and son-in-law too, after meeting them in New Zealand when they visited on their honeymoon, but unfortunately son-in-law J had had some serious health problems since then, and they weren't able to make it. The Palm Court is described in my guide book as a more affordable way to get a taste of the atmosphere of this upmarket hotel.

Back to the car to meet P and decide where to go next. It was time to move the car, so we found a mult storey car park at the foot of the Castle Hill, and headed up to the castle.

Approaching from this direction, you can see the scaffolding which supports the seating in front of the castle, where presumably the audience sits for the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The tattoo takes place in August, and I would have thought they would have removed it for the rest of the year, but apparently not. A modern intrusion on a beautiful set of buildings (the castle is really not just a single building)

The "lang staircase" was the original route to the top of the castle, before a more gradual route was built, suitable for dragging up heavy guns:

Again we were just in time to join a tour. Our guide was entertaining, but as far as information goes, he was a bit lacking - for instance, he told us how St Margaret's Chapel was used for weddings, particularly for members of the armed forces, but I later overheard another tour being informed when it was built, by whom, etc.

Still, there is always the internet to look up that sort of information. We took a lot of photos, as usual, and enjoyed the panoramic views over Edinburgh and out to the Firth of Forth.

By the time we left the castle it was close to four o'clock, and raining (again! - patchy rain throughout most of the week and a half in Scotland, but it never quite seemed to be enough to spoil our plans for the day). At this point I was tired and my mind deserted me a little - I'm sure we could have found something interesting to see for another hour or so. I just couldn't think what it was, right then... so we headed back to Stirling.

It took us a little longer to get out of Edinburgh than it should have. There is a motorway ring road right around the city, but we missed the first turn off that we should have taken. This didn't add any distance, but it did mean more travel on local roads before reaching the motorway, which slowed us down. So it was after six by the time we got back to Stirling, and after the usual petrol and supermarket stops, we headed to the library where there was supposedly free internet. (Mostly in Stirling we relied on Burger King, but that seemed to shut around seven most nights). It was a late night for the library, but I couldn't quite remember how late, and when we arrived just on seven we found that was closing time. Not deterred, we decided to try finding their wi fi network from outside on the pavement. It turned out that you needed to have a library card number and PIN number to use it. However ... the restaurant next door had an unprotected wi fi network, and it proved quite possible to use that with a large wheelie rubbish bin serving as a desk for the laptop.

So, e-mailing to the family taken care of, we headed back for the resort, but not before stopping to take photos of Stirling Castle, beautifully floodlit:

(No tripod, but the squishy pillows I took along to use on the flight proved very handy, placed on the car roof, with the camera on top).


Crafty Green Poet said...

You seem to have made great use of your time in Edinburgh! They used to take the scaffolding seats for the tatoo down after the early autumn concerts which follow the tattoo. In fact I'm sure they did that this year too, eventually. (I'll check next time I'm passing!) The tower in the Gardens isn't St Giles though its the Scott monument, St Giles is in the High Street/Royal Mile.

chiefbiscuit said...

I like how immediate this all seems even though it's ben a while now. I was interested in your comments about the guides info not being up to scratch - a good thing for me to remember!

m said...

I'm sorry you didn't get a good guide they make all the difference. If you are ever in London I highly recommend London Walks (google) all of their guides are Blue badge guides and I've learned things I'd never have known if I hadn't gone on the walk.

I do hope that you can make it over again.

And yes the Palm Court is fabulous once Alicia & Helen Anne met there for coffee in the afternoon and slowly slid our way to cocktails! A very pleasant way to spend a few hours - if expensive!

Mr Farty said...

Glad you liked oor wee toon. Same comment as CGP, plus this tale:

Some American tourists are visiting Edinburgh midweek, and comment on how lovely St Giles Cathedral is. They're in a hurry today, but would like to come back later.

"Is it open on Sundays?"