YES!! We’re back with the 3rd and final post detailing our incredible trip to Edinburgh, Scotland (or, “EDEN-BERG“, as one friend insists on saying it!!) in August of last year.
Life (and various uncooperative WordPress update features!) has been getting in the way of a more regular blogging schedule, and for that we apologize, but we’ve figured it out and we’re happy you’re here with us again now, anyway!
This last post on ‘Edinburgh 2018’ will be a bit more picture-heavy than the previous two – not quite so many words – except where needed.
So – no further fluff… let’s see what else we got up to in ‘Auld Reekie’, as Edinburgh was once nicknamed…
This was a pre-arranged “free” day, so we filled it in with some wandering around town, shopping on the Royal Mile (Tartan, Tweed, Scotch & Gin, mostly!)
We also purchased tickets early in the day to attend a stand-up performance in the evening (part of the Fringe Festival) by veteran comedian, Vladimir McTavish, who was really quite funny in a set which took place in a tiny basement room into which were crammed a small stage and maybe 20-30 folding chairs. “Cosy” doesn’t even begin to capture the feel of this narrow space! But it was entertaining – Mr. McTavish is an engaging veteran comic with an endearingly rough-around-the-edges persona. But he knows his job – to make people laugh – and he pursues this goal with good energy, good material & deft timing. We had a good time at his stand-up set.
This was the day we embarked upon the ‘West Highlands, Castles & Lochs Tour‘ with… Yes! You guessed it – Rabbie’s!! Our guide was named David, and he kept up an entertaining stream of knowledge, history, folklore, music and jokes throughout the entire day. The other thing that David did was to squeeze in a couple of side trips and sights that were not in the itinerary, to further increase the value of the tour. For that, we definitely thank him, otherwise, we might not have gotten up close with some Standing Stones, seen the Falls at Glen Orchy, seen Kilchurn Castle, or had a quick photo op near Stirling Castle – none of which were on our official itinerary..
So, the tour went as follows:
1. Blackness castle (15th-century) (again!)
2. Doune Castle (14th-century) (again!)
3. The beautiful Loch Lubnaig was next
…and then a quick pit-stop in the village of Callander, where we got pies and something to drink, and briefly enjoyed some calm moments by the banks of the River Teith.
4. Glen Orchy
– a mostly uninhabited glen that is about 11 miles long and green and quite mesmerizing & serene.
5. The Falls at Glen Orchy
– a great spot to visit. Definitely one of our favourite stops on the tour, in fact.
6. Kilchurn Castle (15th-century) & Loch Awe
7. Inverarry Castle & Village (18th-century) and Loch Fyne
8. Village of Luss/Loch Lomond
9. Stirling Castle (12th-century)
Probably one of the most fought-over castles in all of history, there having been at least 8 recorded sieges. Our driver – David – was kind enough to pull over by the side of the road (probably illegally!) and let us out to get some quick pictures of this legendary historic site.
…This was a great tour which took us into the real Highlands, let us see quite a few quaint villages, awesome castles, and serene glens and lochs. David was a patient, careful, and extremely adept driver, who really did us proud.
All in all- Another great day out in Scotland.
This was the day that we wanted to do Edinburgh Castle to the MAX – combining Afternoon Tea IN the castle, with touring the castle, and finally, the very same evening, attending the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – also, in the castle.
But this was also the day we almost faced our second disaster of the trip.
It had taken the best part of a full week Stateside – before we left – to finagle reservations for Afternoon Tea inside Edinburgh Castle. Apparently, we’d mistimed our attempt to make reservations, and there were many emails flying back and forth, across the Atlantic, between us and the organizer of this event, before we were finally added onto the list on the day we needed…today.
This was definitely something that we’d been really looking forward to. But on the actual day, when we initially went up to the castle, there was a lot of miscommunication and misdirection which almost resulted in us missing out on this Afternoon Tea completely.
Without going into excessive detail – we got sent to two wrong locations – both in opposite directions – two separate times!
Being older, and tireder – we ended up just giving up and returning to our room. Once there, we caught our breath and decided to once again try and ‘breach the gates’.
At this point, we just wanted someone to explain to us why this didn’t work out.
We found a sympathetic cashier at the ticket office, and this lovely young lady gave us a pass to get into the castle and up to the room where the Afternoon Tea had been scheduled to be served.
We got up there in time to see the staff in the midst of cleaning up – we’d missed it…damn.
…Or, had we..?
Having gotten so very close, we couldn’t just walk away. We located a manager and explained our misadventures in trying to make it to this event and what do you know – she promptly asked a staff member to set up a table especially for us to have our Afternoon Tea, right there and then! Such incredible hospitality and understanding. And such an amazing, one-of-a-kind experience to be served sandwiches, pastries, cakes, and tea in a castle some parts of which date back to around the 12th century – talk about atmosphere!!
So, in the end, we DID get to have our Afternoon Tea in a real Scottish castle. And it was a uniquely wonderful thing for a couple of New Yorkers to have been able to do!
After partaking of those delicious little sandwiches, pastries, cakes and, of course, Tea(!), we said our many grateful Thanks to our hosts and went out on a tour around the castle.
Our tour of the castle was cut a little short, because it took us up to the time when they were starting to clear everybody off the grounds, so that they could start setting up for the Military Tattoo, later in the evening.
We returned to our room to freshen up, don our protective rain-gear (just in case) and sort out our photographic needs for the evening.
We returned to the castle in time to take our well-chosen (and well in advance!) seats, which gave us great views of all the performers entering onto the castle esplanade in front of, and toward us, and of the light-show projected onto the castle walls during the show, and of the fireworks display at the very end of the show.
Not the most expensive seats to be had, but definitely not the cheapest. At the end of the day, though, the seat cost doesn’t even matter. What matters is the enjoyment we had and the memories & pictures that we were able to come away with.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is, according to Wikipedia; “an annual series of military tattoos performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and international military bands, and artistic performance teams on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle”, which neatly sums it up.
The music, performances, precision, and skill of all the performing groups is definitely next-level. We were entertained, awed, amused, and, at times, emotionally moved by the spectacle unfolding before us. Hopefully, our pictures have done a better job of showing you what it’s all about than these words can…
This was to be our last full day in Edinburgh, and we purposefully had nothing scheduled to do.
A blank slate, upon which we could inscribe the memories of our own choosing…
So, the first thing we chose to do was to walk over to the Old Town and try and find Bakehouse Close. This location was yet another site used in the filming of the Outlander TV series, so we figured we’d go and find it. Bakehouse Close is the setting used to represent Carfax Close in the show – the location of Alexander Malcolm’s print shop.
Gabby reckoned, upon seeing it up close & personal, that this was one of the more instantly recognizable locations of all the ones we’d seen up to this point. Bakehouse Close is located just off The Royal Mile, a short walk down the Royal Mile near the Museum of Edinburgh and the Canongate Kirk. When we got there, we had to wait for a tour group to leave, before we could explore at our leisure and get a few uncluttered pictures…
After knocking another Outlander location off of our to-do list, we decided to try and walk over to another place we’d read about – Dean Village. This involved a rather wide walk around Edinburgh Castle and included a few wrong turns here and there, which really only added up to that much more sightseeing!
But with the help of offline maps and using Edinburgh Castle as a constant point of reference, we found our way.
Dean Village was originally chartered in the 12th century, and was founded around a robust milling industry. Today, (in fact – since a long time ago) the river-milling industry has ceased to be, and Dean Village is largely a pricey residential area now. Many original buildings and structures remain to paint a picture of the past of this location, but it is mainly an amazingly scenic photo op location nowadays – much to the apparent dismay of some the residents of the area whom we saw frowning at tourists and not really bothering to be too subtle about it, either..
We walked along the River Dean until we passed St. Bernard’s Well, where we took the opportunity to get back up to street level and try to find lunch, then home.
We had a light lunch and beers in a rather nice pub in the New Town as we strolled back towards Princes Street. Obviously, by this time (late afternoon) we’d been walking for quite some miles, and were a little tired and disheveled, so the mostly uphill gradient back to our hotel wasn’t exactly welcome, nor was it appreciated – but we made it. Tired …and hungry …but we made it.
…And that was pretty much the last thing we did on our stay in Edinburgh.
Overall, we had a fantastic time, and we’d probably go back again – just probably not in August. It really does get a bit overcrowded with the many festivals and events that are taking place in the same month.
Not only would we DEFINITELY revisit Edinburgh – or Scotland, in general – but we’d definitely recommend it to anybody as a wonderful and enriching vacation destination. There is so much to absorb – the culture, the scenery, the history – that you cannot come away from Scotland without falling at least a little bit in love with the place. We certainly did.
And now – no more words, just some more pictures from the entire trip that didn’t get to appear in context:
* A FEW MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS…
-No matter what time of year you visit Scotland, make sure you have a raincoat or jacket in your luggage. It can, and does, rain at any given moment. Even in the Summer.
-Buy souvenirs, whenever possible, in outlying areas/towns/villages/attractions whenever possible or practical, as everything is marked up in price to varying degrees in the Edinburgh shops.
-The open-return Tram ride from the airport into the Edinburgh city center (and back to the airport after your stay) is probably the most convenient bargain we have encountered anywhere. Definitely use the Tram!!
-Book day trips with Rabbies – they’re a first-class company, with great employees, and a very nice café you can eat & wait in before you board your comfortable bus to wherever they’re taking you! We highly recommend Rabbies!
So there we are… we’ve finally reached the end of this trip. Hopefully, when you look at all the things we did, you can understand why it couldn’t be rushed, and needed some attention to the details. Add in the volume of photo selection/editing, and you can see this could never have been an overnight post!
We do hope you’ve enjoyed this last of 3 posts about our trip, and we Thank You sincerely for taking time out to read everything. It is always very much appreciated. Thank You!