Edinburgh

October 14, 2016

Today was our last day in the Hebrides and just as well, because we awoke to rain. Not pouring-down rain, just the odd shower, but still it was rain for the first time. We knew the weather was changing but we didn’t think the rain would begin so early.

Last morning on Berneray

Last morning on Berneray

Our ferry was scheduled to leave at 11:45 am, so after packing up we headed over to Lochmaddy to wait. We stopped at the museum/café to get some tea and use the free wi-fi before getting into the ferry lineup, which was rather tedious because the ferry was half an hour late. We later found out that the regular ferry was out of service because it had hit a dock, and this boat was a smaller one which was harder to load. The crossing was surprisingly smooth despite the winds and rain and we arrived in Uig on the Isle of Skye at about 2 pm.

Autumn on Skye

Autumn on Skye

After that Neil and Christine drove us across the country to Edinburgh for the next part of our holiday. Mostly the navigation was simple: at each intersection, take the road which doesn’t go to Inverness. But the last part, through the streets of Edinburgh, was definitely thanks to Neil’s satnav.

We arrived about 8:30 pm, and after saying our goodbyes and thank-yous to Neil and Christine, who still had to drive back across the country to Glasgow. We checked into the hostel and found our room, after which the first thing to do was laundry. The hostel had a laundry room in the basement so we bought tokens and soap for the machine and set it going. Next thing to do: get something to eat. The hostel cafeteria wasn’t serving sandwiches any more so we had tea and a slice of cake for dinner.

Caroline arrived from London a bit after 11 pm, and we chatted for a while, discussing our plans for the weekend, before going to bed.

October 15, 2016

We awoke to rain this morning, which wasn’t very conducive to walking around Edinburgh. Caroline came up to our room and then we all went down to breakfast. All of us decided on the Full Scottish breakfast, which turned out to be very large.

We were scheduled to meet Paul’s cousin Alison and her husband Ken at 10:30 at The Hub, not far from Edinburgh Castle, so off we went despite the rain. Alison and Ken had a membership in Scottish Heritage and it turned out that they could each take two visitors into the castle for free, which was a great deal. The castle was fairly busy, even though it was mid-October, but there weren’t big lineups.

As we walked up the cobbled approach to the castle it brought back memories to Rosemary, memories of having performed at the Tattoo in 1969. Ken led us on a tour of the various rooms in the castle, pointing out interesting things and telling us about the history of the castle. The rain was coming down quite heavily so it was nice to be inside the rooms.

Edinburgh in the rain

Edinburgh in the rain

Farther down the hill was the Scottish War Memorial, which commemorated Scotland’s part in wars up to the First World War. It was quite a comprehensive coverage of those wars, but since it was built in 1920 it did concentrate on the First World War. It was a bit surprising to see stained-glass windows featuring zeppelins and machine guns!

After we were finished we decided to go down to a café on the Mound which Alison and Ken liked. Paul and Rosemary had some delicious soup while Caroline opted for some cake. The rain had finally let up so the rest of the afternoon was spent going to various sites including Greyfriars Bobby, Calton Hill, and the National Museum. There we saw Dolly the cloned sheep, the Lewis Chessmen, the Millennium Clock, and various other exhibits. We parted company with Alison and Ken about 4 pm and headed back to the hostel.

Dolly the cloned sheep

Dolly the cloned sheep

Caroline had made dinner reservations for 5:45 pm. She had done her research and found a restaurant with consistently high reviews—Mark Greenaway, in the “new town” area with the modern grid street system. It was like a Michelin-starred restaurant but without the pretentiousness and the high prices. It wasn’t too far away so we walked over. The meal was a three-course “taster”, which meant three courses with fancy presentation and small servings, which added up to a good meal. We also opted for a “wine flight”, which meant small servings of wine paired with each course, and that turned out much better than getting one bottle of wine. All of us enjoyed our choices immensely and with the wine pairings for each course it made for a lovely meal.

Dinner at Mark Greenaway

Dinner at Mark Greenaway

Once done we walked back towards the hostel along George Street so that we could look at the statues at each intersection along the way. There were some religious leaders, and then King George IV who was commemorated for having shown up in 1822, and finally Maxwell along with his equations.

October 16, 2016

Today’s weather forecast was mediocre, but surprisingly there was no rain this morning so after breakfast we headed out with Caroline. We were meeting her ex-boyfriend Jason for lunch (now they are just old friends from swim team days) but first we headed over to have a look at Craigmillar Castle. It was a bit too far to walk so we took the #7 bus to the nearby Royal Infirmary and walked from there. Caroline had read about the castle in an article and thought it would be interesting to visit.

Craigmillar is a ruined medieval castle which the Preston family began building in the late 14th century. It had its moment of fame when Mary Queen of Scots went there in 1566 to convalesce from an illness after the birth of her son, the future James VI. But by 1700 it was abandoned and now it’s a ruin. But it was interesting walking through it and comparing the 16th-century improvements to the original square-box castle.

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

We waited a bit to see if the warden would return to collect our entrance fees, but eventually gave up and headed across the fields to Montpelier, the restaurant where Jason had made our lunch reservation. It was a long time since we’d seen him so we had a great lunch and spent quite a bit of time chatting after the meal. Although it had rained a bit during lunch the weather was good now, so we went on a walk around the neighbourhood and through many other parts of Edinburgh. We had thought about looking through the Scottish Parliament but it was closed on Sundays, and we didn’t really want to go through Holyrood Palace.

Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace

So we walked through the new town again, ending up at the Queen’s Head pub for drinks. Jason had been in London for the weekend giving a talk, so he was pretty much exhausted, and it was time for Caroline to catch the tram to the airport, so we all adjourned. Jason headed home and we said goodbye to Caroline at the tram station, although we would see her again on Tuesday evening when we got to London.

We weren’t very hungry after our lunch, so later we just went down to the hostel café and had burgers, which were very good. Then as we were sitting in our room we heard some loud bangs and soon realized they were fireworks. It turned out that tonight was the Dussehra Festival, celebrating the end of a ten-day war between gods and demons thousands of years ago in India. From our window we had a good view of Calton Hill and on top of it we could see three burning effigies and the fireworks. They went on for about half an hour, a very professional display which we hadn’t expected.

Fireworks display on Calton Hill

Fireworks display on Calton Hill

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