With the sound of bagpipes in my ears, surrounded by tartan patterned textiles, I set course for two of the city’s heights. In between, I take a break in the footsteps of J.K. Rowling.
I’m standing outside one of the many shops in the popular street the Royal Mile. It is full of textiles in the popular tartan pattern. Hm… Maybe I should buy a kilt? I keep nagging Joe that he should get one. The Irish version of course, as he is from Limerick. The Irish have a more subdued version to the Scottish, whose tartan colours are brighter. He just scoffs at me and ask if I’m on an Axl Rose thing. 🙂 I go to a souvenir shop and buy a thimble for my mom’s collection instead.
Left: Need a kilt for a wedding? Right: Greyfriar’s Bobby
For years, mom and I have talked about Edinburgh Military Tattoo. How fun it would be to go and see it. Now, only the skeleton of this year’s show remains as they slowly dismantle everything. I walk across the square and continue into the castle. War history. William Wallace, Billy the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots and the dream of an independent Scotland. Up in a tower, I find the crown jewels of Scotland.
Outside is one of the world’s largest cannons, Mons Meg. More than 550 years old, and it does not work. The One O’clock Gun, however, does and is fired precisely at 13.00 every day. Ever since 1861, except during the world wars.
One O’Clock Gun
No complaints about the view from the castle. I look over to the height I hope to climb before I go home: Arthur’s Seat. Edinburgh boasts of being Europe’s only city with a volcano in its city center – albeit extinct (we are talking 350 million years ago).
I’m wandering the streets after this, as I usually do. Look into the narrow alleys, looking for exciting street art. I eat lunch at a pub in Rose Street. Stop by the shops in Princes Street. Walking, walking and walking. Luckily, I have good shoes this time.
When I go to bed at night the rain is pouring down outside, so I put in an order for sunny weather the next day. I really want to walk up this old volcano.
My prayers are heard! When I wake up early the next day, the sun is shining and sky is blue. I grab a light breakfast and run out into the streets. Arthur’s Seat next!
It is not so high, only about 251 meters above sea level. There are several trails up to the top, and I choose the most direct route up. On the way, I see a small lake – St. Margaret’s Loch, an ancient ruin, and lots of thistles – Scotland’s national flower.
Several people are doing the same as me, and why not – this is a perfect recreational area. Half an hour later I’m at the top, struggling with the wind. The stones look slippery, so I take it easy. I am glad it is not raining – hobbling around, enjoying the view in all directions.
It is getting cloudy when I am back down at street level again. I reward myself for the windy trip with a lunch at The Elephant House. This is the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books, and yes – it is mentioned on the outside. Well, inside, I do not really see queues of Potter fans, but instead people who chit chat over a cup of tea. The walls are filled with elephant figurines and pictures. Living up to its name.
As the first raindrops come down, I sit here and admire the elephants – an animal that really fascinates me (although I suspect a visit to Silje’s farm will take the sting out of my somewhat romantic notion of these giant animals). I really enjoy it here. I can understand why Rowling would sit here and write. I could spend hours here myself.
But her fans – where are they? I see someone outside now and then stopping to take pictures, but nothing more really. Until I go to the restrooms. There! The enthusiasm and admiration in the form of thanks and greetings scribbled all over the walls and ceiling.
Out on the streets again, I spend the rest of my day walking around, browsing. My short stay in Edinburgh is coming to its end. As I run into a pub at the end of the day for a last meal, I hear AC/DC’s Thunderstruck Intro, the bagpipe version.
While I am eating I do a recap: I did not have many expectations for Edinburgh, mostly curiosity. The town has a relaxed atmosphere; the people are kind and gentle. It is really nice to stay here. Unfortunately, some streets are in chaos at the moment as they are now building tram lines around the city.
My next trip to Scotland will take in more of the nature – the highlands. Also, I still hope to see my Irish in a kilt. And most importantly, I am determined to give it a go on the bagpipes!
Taking a break at Smoke Stack Steakhouse and Bar. My trip to the British Isles this time introduced me to the oh so tasty Banoffee Pie. How on Earth I have missed this one before I have no idea. Yummy! With a cappuccino on the side I was fit for fight again. This place is worth a visit, also thanks to the lovely staff here.