Thanks for your kind comments on last weeks post from York and the Normandy Veterans memorial. This article is the second in a series of posts from our recent excursion in the United Kingdom. The purpose of this trip was to participate in a Friendship Force exchange with the Cleveland club located in northeast England in the Stockton, Durham, Darlington area (more on that in a future post). When this opportunity came up we decided to add a couple of weeks to the trip to spend more time in Scotland. In 2014 we spent five days in Edinburgh and found it wasn’t enough. It’s a beautiful city with lots of things to do and see. Besides it’s quite walkable so there’s no need to have a car to get around and parking is limited especially in the central city.
We arrived in Edinburgh on early Sunday morning after an overnight flight from Newark. After collecting our bags, we headed to the tram for a pleasant ride, uncrowded ride into town. As we left the airport, this is what greeted us on the overcast, damp morning.
After reaching our apartment (a big thanks to Liz McVie for letting us access the apartment early in the day, if you need a place in Edinburgh to stay check out http://www.mcvedinburghapartments.com/), we took a short rest and then headed out to explore the city. One of the highlights of central Edinburgh is the Princes Street Gardens, situated between the Old Town and the New Town. Waverley Railway Station, the main train station in the city, is located nearby. These gardens were established in the mid 1700’s and have served as a place for people to meet, relax, eat, and even have a rugby game during lunch! Here’s a view of one part of the gardens taken on a cool afternoon. At other times during this visit we stopped by the garden and the grass area and benches were filled with people.
In and around the Gardens are a number of statues and monuments dedicated to individuals and groups. The Sir Walter Scott Monument overlooks the gardens and is said to be the largest monument in the world dedicated to a writer. But the photo below, shows a much smaller statue located in the veterans memorial garden and of special significance to us. It was given to the people of Scotland by Scottish Americans to commemorate those Scots who fought in World War 1. While we were visiting this part of the gardens, we struck up a conversation with a Scotsman from Aberdeen who was waiting for his wife while she shopping nearby. We talked about the brutality of war and the sacrifice of so many people to achieve peace and safety. Then we moved on to the state of politics both in the UK and the US. They have their Brexit referendum vote in a couple of weeks and we have our presidential election this fall. After discussing the Brexit, he’s undecided, he asked me “what in the hell are you Americans doing?” To which I had no answer. While this was the first time we were asked, it certainly wouldn’t be the last. It helped me to understand that what happens in the US is felt in rest of the world. Enough said on that topic!
The Edinburgh Castle dominants the skyline of Edinburgh and is Scotland’s most visited historic site. While you’ll be among crowds exploring and touring the Castle, it’s certainly worth the price of admission. Tourist hint: make sure you take one of the tours it really helps to understand the history and significance of this site. Here’s a photo of the Castle from the Princes Street Gardens.
While on this stay in Edinburgh, we made a climb up Calton Hill that overlooks the city. Here’s a panorama of the city, note the Castle and the steeple of St. Giles Cathedral in the background. This photo was taken from the top of the Nelson Monument (as in Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson) who defeated the French and Spanish in the Battle of Trafalgar, where he also died.
As we were leaving to walk down Calton Hill, we saw some people setting up telescopes. My curiosity got the best of me so I asked one of the chaps what they were doing. They were from the Edinburgh Astronomy Society and were observing the Transit of Mercury that happens about every eight years. He said that it would be visible between noon and about 3 PM. So I and other curious folks had a look through one of the scopes, it was a black dot silhouetted against the sun. It was the big learning for that day!
We also made a climb part way up Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park, not far from Calton Hill. While we didn’t make it to the top, we did enjoy the walk about halfway up, almost forgot we were in the city! Here’s a photo of Arthur’s Seat on a beautiful, pleasant spring day.
After our hike, we rested for a bit down by the Scottish Parliament building, quite a modern and impressive building, also worth a visit. Anyway, we noticed a small encampment near Parliament, this group is not giving up on independence from England, even after the vote failed two years ago. A testament to the Scottish persistence!
One of customs we got really used to while in the UK was the concept of stopping for coffee or tea, sometimes in the late morning and certainly by mid afternoon. Well, coffee and tea also meant having a “cake” that we learned couple meant about anything sweet, cookies, scones, cake, tarts, and etc! We found the Patisserie Valerie (https://www.patisserie-valerie.co.uk), a chain in the UK specializing in handmade cakes, to be just the place we could enjoy our drinks and cakes! Maybe why we had to lay off desserts when we got home, too much weight gain! Here’s a couple of our favorites.
While on the topic of eating, lots of great food available in Edinburgh. The UK isn’t known for its culinary prowess but we found lots of variety from both traditional to international choices. One of our favorite places is La Favorita Italian, the best pizza outside of Italy. On any given night there are at least five bright yellow delivery cars zipping in and out of the front of the restaurant. While this isn’t a photo of La Favorita, it’s representative of a lot of the sidewalk cafes in central Edinburgh.
In the mid 1700’s to mid 1800’s, Edinburgh was the seat of what is known as the Scottish Enlightenment. During this period, there were rapid advancements in the fields of philosophy, political economics, engineering, architecture, medicine, geology, law, agriculture, chemistry and sociology. Some of greatest minds were at work in Edinburgh and Scotland during this time, David Hume, Adam Smith, Robert Burns, and many others. Many people came from other countries to study at one of the five universities that were in existence in Edinburgh. That included many students from what was then a colony of Great Britain and influenced the documents that formed the US, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Here’s a photo of St. Giles Cathedral with a statue of of Adam Smith, author of the “Wealth of Nations.” At the height of the Reformation, St. Giles was the parish of John Knox, a firebrand preacher and leader of the Protestant Reformation.
St. Giles and Edinburgh Castle are located along High Street, more commonly known as the Royal Mile. Where there are people and tourists, the buskers turn out to make music as did this bag piper.
And if one is in the market for a kilt, there are lots of places that will sell you one. I wonder how many tourist who’ve had too much of that fine Scottish Whisky regretted their impulse buy of a kilt! Not expensive by the way!
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. This post ends with a sunset siloutte of the Nelson Memorial and a plane taking off from the Edinburgh airport.
Hope you enjoyed our brief visit to Edinburgh. Next up, a couple of posts from our home stay with Pam and Bill Jones in northeast England.
Until next time,