Monday, February 27, 2006

Edinburgh..still early days.

Last weekend we headed to Scotland to visit Edinburgh, bright and early mind you. We caught the 7am train on Saturday morning, and after several tube changes (the tube line we needed was undergoing weekend works so we detoured via central London and back to Kings Cross) we finally made it to the train.

Traveling on the train is quite good, like a plane but without the hostesses – yes they even bring food trolleys down the aisle. The London countryside, even in the middle of winter, is really quite pretty. In our 5 hour journey we went through countryside shrouded in deep snow like frost; thick fog; sunny bright fields and towns; cloudy dense foothills; fields with green trees (moss grows thick on the bark) and icy looking streams and blustery coastal towns.

I thought about napping on the train but there was far too much to look at and you go through so many different towns. The seaside towns along the North Sea as we approached Scotland were by far the best, Berwick-upon-Tweed being one of them, and we definitely have plans to visit them.

We arrived in Edinburgh around lunchtime, and although it was very cold and cloudy it wasn’t raining, yet. Our hotel was in the New Town area of Edinburgh so we dropped off our bags and headed to the nearest authentic, non-chain pub. We found a really nice little pub (cannot remember the name) and had, yes I know a long time coming, our first pub meal.

We then visited Edinburgh castle, which is just amazing- with brilliant view right across to the Firth of Forth. It’s in the Old Town and way above the town – Edinburgh is quite a hilly city – as we discovered when we took a windy path from the Princes Street gardens all the way up to the castle. We spent a good 4 hours exploring the castle, its dungeons, kings apartments, chapels, gun batteries, dog cemetery (yes - and there are only 2 of its kind!), memorials and museums. The audio tours are really good and tell you a lot about the history of the place, your own personal tour guide.

After we got shuffled out of the Castle military museum (what a shame!) at 5pm, we got the times mixed up and thought it closed at 6pm, we checked out a tartan weaving mill. It was just to visit though and so alas we skipped out on the part where you get photos taken in full tartan garb.

At this point it is raining and we are freezing cold, Mark has a cold too, so we head back to our hotel and book dinner at a nearby restaurant called Wildfire, this after many phone calls – seems we had needed to book everywhere weeks in advance.

The next day we discovered that our quite nice and roomy hotel room had a downfall, no hot water – ugh. Despite much protest the boiler was down, so I braved a lukewarm shower and Mark went without.

Our first stop, Day 2, was a wander around the new town, which was actually quite boring except for a very old cemetery that had amazing crypts and tombs. We then headed back up to the old town to visit the Queen’s Edinburgh home – Holyrood Palace. It absolutely bucketed down with rain on the way there, and we sheltered from the rain in the new Parliament buildings, which as it turned out were right across the road from the Palace. The Palace is actually quite lovely, with grand decorative ceilings, old tapestries and portraits – all very elaborate; and if you didn’t know it was originally the home of Mary Queen of Scots!

Right up from the Palace is a spot call Arthur’s seat which is a rocky outcrop, the remains of a volcano. We thought about walking up it, but it required serious walking shoes and the will to brave the weather. So we just wandered around the old town instead, as we still had a few hours to kill. We checked out all the little side streets, the Museum of Childhood (it was free), whilst counting the seemingly immense number of stores selling – scotch, cashmere, tartan, shortbread and fudge (seems these are what Scotland is famous for!).

We then hoped on the train and headed back to London. We had a great time, and there you have it our first trip away - to Edinburgh. We shall keep you posted on our future adventures, though this weekend we are sleeping in….

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