Finally, I’ve had time to explore Edinburgh—or the Old Town part, at least. The one time I’ve been to Scotland before was on one of those “if it’s Tuesday, it’s Glasgow” tours. We stopped in Edinburgh for the night, nowhere near Old Town, and saw one of those hokey Renaissance shows over dinner. I got to taste haggis but that was about the only genuine part of the evening.
So after we parted with Mary Jo and the Mayhem Consultant in Shetland this summer, IT Guy and I traveled on for a few days in Edinburgh. We stayed at the newly renovated Bonham hotel a few blocks from the city center, just over the border in the New Town. The hotel was three Georgian town homes tied together, with an amazing view, lovely wood and sculpted plaster everywhere, plus fabulous high ceilings and windows that open. Which was good because the city was in a heat wave, there was no a/c, and “newly remodeled” means the place smelled of paint. But the room was gorgeous and the view worth every bit of the smell.
For the next few days, we walked probably five miles a day, up and down the city center and through the narrow medieval closes, and along the Royal Mile from the Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. With the crowds of summer everywhere, it’s not quite the same as following a medieval donkey wagon up the hill, but it did give a good feel of how tired people must have been before the car! I’m pretty sure everywhere we went was uphill, both ways.
We had drinks at the Tolbooth Tavern, where they once performed an exorcism so terrifying the supposed warlock died of fright, but we never met the ghost that was supposed to haunt it. We took a guided tour of the Castle, where we jostled through such huge crowds of tourists that they probably could have stormed and conquered the infamously impregnable walls. (Well, a little mead and some knights dressed as merchants managed to breach the walls, but y’know, actually climbing them—oh, wait, that can and has been done also. Oh well. It’s still a formidable sight!)
Holyrood Palace, where Mary Queen of Scots once lived, is enormous. Also gloomy and probably cold and damp in winter. Queen Victoria apparently used it as a depository for every depressing painting, old carpet, and tapestry that came her way. It might have been interesting to see how it was decorated in Queen Mary’s time in comparison. Photographs weren’t allowed inside, so you’ll just have to check the website to see some of the sumptuous hangings that surrounded Queen Vicky, who stayed there on her way to Balmoral, her vacation home in the Highlands.
Everywhere we went, guides sang the praises of Sir Walter Scott in bringing history and invention to the city, as well as for his famed books. A gothic monument to top all gothic monuments was erected for his statue, sitting prominently in the city center. Visible from everywhere, it makes a great meeting place.
Really, there was entirely too much to see and do even if we’d been able to spend a week, which we couldn’t. We never had a chance to venture inside the museums or churches or take a ghost tour through the ancient cemetery. Sounds like a good reason to go back, doesn’t it?
Have you been to Edinburgh? What did you enjoy seeing? And if you haven’t been, what would you like to see?