This time I was north of the English/Scottish border to visit another of the UK capitals, Edinburgh. Belfast was educational with so much that has happened there in the relatively recent past. Edinburgh was a source of entertainment. Its past holds less interest for me compared to Belfast. It is undoubtedly a popular destination especially at festival time and who can blame the visitors for they did not lie when they praised its beauty.
As I’ve written previously, I was spoilt as a kid, and I was taken to Edinburgh en route to a 2-week caravan holiday in Scotland in 2000. Sadly, my memory of the city doesn’t serve me well (how I wish that I had written that piece about Edinburgh as a kid). I do, however, remember listening to England v West Indies and a certain Andrew Caddick taking 4 wickets in one over on the way up north!!! This time I took the train – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. It may take longer than a flight, but the journey was more than pleasant and what a great way to arrive at a new destination.
I spent 4 days in entertaining Edinburgh and would describe it as a bigger version of Bath (see blog on Bath city – is Bath a town or a city?). It would appear that both places became important in Georgian times with a lot of buildings of similar architectural style. Like Bath this city begs to be explored on foot. Edinburgh is a reasonably small city, compact, easily navigable, with only the hills presenting anything like a difficulty to a walker. They add to its charm and beauty and it seems like each one cries out, ‘Climb me.’
Those hills provide plenty of vantage points from which to see great views of the city, and perhaps the gentle hill climbing was one of the highlights of the whole weekend. The three main hills, Calton Hill, the hill on which the Castle is built, and Arthur’s seat are all areas that should be visited. I’ll start with, to my way of thinking, the best one – Arthur’s seat. It is well worthwhile putting the effort in to climb up here, not just for the view of the city, but for all that can be seen out towards the coast. The view also includes the other 2 hills. The castle can be seen clearly, and its fortified structure creates a large shadow which is cast over the city. In front of it lies Calton hill. I christened it Edinburgh’s Athens as the pillared buildings there looked like something from the Parthenon. As you walk up or down from Arthur’s seat you get the best view of Holyrood Palace.
After appreciating the views and the long walk I was in need of liquid refreshment. A stop at the Holyrood palace cafe provided what I needed before I took the opportunity to enter. It is the Queen’s residence when she is ‘in town’. She has many fine homes, but I doubt this is one of her finest. The palace sits at one end of the royal mile, with the castle at the other end. I would question the need for such excessive entrance fees to both attractions as both are surely over priced for what they are. Someone somewhere is getting very rich at the unsuspecting visitors’ expense.
I don’t know under what pretences the street name, the Royal Mile, was given – is it even a mile in length? The first part of the walk up towards the castle is dull with not much happening. As you get nearer the castle the street comes alive as cars aren’t permitted and people crowd the area. There certainly was a buzz the day I was there. An amazing atmosphere is created with street entertainment provided by locals and pubs and eateries bubbling with excitement. Just short of the castle is St Giles Cathedral. Although looking the size of a church it is worth entering. Dark and mysterious, it thrives on its location in the heart of the city and the surrounding buzz of activity. There were finer churches in Edinburgh. Leaving the cathedral, it is a short walk to the castle. I paid the entrance fee but were the views worth it? I’ll leave that open for debate.
Inside the castle grounds there is a different view of the city from those seen before. The visitor looks down onto Princes Street and the exquisite gardens, museums and what look like cathedral spires. The park running beside Princes Street looks like it could be a haven during the summer months. Then there is the massive Scott monument. Dirty and ugly looking it perhaps needs a bit of TLC. This street is flanked on one side by modern shops. Best to focus on the castle and gardens side of the street. There is a need for care on the street as not only do you have to avoid cars and fellow pedestrians but trams as well. These are not the romantic trams one imagines for these are the boring, modern, silver bullets. Practical, yes. Photogenic, no.
It is noticeable the large number of statues throughout this part of the city. It was also here that I dodged the rain by making my first visit to one of the many art museums. Most museums in UK cities are free to enter which is a definite plus point. Now I am not a huge fan of art as expressed in other blogs. Some pieces of art on display were more appealing than others and that, I suppose, would be true of each visitor. It’s safe to say that abstract art isn’t for me. I am far too conservative enjoying the conventional and traditional masterpieces where the subject matter is recognisable. After the rain had abated, I finally navigated my way to the city’s cathedral, via areas with many statues and the customary stop, mandatory even, to taste some haggis.
Edinburgh has so much to offer. There are two other areas that should be mentioned, albeit briefly. The insta famous Victoria Street and Leith. I couldn’t work out what all the fuss about Victoria Street was. I enjoyed a pint rather than doing it for the gram. In spite of the rumours that Leith was a bad place and should be avoided, I walked on down. There is a ship there belonging to the queen – the Royal Yacht Britannia. Again, I was disappointed at the entrance fee, so Scotland missed out on a bit more business (I wonder how many others do the same). Instead I took the free walk along the river back to the city. At times I questioned why I had done so, but there is some serious potential there if the investment can be found. If it can be found and attractions established, then, with sensible ticket prices, they may recover the money outlaid!!
It’s taken a long time to get around to writing about this place. The memories will last. Another visit will probably be made, possibly tied in with a rugby match or the military tattoo or the festival and fringe…. watch this space. Edinburgh you entertained, and will again, I’ve no doubt.