My mom and I traveled to Europe this past fall and had a blast! We spent time in London, Dublin and Southern Ireland, and then had a few nights in Edinburgh, Scotland. If you missed the previous blogs check them out if you have interest. If you want to hear about our little taste of Scotland, read on! As always, open the blog in your browser so you can enjoy the slide shows please!
I didn’t think I could enjoy a bone chilling city as much as i loved Edinburgh. Remember folks, I have been living in SE Asia for the past year, fall in the UK and Ireland was downright cold. No worries, we powered through and enjoyed every little dram.
I mentioned previously that I’m reading the Game of Thrones series. This only made touring another castle even more intriguing as well as hanging out in “Old Town” which was founded in 1130 A.D. Edinburgh’s Old Town area is quite literally an ancient city built around the castle. It is a maze of cobblestone streets with colorful storefronts, pubs, and churches as well as the occasional stone archway entrance to a dark close (alley). I was visualizing knights, ladies, and commoners all mingling and carrying on their day.
Edinburgh Castle is the primary feature of the city and the rock it is built upon has been inhabited since the Iron Age. The castle has been in place since the 11th century at least. It’s of course, a must see, even if you don’t love history and castles… but then why would you be in Europe?
Again, the Hop on Hop Off bus was a win in Edinburgh. We were able to visit all the sites, including the Britannia, while being entertained by live Scots narrative. Some were easier to understand than others. One guy, I swear was Mike Meyers. He sounded just like the father in “So I Married an Axe Murderer” and had a crooked grin like an older Austin Powers or maybe a skinnier Fat Bastard. It was keeping me in giggles to listen to him although we truly only understood one in every 5-10 words. We definitely got more out of other narrators but none were quite as entertaining.
In Edinburgh we stayed in a wonderful B&B. It is called “A Georgian Residence” and it is run by Florence Shanks. http://morayplace.co.uk We could not have felt more at home. The 4 level stone row house is full of antiques and topped with a skylight. Mom and I had a room on the top floor which added a bit more exercise to our day but we needed it to burn off the amazing breakfasts served by Florence and her helpers. Kate Summerscale, an author, stayed with Florence to research and write “Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace.” The subject is a wife who lived in the home in the 1850’s. The book is next on my list, after GOT’s of course.
A visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse is well worth the time if you find yourself in Edinburgh. It is the Official Residence in Scotland of Her Majesty the Queen. Summertime may find her in residence, but when the royals are not about, it is open to the public. The 12th century ruins of the Abby next door made for some very scenic photos as you cannot photography in the House itself.
The Mary King’s Close Tour is an interesting view of Edinburgh, basically from underground. The tour gives you an overview of what the less fortunate had to deal with as many lived in the layers of buildings below the main road, accessed by a Close. These families lived in filth, poverty and often disease such as the plague. On a more cheerful note, we also took the Scotch Whiskey Experience Tour. I don’t usually go for such things but this was very interesting and we learned a lot about whiskey. In fact, I’d like to think I am now a bit of a whiskey aficionado. The only negative part of the tour is that they only give you one taste for the lower level price which is what we bought. All in all, it is still worth the visit if you have an interest in whiskey or think you might. It might be worth spending up on the next level of the tour, depending on your pocketbook. One of our favorite meals was at Howie’s on Victoria Street. We both had Scottish salmon and I had a flight of whiskey tasters. Such fun!
We didn’t get further afield than Leith which is a Northern suburb, made somewhat famous by an 80’s band, the Proclaimers. If you remember the song, “500 Miles” - that is the band. We visited the Royal Yacht Britannia which is permanently docked there. It was once the Queen’s 'big boat' and is well worth the visit especially if you fancy boats like I do.
Lastly, we were told the story of Greyfriar’s Bobby as we passed the statue of the little dog along the bus tour route and we also visited GreyFriar's Kirk (Church). The faithful little Skye Terrier belonged to a policeman named John Gray. The common nickname for a policeman is Bobby, and somehow that became the pup’s name as well. John Gray would often walk Bobby up Candlemaker Row in Old Town, and eat at No. 6 Greyfriar’s Place. John was also known as Auld Jock and died too soon at the age of 45, due to tuberculosis. Bobby was only 2 years old when his master was buried at Greyfriar’s Kirkyard (Churchyard) and according to tradition he was allowed to the funeral. Bobby then visited the grave daily, only leaving to eat dinner at 1pm and often play with children along the street. The terrier died at age 16, having stood vigil at his master’s grave for 14 years and a Baroness erected a memorial to the dog, now located near John Gray’s grave in the Kirkyard. There are many renditions of this story, all as sweet as the last.
Stay tuned for the last blog about the trip! Hopefully coming along soon.