Edinburgh, United Kingdom
We both woke way too early again but there was little chance of getting out for a walk. It was grey, cold and windy. Our cabbie from the yesterday had laughed that there is one thing you don’t need in Scotland and that is ‘sunglasses’.
Our plan for the morning was to visit Holyrood Palace, at the bottom of the Royal Mile, which, as its name implies, is a mile strip or roads downhill from Edinburgh Castle. We used the Open Top Bus to get us there and spent about 90 minutes wandering around this Palace that dates back to the 15th Century. It is still a working Palace today and the Royal Family reside there whenever they visit Edinburgh, which, apparently, is quite often. Now, come to mention it, have you ever seen the Queen wearing sunglasses? Maybe, if she had a pair, she wouldn’t have to retreat up to this cold place so often! The most fascinating rooms though were those belonging to Mary Queen of Scots. We stood in the spot where Mary’s husband, and his men, murdered her aide/secretary as it was thought that their relationship had developed too strongly. The weight and sense of significant world history throughout these rooms was quite spine chilling and palpable.
After the Palace we headed towards the New Town area for lunch and to try and warm up. The cold here is really limiting as it dictates what you can and can’t do. We had a walking tour that we had booked for the afternoon but, over lunch Mark and I discussed the need to find ‘indoor’ sightseeing for our day tomorrow! We eventually braved the weather and headed back outdoor where we decided to take one of the other Open Top bus tours until the time of our walking tour. This way we could stay slightly warmer.
Our guide for the tour, Secrets of the Royal Mile’ was a friendly young guide named Ross. No one else was stupid enough to be outside so it was just Mark and I on the tour! For 90 min Ross walked around the key sites of Royal Mile pointing out key events in the history of the evolving city and also juicy bits of ‘gallows’ gossip. Ross pointed out the cafe where J K Rowling wrote her fist Harry Potter novel. She was too poor to afford home heating so would frequent this cafe to write her script in the warmth of their heating. We also ended up dining in the crooked little street that was apparently the inspiration for Diagon Alley, the street where Harry goes to buy his wands etc and we saw George Heriot’s school which was the inspiration for the Hogwarts School. Apart from the cold, it was a great way to learn more about this significant part of the city.
We headed home for a bit and to Sainsbury’s to buy a few more supplies. Our plan was to walk up towards the Castle and take one of the Scotch Whisky experience tour but they were booked out. Clearly, all the more sensible people than us had worked out the things to do indoors before we had! The Scots treasure the fact that there is no ‘e’ in their writing of whisky; that is the preserve for the inferior Irish blend, that was according to Ross our guide! We headed down to the Museum of Scotland to fill in some time before it closed but this only gave us 20 minutes or so. From there we headed back down to one of the pubs in the Grassmarket, ‘The White Hart Inn’. This was not as nice as the ‘The Last Drop Inn’ though so we left after one beer and headed back to The Last Drop. We headed back to the ‘Daigon Alley’ and ate at one of the cafe /restaurants there which was very nice indeed. Maison Bleue at 36-38 Victoria St.