A Travellerspoint blog

Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile

sunny 73 °F

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After a fantastic first day in Edinburgh, we fell into our beds, exhausted from our journey. The morning came very quickly, but we knew better than to linger in our beds - that could too easily have led to hours wasted. So, we dragged ourselves out of bed and headed down for breakfast. I chose to have the full breakfast - in Scotland, that means bacon (more like ham), breakfast sausage, baked beans, toast, and eggs. In a desire to relive a favorite memory of my youth, I chose a soft-boiled egg - and was immediately glad I did. It would become the staple of our mornings. Another thing that we immediately realized - in Scotland, there is certainly no shortage of smoked salmon! We ate pounds of it on our trip and are seriously going through withdrawal now!

After we finished breakfast, we headed out to see Edinburgh Castle.

After a cab ride to save our legs for the walking to come, we headed into the castle. By the way, Edinburgh Castle was a site in which our membership in Historic Scotland (different from the last post) paid off. It cost us 90 pounds, but when one considers that admission to Edinburgh Castle alone would have cost in excess of 50 pounds, it was a no-brainer. I seriously cannot emphasize that enough.

I am not going to go through a million lines explaining everything we saw at the castle; there was way too much to see, from the Scottish Crown Jewels to a fantastic museum of Scottish Military history, this is seriously a five-star attraction - and, oh yeah - there's a pretty cool castle there as well! If you go, make sure to spend some time at the Scottish National War Memorial - it is just beautiful. I will, however, share the following photos:

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Reilly was particularly taken with St. Margaret's Chapel, the oldest surviving building in all of Edinburgh. It is tiny, but a very special place:

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The Chapel was our first glimpse of William Wallace, as well:

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We took our time and spent several hours in the castle. We were so glad we did!

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After leaving the castle, we were on the Royal Mile, which runs straight down from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace, which is the Queen's Official Residence in Scotland. The Royal Mile has shop after shop to explore, and we did just that! There were also lovely little alleyways ("Closes") to check out.

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Along the Royal Mile, we stopped for lunch, and to buy some Whisky - Cadenhead's is one of the oldest bottlers of Whisky in Scotland left, and we were treated to a bit of history as well! We left with a great experience and a little of the hard stuff to take home - a lovely Islay blend.

A little ways down the road, we stopped in to see St. Giles Cathedral (also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh) - a beautiful building dating back to the 14th century, and the "home of Presbyterianism in Scotland". The huge building features beautiful stained glass and memorials to various nobles and to Robert Louis Stevenson - The Protestant Reformer John Knox was buried in the churchyard (now a parking lot). Hidden in the back of the church is a tiny chapel, which features a carving of an angel playing that most Scottish of instruments:

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Stopping on our way down the Royal Mile to spit on the heart in the sidewalk (it's a thing - we weren't just being gross), we continued until we reached Holyrood Palace.

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Of course, not everything works out perfectly, and there was "Royalty in Residence" - meaning we were denied entrance. It is a beautiful place though, isn't it?

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We continued on toward our hotel to meet Cristy's parents for dinner, stopping to see the memorial to Greyfriar's Bobby - a dog who reminds us what true loyalty and love is. From the day of his master's death to his own passing - 14 years later - Bobby guarded the grave of his master and won the hearts of a City, which took care of him until he died in 1872. Cue the tears.

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From there we walked through Prince's Street Gardens, where we found a memorial to another beloved canine, Bum the dog - from San Diego, of all places! Bum the dog had three legs, and was a mutt - and had no owner. The city of San Diego adopted him, and took care of him - because of this connection (among others), Edinburgh and San Diego are now sister cities. We found Bum lying in the shade at the entrance to the Gardens.

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From there, we walked back to the hotel, headed for dinner, and ended our day in preparation for our journey North. In a car. With me driving (as well as Cristy's mom). On the left. God help us all.

Posted by Dunnie 19:37 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Edinburgh, Day One

Castles, Chips, and lack of a laptop

sunny 72 °F

Our flight went just as planned: long. As we flew the opposite direction of the sun, night came quickly. And went quickly. While that wreaked havoc with our sleep patterns for a while, it treated yours truly to a glorious sight - sunrise from about 37,000 feet.

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We left Ithaca around 6pm and landed in Edinburgh at just after 8:30 in the morning. After a bit of confusion meeting our driver, we traveled to our hotel (the Premier Inn on Prince's Street, downtown) in the hopes (slim) of getting into our rooms to drop the bags off and stretch out (none). We did get to drop the bags, but alas, naps were not to be had, and powering through suddenly became our only option.

So we decided to head on out to enjoy the beautiful weather (this will soon become a theme) and to get a bite to eat. Here is where I give just a little bit of unsolicited advice: Join the Preservation Trust. Not only does it do good work here in the States, and joining gives you free entry to many historic sites in the US, but it also will allow free entry to A LOT of sites in Scotland, namely those run by the National Trust for Scotland. For about 30 bucks, we received free entry to many of the sites on our trip. And we are supporting good work! Learn more here: http://www.preservationnation.org/

One of the sites we received entry to was the Georgian House, a meticulously restored 1796 house in the middle of Edinburgh (no photography allowed there, so you will have to imagine). It was a fantastic way to introduce the kids to just how upscale Edinburgh was in its heyday (not that the heyday is over) - complete with attentive and knowledgeable docents, a scavenger hunt for the kids, and the BIGGEST collection of period copper cookware I have ever seen! We learned just what life at the turn of the 19th century meant in Edinburgh - if, of course, you were rich... Totally relaxing, and totally worth it. http://www.nts.org.uk/property/georgian-house/

We stumbled around a little, until we found ourselves in a lovely spot for lunch called Brown's. We sat in a little nook and had a delicious meal. Now, Brown's is a chain, all over the UK, so those looking for a little pub to while away the time might not be enthused. It was, however, just what we wanted: a comfy, delicious meal where we could regroup and plan the rest of our day. I was a little bummed it was too early to sample the drink list though! http://www.browns-restaurants.co.uk/locations/edinburgh/

After lunch, we returned to the hotel and stashed our bags in our rooms (very comfortable if not overly large, with a view of the rooftops of Edinburgh, which I was quite taken with):

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After deciding that we were going to power through the rest of the day, we went outside to stretch our legs and see some of the sights. We walked down Princes street, toward the towering Scott Monument, which Reilly wanted to climb.

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As I am a big believer that a traveler should always climb a city's "tall thing" I was game (although my aversion to heights and tight, spirally staircases weighed heavily on me), as were Cristy, Tad, and Jan, so up, up, up we went. The stairs? Spirally and tight - I mean, you had to back down if someone was on their way down in front of you. The height? Dizzying. The view? PRICELESS:

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There were other things, too: snarling gargoyles covering the monument, the vertigo, the laughter shared with other tourists who just couldn't seem to get down those steps due to a never-ending series of folks coming up... it really was a great time!

After climbing down, we continued our walk and ended up at Calton Hill, famous for having its own Acropolis on top:

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We enjoyed to weather and the view, and just soaked it all in. The climb, though uphill, was really not difficult at all, and even our jet-lagged and tired bodies had no trouble. From Calton Hill, we gazed upon Arthur's Seat, one of the breathtaking views to be found in Edinburgh. (BTW, "breathtaking, jaw-dropping, etc." views will become a theme on this trip)

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We returned to pick up Mac, stopping along the way for the boys to get Tad's favorite beverage (repellant though it may have been for Dad), IRN-BRU. A hyper-sugary, bubblegum(ish) flavored soda that outsells Coke in Scotland. He couldn't get enough. I, however, could.

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We headed out in search of dinner, enjoying the beauty of Edinburgh, and ended up at a little French bistro of all places, called Cafe St. Honore - a lovely little place straight out of France. It was lovely, and since we were a bit early, we had a room nearly all to ourselves! It was a great end to a fantastic first day in Scotland. We returned to the hotel and crashed. Hard.

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p.s. Oh yeah, the laptop thing: you may be wondering why this blog post is so late in coming. I didn't take a laptop with me on this trip - I only had a tablet. It got old trying to type this on a tablet - in fact, it got old very quickly. And so I ask humbly for your pardon. I promise I will try to get everything down in a timely manner.

Posted by Dunnie 10:00 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

The big day

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There's something about being in an airport, waiting for your flight. It's a curious combination of anticipation, nervousness, excitement, and... well, boredom. Reilly and Tad were up early today, excited for the trip, and Cristy and I scurried around, cleaning up for the housesitter and taking care of last minute details (Seabands for the airsickness, one more luggage lock, etc.). Through it all was a feeling of disbelief - there were days when it was hard to believe we would make it to this day!

But the day did indeed come, and here we are. About to begin our journey. A flight to Philly, then the long one across the Atlantic to Edinburgh. As far as airports go, Ithaca is small. I mean, tiny. What that means is that checkin, security, and all that jazz took a whopping 10 minutes. I highly recommend flying out from a small airport if you have the choice. 5 minutes from the house, no hassle, and there you go. Much better than the craziness of, say, JFK or Newark.

So, there you have it. We are on our way. Next time, from Edinburgh!

Posted by Dunnie 15:07 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Anticipation...

Two days out

Well, it's been years since we left our little town and explored the world as a family. Sure, we had a couple of short jaunts to places like Montreal, Toronto, etc., but nothing HUGE. Well, that's about to end.

For years and years, we have been talking about going to explore our family's roots with Tad and Reilly. Cristy has visited Scotland, where her father's family has roots, but did not really visit much of the country. Likewise, I have been to Ireland, home of Donovans, Murphys, Harringtons, Walshes, and so on and so forth, but really didn't do much there except enjoy myself.

Now it's years later, and we have finally decided that we are going to make the trip, along with Cristy's parents. The boys couldn't be more excited to see their roots, and we can't wait to spend some real time experiencing the countries as a family. The four adults have been discussing and discussing the trip, and now it's almost impossible to believe that it is actually happening! Cristy has been a research machine (something that I suspect she enjoyed more than she wants us to believe), booking accommodations and planning routes. I bet in some weird way she is going to miss it!

In any event, much like our trip to Greece a couple of years ago, I will do my best to post some pictures, thoughts, and stories from our trip on this blog - I hope you enjoy it! The writing might be a little more sparse this time around, as I am not taking a computer along with me this time - it's my trusty Samsung Galaxy Tab - and only on wifi. But I will certainly do my best!

More in a couple of days!

Chuck

Posted by Dunnie 21:04 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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