In February Sheila and I had a short break in Scotland, my birthday present from last year. We traveled up by train on the 10th, it was only 10.00am out of Leeds and we had a drunk Scotsman serenading the carriage, sadly he was as close to London as he was the tune but at least he kept to the other end of the carriage.
I managed only a couple of photos through the train window, Holy Island and then Berwick on Tweed, sadly most of the scenic parts of the journey was shrouded in mist.
We were in Edinburgh Waverley Station by 1.00pm and made our way out to find the hotel, 2 minutes walk from the station I don’t think!
We did eventually find the Crown Plaza Hotel, checked in and dumped the cases. Next stop exercise and sustenance, we had a stroll down Princes Street pausing to look in shop windows, even venturing into a couple. We turned left up Lothian Road as there are a few cafes etc along here, we decided upon Coletti’s which seemed to be the nicest of the ones we saw. As it turned out it’s a great little cafe/sandwich shop and well worth looking out for if you are in the town. We were too late to have the best choice of sandwiches but the Brie sarnie I had was delicious. Sheila was happy with a scone and a fruit salad.
A stroll around the streets behind the Castle and then up onto the Royal Mile and slowly back to the Hotel enabled us to get our bearings for the next day. The street art can be quite dramatic, these giraffes were just around the corner from our hotel. Made from car parts and other scrap iron.
We dined in the hotel on the first night, part of the deal, mistake… they have 2 dining areas and one of them had a large party in it, with not enough staff to service both areas adequately. 2 courses took over 2 hours, we were even having to find someone to take payments for our drinks which were not part of the deal. The Deputy Manager came over and was most apologetic about the unexpected booking – sorry but bookings cannoit be unexpected. He waived the drinks bill, which if I’d known was going to happen before the meal started I’d have ordered the £20.00 bottle of Rioja instead of the couple of pints of San Miguel.
So to Wednesday, following a hearty breakfast, including haggis for me, we had a steady walk up the Royal Mile from Holyrood Palace, stopping off in the Tollhouse museum to see how Edinburgh folk used to live. We also went looking for Greyfriars Bobby, which is the little dog who, as everyone knows, sat by his masters grave for years, there’s a little commemorative statue of him near the George IV bridge, his nose is awfully shiney as locals rub it for luck as they pass. After seeing him we made our way back to the Royal Mile, passing the cafe where Harry Potter was created, or so the poster in the window said and then up the hill to our destination.
We reached the Castle and as I’d booked tickets online it was a doddle at the gate, no queues, just straight in. As the weather had taken a turn for the worse we made for the cafe and had a hot brew before exploring further within the buildings.
First up was the Royal Scots museum, the only regimental museum we visited although there are a few more. I found it fascinating from my interest in Waterloo and that period of history, although Sheila wasn’t too interested. Some of the stuff they have there is priceless. Next up was the Prisoner of War exhibit, I hadn’t realised that POW’s were kept in the Castle during the Napoleonic Wars. Not a very large area and when we saw the reconstruction of the sleeping arrangements, I am awfully glad we were not there when they were in use. Fellas in hammocks sleeping above fellas on sleeping platforms ( not beds as no mattress) and something like a dozen to 10 sq ft! Cramped is not the word for it.
Then it was the Scots Crown Jewels, a nice exhibit and when you get to them, the jewels are good but having seen the English Crown Jewels in the Tower of London they lack a little something, quantity mainly. The Great Hall was magnificent – medieval construction at it’s best, sadly most of the photos didn’t come out well due to the low lighting, this one is probably the best.
The Scottish National War Memorial building is just across the courtyard from the Great Hall and like the Crown Jewels area – no photography was allowed. The inside of the Memorial has separate small areas set aside to commemorate the fallen from every Scottish regiment that took part in World War 1. It was a very sobering experience moving through the areas, so many men who gave their lives being remembered, somewhat humbling.
By now it was time for the One O’Clock Gun, something I was looking forward to seeing and videoing, did just that but like a numpty I’d not got the mike on so there’s no sound on the video. So if you can imagine a fairly loud bang when the smoke appears.
Following the gun we then made our way back onto the Royal Mile and lunch, which we had in Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. I got myself a pint of ‘Heavy’ – another ambition achieved. Good food and a really nice atmosphere made for an enjoyable meal. Once out of the pub we tried to find the ‘Real Mary King’s Close’ to see the forgotten streets of the town. We passed it a couple of times before we noticed the sign, Celtic Jewellery stalls along the road hid the signage quite well. As luck would have it the next tour was starting in just a few minutes so we bought tickets and went underground. No photography allowed, again! during the tour so have a look at their website to see what’s there. The hour passed incredibly quickly and that was thanks to the guide Keith who was both entertaining and educative. Once outside we we headed back to the Hotel to wash and change for the evening meal which we were not going to be having in the hotel, not after last time.
We started out by the JD Wetherspoons place at the side of the theatre, too crowded, there were a couple of other places but they were empty. So we headed back towards Princes Street, and then up North Bridge to the Royal Mile, we passed a few of the big brand outlets but we weren’t interested in pizzas that we could get back at home. We had seen a place yesterday that we had liked but we couldn’t remember whereabouts it was. So we mooched up and down the Mile looking in places for a free table, eventually settling upon the Mitre Bar, a busy place but the menu looked good. When the menu arrived we realised it was part of the same group as Deacon Brodies Tavern, never mind that. We decided upon a Basket of fish for Sheila and a Roast Boar burger for myself, I’d wanted one of these at a previous pub and it was off so the Haggis, Tatties and Neeps will have to wait until our next visit to Scotland. The meal was good and so was the wine. Dessert and Sheila wasn’t hungry so I had Cranachan – which is a national dish of oats, raspberries, whipped cream and honey. Sheila quickly found her appetite and a spoon as she helped me to finish what was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had, my phone photo doesn’t do it justice.
We left the Mitre and had a slow walk back, our original intention to have another drink somewhere on the way evaporated and we just made a beeline our room and sleep. Thursday morning and another full Scottish for me, can’t get enough of the haggis and tattie scones. The hotel was pretty good at checkout time and we were able to leave our cases there until the afternoon when our train was due. This allowed us to do a bit more touristy things, including visiting Holyrood Palace and Greyfriars Kirkyard. The Palace is fascinating but as we were coming to expect no photography inside please.
The Kirkyard was also, in it’s way, fascinating as within it are stones relating to the Black Death, the memorial headstone to John Gray ( Bobbies owner) and some fine vaulted tombs. Sadly none of these photos came out well enough to put on here. After a coffee and sandwich in The Deacon’s House Cafe, well worth a look as parts of the place are 600 years old, we made our way back to the hotel to collect our cases. We made our way across Calton Hill, intending to visit the Gallery there but it was closed for installation of a new exhibit. Still we did get marvelous views across the North of the city towards the Firth of Forth and beyond. Last couple of pictures show the view towards the Forth Rail Bridge, the first with no zoom and the second with full zoom.
All that remained now was to get the cases and get to the station and the train. On time and other than it being full of commuters between Newcastle and Darlington a very pleasant end to a great couple of days away. Still want to go back though as there was so much we didn’t do in Edinburgh.