A Writer in Edinburgh

April 3, 2012 at 12:18 am Leave a comment

Day 22 of my European adventure was Day 2 in Edinburgh. We had a big day planned, so it began early, with a huge Scottish breakfast. I’m not a fan of sausage and fried eggs, but fortunately, breakfast at the Kenneth Mackenzie Suites had plenty of options. Mom and I caffeinated well and started heading uphill to the western end of the Royal Mile.

The Hub
I thought that this was a church and got all excited, but it’s a place called The Hub. I believe it’s very important when the Edinburgh International Festival rolls around.

Edinburgh Castle
And soon we were enjoying a nice morning at the castle! Edinburgh Castle is basically the key tourist attraction in Edinburgh, so we planned it for day two to have the best chance at arriving before the swarm of tourists. We only had to queue for a couple of minutes, plus the weather was nice (if a bit chilly), so our strategy paid off.

Edinburgh pano
The view looking north across Edinburgh was lovely!

Cannon at Edinburgh Castle
If anyone ever sets off this cannon, the Sir Walter Scott monument is toast.

Heading Down
We went inside some of the main rooms of the castle, but the crowds were really starting to pick up, so we hit the Scottish Crown Jewels (sparkly!) and then started heading down after an hour or so.

Farewell Castle
As we left the castle, it was so lovely that I was starting to hope for a partly-cloudy blue sky all day! (Spoiler alert: this was not to be.)

Tartan Mill
We ducked into the Tartan Mill near the top of the Royal Mile, which was a factory, a museum, and a gift shop on steroids, all rolled into one. Mom wanted to buy some tartan scarves (I did too, but I lacked funds at this point) and we enjoyed our trip through this maze of a factory. I had previously been under the impression that, as McCaghrens (my maternal grandmother’s maiden name), we were related to the MacDonald clan somehow, but we couldn’t find any evidence of this at the tartan gift shops. I bought a little MacDonald booklet anyway, just in case. Our ancestors immigrated from Ireland, but there’s some sort of connection with Scotland. I started doing some genealogy research, but didn’t have time to research the Irish/Scottish parts. I’d love to do more research at some point when I have more time to waste and when I can afford the Ancestry.com membership. It’s pricey!

After the tartans, we headed to the next big tourist attraction of the day, the National Museum of Scotland. The weather was starting to turn, so we were happy to spend a couple of hours inside. As a history nut, and one who grew up fascinated by kings and queens, I was really excited to read all about the Scottish kings, and how Scotland came to be a part of the UK, etc. The museum was new, and it was bright and cheery with clear presentations. I also liked the modern exhibit on where Scotland has been more recently and where it’s going in the future.

It was raining when we left the museum, so it was a perfect time for a late lunch at Spoon, which I’d read about in the Frommer’s guide. It was our one fantastic dining experience in Scotland! Spoon is a café that uses lots of fresh ingredients to make delicious soups and salads and sandwiches during the day, just what I want in a lunch spot. We had soup with our meals, which absolutely hit the spot in the yucky weather. I’m not normally a soup-in-July type of person, but I make exceptions in Edinburgh, apparently. The prices at lunchtime were perfectly reasonable, too.

Writers Museum

We needed somewhere else to go in the rain, so we decided to go to the Writers Museum after all. I had put it on my list as a “maybe, if we have time” sort of thing, and I know feel guilty for even admitting that. I am supposed to be a writer! But I guess I’ve never been properly introduced to Scottish writers. The museum focuses on Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and Robert Louis Stevenson. I’ve never read Scott, I’m sure I’ve read Burns but he doesn’t really stand out, and I never really liked the children’s edition of Treasure Island that I’m sure my mom bought me one Christmas. I’m so glad that we went, though, because the museum is so informative, and it made me want to learn more about all three of Scotland’s classic great writers.

And! By the time we left, it wasn’t raining anymore!

We still had quite a bit of time before we needed to pick up our bags and head to the train station, so Mom and I headed up Calton Hill, where many of Edinburgh’s monuments are located.

National Monument of Scotland
The National Monument of Scotland is the most famous, because it’s still unfinished. It was meant to be a Scottish War Memorial and designed in the 1820s, but left unfinished in 1829. They’ve talked about finishing it periodically since then, even as recently as 2004, but no one’s managed to get anything concrete together.

Nelson's Monument
Nelson’s Monument is also on the hill, and it honours Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. I think I should start a collection of Nelson monuments…I’ve now been to three (also Trafalgar Square in London and the one in Old Montréal). I was enjoying views from the hill, but sometimes when I’m in new cities, I get the urge to try to conquer my fear of heights in the name of better views. I don’t know. Maybe I think it’s good for me. I guess it is. At any rate, my mama was exhausted from me dragging her all over Europe, so she declined the steps to the top of the tower, and up I went.

View of Edinburgh
Yep, worth it for the view!

Me at the top of Nelson's Monument
Proof that I went!

Edinburgh
Parting shot of Edinburgh, with the Dugald Stewart Monument on the right.

We grabbed a bite at Bar Kohl (I think) after that, and then went back to the guest house to pick up our luggage. They didn’t have 24-hour reception, so we had to take our bags and call a cab at about a quarter til 9, which left us sitting at the train station for several hours, but we didn’t have a choice. In hindsight, we should have used our time to track down some earplugs, because we were about to have a night of very little sleep on the train. A few rows in front of us, a group of four laughed and howled (I am not exaggerating) until at least 4am. I have never wanted to throw myself off a train more than I wanted to that night! When we arrived in London the next morning, we walked past their seats, and they had 4 empty bottles of champagne, along with plenty of other spirits. No wonder everything was so hilarious. But seriously, if you’re taking the Caledonian Sleeper, bring earplugs.

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Entry filed under: Edinburgh, Europe, Lessons Learned, Photos, Scotland, United Kingdom. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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A serial road tripper chronicles her adventures.

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