I am publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which took place June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.
The weather on this Friday morning was predicted to be better than usual, so we chose it to hike up Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is a prominent hill in Holyrood (translated “Holy Cross” park that was a fortress in ancient times. The summit provides a breathtaking 360 degree view of Edinburgh, the North Sea and the surrounding region.
Taylor arrived at our hotel about 8:30. We hiked a few blocks to Elephant House, a coffee shop now famous for being the place J.K. Rowling sat and wrote Harry Potter. Taylor told us we had to visit the loo while we were there. The bathrooms were scrawled with Harry Potter graffiti (I regret now that I did not take a picture). We grabbed the bus to Holyrood park. When Wendy saw what we were climbing she had a small heart attack. From the east there is a smooth incline to the summit, but on the west, the direction from which we approached, there is a long, winding stone stair. It took us about 30-35 minutes to make the climb with a few brief stops to catch breath and look around. The summit was very windy and a bit chilly, but the view was incredible and we took plenty of time for photos and to enjoy the view.
We descended along the eastern slope and found ourselves in the picturesque, ancient village of Dudingston with a gorgeous little church that has been there since the 1200s. There is a pub here, the Sheep’s Heid that claims to be the oldest establishment in Scotland, dating from the 1300s. We had intended to pop in for a pint but they didn’t open until 11:30 and we didn’t feel like sitting around for an hour.
Taylor checked the bus schedule and figured in the 20 minutes we would wait for the next bus we could hike most of the way back. We trekked back towards the city on a road that wound around the bottom of Arthur’s Seat. It was a good couple of miles before we got to the buss top back to the hotel. Wendy’s Up Band said that we walked 9.2 miles that day!
At the hotel we freshened up and headed back out for a bite of lunch. Along the way we learned about the small triangle shopped city block that houses strip clubs known to locals as the “pubic triangle.” Taylor also took us into one of her favorite little used book stores. It was a hole in the wall labyrinth with books shelved from floor to tall ceiling. We really enjoyed looking around and could have spent a lot more time there if we weren’t so hungry. Taylor took us to the Red Squirrel, a nice little pub a mile or so from the hotel. We had traditional pub fare served on thick, cutting board type planks, and enjoyed our on-going conversation.
After lunch we walked to St. John’s Church, an old Scottish Episcopal church that felt more like a Catholic cathedral. Taylor said that she would often come to this church for quiet, prayer and meditation. There is a cafe in the lower level that emptied out into a beautiful garden and cemetery. She said that she was at the cafe this past year when she got my message that Grandpa Dean was diagnosed with cancer and she immediately walked up to the sanctuary to light a candle for him and to pray. I’m glad she was there when she heard the news. We walked around the gorgeous sanctuary and enjoyed a nice chat with an older woman who was one of the volunteer guides. We then took a stroll through the ancient cemetery.
Taylor had an appointment with her advisor that afternoon, so we gave Taylor a hug and she headed back to her flat. Wendy and I strolled back to Grassmarket via King’s Stable Row which winds around the base of Edinburgh Castle. We spent a few quiet hours in the hotel watching the French Open and relaxing.
We headed to the Royal Mile in the late afternoon to do souvenier shopping. The sun came out while we were doing so and it became a lovely afternoon. It took a while to gather everything and then we headed back to Grassmarket, strolling down the long row of pubs and restaurants to get a feel for where we’d like to eat that evening. Taylor was having dinner with her flatmates so Wendy and I were on our own. We went to Maggie Dickinson’s Pub, named for a famous (or infamous) survivor of public execution, and got a table in the back where we could eat and watch Andy Murray and Novak Djokovich in the French Open semi-final. Wendy ordered fish n chips and got an absolutely huge filet. I had a burger and, of course, a pint.
It was Friday evening and you could tell that the weekend crowd had begun. The pubs were brimming with people from all over. There were a number of large groups of very loud young men who had already had too much to drink. Taylor told us that Edinburgh is a favorite destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties and we saw a number of these. The bride or groom to be are generally dressed up in silly costumes so they are easy to spot.
We wandered down to the White Hart Inn Pub after dinner to have another pint and watch what was left of the tennis match, which got called for rain. We then headed back to the hotel and got to bed early.