Friday, June 29, 2012

An Evening Out on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland


I made it safely to Scotland, and have already had a whirlwind time! Everything went smoothly on my flight, with only a small delay at the London Heathrow airport due to major thunderstorms in southern Scotland. I landed at about six p.m. Edinburgh time, and my husband was there to greet me. I hadn't seen him in nearly two weeks, so his face was a welcome sight! We grabbed my luggage, hopped on an airport shuttle bus, and headed straight for the hotel - I needed a shower in the worst way after being on a plane for FOREVER. I hadn't slept at all either, but there was no way I was going to sleep just yet. I just wanted to freshen up, and get my Edinburgh on!

Landing in Edinburgh - everything was so green!

We started by meandering down past Waverly Station to the North Bridge, on our way to the Royal Mile. I instantly fell in love with the city: the beautiful architecture, the constant sound of bagpipes somewhere floating on the air, the cashmere and tartan shops every third store.

Crossing the North Bridge on our way to the Royal Mile

Joey took me down the Royal Mile to see the silhouette of Edinburgh Castle, the exterior of St. Giles Cathedral, and some other amazing structures that I didn't know the name of.

Headed down a curvy side street towards the Grassmarket area

I also hadn't eaten all day, other than the tiny breakfast on the airplane from Calgary to London, so we decided to stop and eat. There were a million and one choices. We moved down into the Grassmarket area, and all the pubs there had a unique twist. I recognized several famous ones from the various websites I'd used to research the trip: The White Hart Inn, Biddy Mulligans, The Last Drop, and a really cool one, The Banshee Labyrinth, which had caves and an underground theatre. We decided to eat at The Beehive Inn, a noted British-style pub. I had a craving for fish and chips, and it sure hit the spot!

Yummy fish and chips at this place!

After dinner, we strolled back up to the Royal Mile, intent on making it to Calton Hill before dark, as Joey wanted to show me the view from the top. However, our plans got drastically side-tracked, but in the best of ways! We passed a pub on the Royal Mile called "The Mitre", which had some live, rousing Scottish music playing inside. I love live bands, and led Joey inside. We plunked down at the bar and ordered a pint of Tennants, a Scottish brew, and watched and sang along with the performer. My favorite was his rendition of "Whiskey in the Bottle". An older gentleman stood next to Joey, and of course, Joey being Joey started up a conversation with the man. He was very friendly and excited to tell us all about Edinburgh. Everyone is so proud of their city around here!

Joey with our new friend, Billy

Billy, for that was his name, began rattling off some good pubs to visit, and good things to see. He was soon joined by his buddy Jim, who was just as friendly and good-natured. Jim was a major Beatles fan, seeing as he'd known John Lennon and Len Garry (from John Lennon's first band) as a youth. To prove it, he handed me Len Garry's business card , with his private address scrawled on the back! I knew my Uncle Al, the second-biggest Beatles fan I know, would have a heart attack to see this card.

Sitting with Jim, who seemed to know EVERYBODY!

After a round of drinks at The Mitre, the men instructed us to follow them to a "much better pub" with better music, according to them. They were so friendly and magnetic, we couldn't say no. They led us a couple of blocks away to a tiny neighborhood pub called "The Scotsman". It had about five tables in it, hardly any room, and it was packed! The musician had everyone dancing and singing. Billy bought us a round of Tennants, and we settled at a small table made of an old keg barrel. Beside us sat some young men, tattooed and muscled, all with buzz cuts.

Joey and I and our new friends, members from the Scottish military tattoo.

As we got to chatting with the boys (er, I should say, as Jim got to chatting with them, since it seems there's no one Jim won't chat with), we discovered they were from the Scottish military, had served in Afghanistan, and were top-notch bagpipers. They had, in fact, graduated that day from the highest class possible in military bag piping. The pub we were at was a military hangout, and these boys had their pictures all over the wall in their bag piping regalia. They were very interesting people.

Pictures of our new bag piping friends hung on the wall behind them

They were also very fun people. Between Billy and Jim and the military boys, Joey and I had a fantastic time: laughing, dancing, singing Scottish folk songs, and yes, having a beer or two. When Billy got a text message from his wife chastising him for not coming straight home after the football match, the older gentlemen said their farewells and took their leave.

Loving the Grassmarket district and the fun people found within...

We stayed with the military boys for a while more, until one of them named Tam broke out into a Scottish song about a nut growing into a tree that went on and on, reminding me of the "Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" story. His loud singing and our howling during the chorus pretty much cleared out the rest of the pub. I never expected to end the evening of my first night in Scotland singing bawdy tavern tunes at the top of my lungs with the Scottish military tattoo, but there you have it. Anything can happen on the Royal Mile!

All in all, a very fun first night in Scotland! The Scottish are a crazy, friendly, and wonderful folk!

2 comments:

  1. ...sounds like heaven!! are you sure you are not in Cape Breton??? glad to hear you are enjoying!! you can provide details for Ian - he plans to visit soon!!! take care - have fun - play safe!!
    Louise W.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Louise - it was an amazing visit for sure! I highly recommend that if Ian goes, you tag along. Oh, and I might have to tag along when you go to Cape Breton next! ;) Have a lovely summer!

    ReplyDelete