This stop in Edinburgh is actually my grandson’s and my second trip to this beautiful old city; we were last here 8 years ago. It is funny to know that being here in mid-September brought us better weather than that of mid-August on our last visit! As our stop in Edinburgh was really just a transition point in our trip, a transition of countries as well as a transition in our mode of transportation, we really didn’t have a lot planned.
Our journey to Scotland started with a long wait at the airport in Frankfurt with an additional hour delay in take off to our arriving in Edinburgh and a 50-minute wait for a cab into the city. While cursing the long line for a cab, we finally got one and struck gold with our cabbie! A wonderfully pleasant man born just down the road from our hotel in Canongate, he delighted us with tales of Scottish history, sights along our journey through the city, and pointed out places to keep on our list to see. Since we made our evening tour even with the delays, I have to say I am glad happenstance brought us to his cab. Our tour I was so worried about missing was “The World Famous Underground Ghost Tour .” How famous it is, I couldn’t tell you, but I will tell you even the 18 year old enjoyed the evening walk that took us to a cemetery at night! From tales of Edinburgh’s mass murderers Wm. Burke and Wm. Hare in 1828 and the legend of Half-hangit Maggie Dickson who survived being hung (don’t forgot to stop by the pub named after her), to visiting the tomb of George “Bloody” McKenzie. McKenzie was known to be the most successful persecutors of the Covenanters for King Charles II. He imprisoned many Covenanters in a section of Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, where he delighted in their torture and eventually their heads decorating the spiked gate. We visited his tomb with hopes of waking him by citing a children’s rhyme “Bluidy Mackingie, come oot if ye daur, lift the sneck and draw the bar” and banging on the door … Not sure why, but George slept through our visit. Our guide, the Hangman, was entertaining and made our walk into a pleasant
Our first full day took us on a visit to HM Queen Elizabeth’s official home in Edinburgh, Palace of Holyroodhouse. Our visit to Holyroodhouse makes the third residence of her majesty we have had the pleasure of visiting; we visited both Buckingham and Windsor in our last visit to the UK. While smaller than the others we have visited, it was no less grand and rich with history. Perhaps one of the most famous monarchs to live here was Mary, Queen of Scots'; she lived there between 1561-1567. Just a short walk down the Royal Mile from our hotel, we arrived before opening to see the palace before the crowds of the afternoon. The palace provides with your ticket the option of an audio tour which I highly recommend. The audio tour talks you through each room, their purpose, and even some of the ghastly details such as the murder on Saturday, 9 March 1566 of Mary, Queen of Scots' private secretary, David Rizzio, in the queen's private chambers. It is said you can see his blood stains on the floor. my grandson thought he did, I forgot to look. The audio tour also included commentary from some members of the royal family about the pleasures of being at Holyroodhouse as a family home. When visiting I got the sense of how it could feel that way with most rooms, we visited being large but not auditorium size like other palaces. Another treat of our visit was the wonderful exhibit about the life of Prince Phillip.
After visiting the inside of the palace, your next stop is a visit to what remains of Holyrood Abbey founded by David I in 1128. During the 15th century, the abbey guesthouse was developed into a royal residence, which was the first section of what is Holyroodhouse today. The abbey currently stands a roofless ruin, as it has been since the roof collapsed in December 1768.
After our visiting of the Abbey, the path of the tour takes you through the beautiful gardens of Holyroodhouse. Unfortunately for us, we were not there on a day when the royal family was hosting a garden party for 8,000; the invite must have gotten lost in the mail! Regardless, the gardens with their thousands of new plantings each year were beautiful and serene. I would have loved to pull up a comfort chair and sat there for the rest of the afternoon.
In case you were not aware, Edinburgh is said to be built on seven hills. If you walk the Royal Mile and surrounding streets, you will feel those hills in your bones. I am not sure which hills are behind the Palace of Holyroodhouse, but I am sure the view is one not to be missed. As we end our tour coming out of the gardens and around the back to exit, even my grandson who does not believe in taking pictures, had to stop and take a picture of the hills. What a wonderful view God has supplied those at Holyroodhouse. With our visit to the palace complete, it is off in search of a grocery store and food for the next couple of days. my grandson has said he is not feeling too well, so to the hotel and rest for him and work for me!
Our last full day in Edinburgh I was on my own to wonder. my grandson was still not feeling well, so he spent his day in pjs in bed and doing whatever 18 year old boys do on their phone. But me, I am off in search of an insulated lunch bag to keep in the car as we drive around Scotland. The god of Google has told me to look in Salisbury’s at St Andrew’s Square, which is about 1 mile from our hotel on the other side of the bridges and Waverly Station, the main train station in Edinburgh. Fortunately, the rain that blasted us the following evening is only a sprinkle so umbrella in hand, I am off. While Google can find anything on the internet, I have my doubts about finding places with Google Maps. I think I have been lost more often with the maps than without, but my travel demand that I work with them best I can.
Along my walk, I admire the old skyline of the city. The Hangman the night before told me that until not much more than 100 years ago, the streets of Edinburgh were lined with sewage and not gold, I won’t have wanted to live here then, but I truly like visiting here and it’s beautiful centuries old buildings now. A beautiful walk to Princes Street and up to St. Andrew’s Square and I am in luck, Google was right, and Salisbury's did have my lunch bags. So with a couple of other items in my shopping bag, I start the walk back to check on a sick kid…..He is fine but I think after a year and a half of being at home doing little or nothing and now travelling and walking is impacting him more than me. I return to the hotel to put in a day’s work and pack up for our next adventure in Scotland; we are off in the morning to Perth. Tomorrow also starts a new adventure for me—driving in the UK. I have driven in Europe before, but never the UK and ‘the wrong side of the road.’ I am not sure if this will be more interesting for me, or scary for the other drivers, but we will see!
Our last morning in Edinburgh finished quite pleasantly. We were up, breakfast eaten, bags packed, and I am off in an Uber to pick up the rental car. My Uber driver, a nice Russian man, and I had a friendly conversation, now I am not sure about what, but I arrived at the rental place to be attended to my two lovely Scottish ladies that remarked how friendly I am. I am not sure if their other encounters with Americans who were not so friendly, but I was grateful for the compliment. Off now to meet the man who is the keeper of the car keys. After a thorough inspection of the car, I am off back to the hotel to pick up my grandson and the bags. I will say that it was less frightening with the drive through the city than I thought it would be, but the round abouts still make me nervous. With a successful first drive, my grandson and luggage in tow, we say our goodbyes to Edinburgh. Perth here we come!