Thursday, October 8, 2009

Edinburgh, Scotland - Good castles and good people

The entrance to Edinburgh Castle, the premier site to visit in Edinburgh

Camp Connell -- Edinburgh was the last stop on a two week tour of Ireland and Scotland for us, and it was a good place to end a lovely visit.
We stayed at the Priestville Guest House based on the recommendation in Rick Steve's Great Britain book and it was a good choice: comfortable, reasonable rates, close to public transportation, off the main drag so it was quieter, and the hosts were extremely helpful.
In a quiet neighborhood, close to the bus, this was the view from our B&B window

The first day we hopped a bus into the center of town and walked the
Royal Mile. It was rainy, but not uncomfortable, and by being in town in early October we did not have to fight big crowds.Somehow we resisted the temptation to try Haggis, though we actually met people who did

We dropped by St. Giles Cathedral, which proved to be a gem, and were fascinated by the tales told by the docent who showed us around. It was a small comfort to me to find the Duke of Argyll, a Campbell and the 17th century bad boy who hung 200 Lamonts from a tree in Dunoon in 1646, was buried here after he was executed.
The guide also tipped us to the stunning old court building across the courtyard, and to a fine small cafe in the basement where we had a reasonable lunch.
We then took the walking tour (with audio) of Edinburgh Castle. You could devote an entire day to the castle, and it provided great background on Scottish history and culture, canon and jewels, ramparts and dungeons.
The biggest canon around centuries ago, used stone canonballs

One of the more interesting places in the castle is the prison where prisoners of war were kept after being captured in sea battles: during the American Revolution. Those were our guys.
William Wallace, the real hero, before he was drawn and quartered

During the summer festivals the castle also has daily military tattoos, including bagpipe bands, but we missed that.
We walked back down the hill to the parliament building and the Holyrood House, the queen's home in Edinburgh, popping in and out of shops along the way.
The nicest surprise of the visit was the small free museum operated by the city council. It is called "The People's Story" and depicts life in Scotland for the working people, unlike castles which are always about the rich and the wars fought over territory. The displays showed the jobs people had, how they lived and worked, and the history of the struggles of the working class in Great Britain.

Our last full day the weather was cold and windy, and we opted to spend our time inside the National Museum of Scotland, another stunning example of great museums in the world. It is every bit as well-done as the Smithsonian museums in Washington, covered history from the dawn of settlement in Scotland to the present, and even offered hands-on learning/adventure sections for youngsters. Undoubtedly one of the best museums, and most interesting, I've ever been inside. And it did not romanticize the clans and their battles, but put them in perspective of Scottish history, including the struggles with England.
We ended our visit at the high-end and highly-rated restaurant upstairs in the museum. Maybe it was the end of a long trip, but it seemed overpriced and over-rated, high on pretensions and low on actual food quality. I suspect everyone there, except us, was on expense account, or they would not be having $75 lunches.
A word about the people: everywhere we went in Edinburgh people on the streets and buses were eager to help us. If we had a map out, someone stopped and offered help, and a friendly chat. When we were confused about where to get off the bus, a young couple with kids took us in hand and showed us the way.
A very hospitable city.
Our final day required an extremely early trip to the airport. Our B&B host at Priestville arranged for a cab to pick us up at 4 a.m., double-checked on the plan the night before, and made sure we had something to eat set aside the morning we left.

As we drove to the airport at 4 a.m. it was interesting to note that crowds of young adults were still on the streets, just heading home from a night of club-hopping. Obviously, there was a side of Edinburgh we did not have time to see.
All in all, a great city, well-represented by courteous and helpful people.
This is one of many tourist buses you can hop on and off anytime. We chose to ride the city buses, just as charming but warmer

1 comment:

A Bit Of Everything said...

Well.....Family Friends...You have had a BLAST where you have been.
I would send you something in gaelic (sp), but DAD has not taught me lingo yet.... :)