Saturday, June 30, 2012

Go on an Edinburgh City Walk-About


After our first crazy night in Edinburgh, what with the airplane flying and Scottish singing and military-men dancing, you'd think I'd be too exhausted to get up in the morning full of energy and the need to explore. Well, if you think that, then you don't know me at all, and how obsessed I am with experiencing everything while traveling. I was up at 7:00 a.m., fresh as a daisy, much to Joey's chagrin. Ready was I to have him show me around Edinburgh, since he'd been there a whole week before me!

With our morning coffee, my hubby and I are ready to explore Edinburgh!

After we got ready and grabbed some breakfast from the Waverly Station mall, we headed east down Princes Street to Calton Hill, the "Athens of the North". This majestic hill overlooks Old Town Edinburgh and the Holyrood Palace, and also contains several old and Grecian style buildings and structures. Apparently Edinburgh during the 1700s was a major place of enlightenment, learning, and restoration. The 17th century was a dark period in Scottish time, and the best changes and hopes for a positive future sprang from the city of Edinburgh in the 18th century. As part of this movement, Calton Hill became the place for gatherings and inspirational structures.

Enjoying the view from the top of Calton Hill in Edinburgh

There is a partly finished replica Parthenon (unfinished because the city ran out of money for the project and never did finish it), the first observatory in town, a clock tower that is synchronized to the 'One 'O Clock' cannon/gun in Edinburgh Castle, and more up on this little hill.  It is a great place to walk around and soak in the history, plus the view of the rest of Edinburgh is fantastic from that height.  And, just to be easy on your wallet, visiting Calton Hill is free.

Calton Hill, a mini-Forum in the middle of Edinburgh

The view from the hill of Old Town Edinburgh is spectacular, not to mention the view of Holyrood Palace, the Firth of Fourth, and Edinburgh Castle.  A giant hill, located smack in the middle of Edinburgh like it was dropped there, overlooks Calton Hill: Arthur's Seat, a great place for hiking.

View of Arthur's Seat from Calton Hill - we climbed that!

Once Joey and I were done with Calton Hill, and were also thoroughly soaked due to the ceaseless rain, we meandered down towards Holyrood Palace via a couple of cemeteries. I love cemeteries! They are beautiful, peaceful, and have tons of history - especially ones in Europe that are hundreds of years old. Some big names in Edinburgh, and indeed all of Scottish history, are buried in some of the city's graveyards. The dates on the tombstones were ancient in my humble opinion, and the variety of tombstones and mausoleums quite striking.

A spooky / beautiful old cemetery in Edinburgh, Scotland

Old gravestone covered in ivy.

Our next but brief stop was the Robbie Burns memorial. I felt a great need to raise a shot of Scottish whiskey in the poet's honor as we passed.  We didn't stop to get closer, however, as it was raining and we were chilled to the bone.

The Robbie Burns Memorial

Down the hill we continued, aiming for Holyrood Palace, where the Queen will actually be visiting in a week's time. In fact, the palace was closed due to her impending sojourn, so we were unable to peek inside. We did get a few photographs of the grounds, but that was it. This palace and abbey are famous because they are location of Scottish anointments and coronations of new Scottish kings and queens. After this, the monarchs travel down the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle for their celebration.

Locked out of Holyrood, but still admiring its architecture

My favorite part of Holyrood was the quaint little building located right on the boundary of the palace grounds, flush against the gate.  It is called Queen Mary's Bath House. Rumor has it Queen Mary would take her private baths in the little structure, soaking in tubs of sweet white wine. History says, rather, that this building is far too public for a queen's bathing station, and was more likely used as a dovecot or summer hangout.

I'm so drenched it feels like I had a bath in my clothes - outside Queen Mary's Bath House

Rather than stop our tour of Edinburgh at Holyrood and head back to our lodgings, since it was still raining and we were damp through and through, we opted for one last power walk before heading back to the Royal British Hotel. We were so close to Arthur's Seat, that massive hill and park I mentioned above (formerly the Royal Hunting Grounds in days of yore). We just had to climb it.

Arthur's Seat, lush and green (I boosted the color a little on this, due to the gloomy day).

Miraculously, the sun came out and graced us with some heat and amazing photography opportunities, and that settled it. Up we went, hiking over a rough-hewn stony path bordered on the edges with foxglove, daisies, and some gorgeous purple flower I didn't know the name of. (If you know the name, please let me know!)

On the trail to the top of Arthur's Seat with some pretty purple flowers

The view from the top was breath-taking! I was very glad we had decided to do the hike in the end. In the middle of this bustling but historical city is this oasis of nature - if you are ever in Edinburgh, or live there now, take advantage and go for a hike! What a wonderful gift Arthur's Seat is! However, not every part is beautiful. We also passed a heart-breaking memorial for a rock-climber who had fallen to his/her death - it is a highly discouraged practice by the city of Edinburgh, but the people still do it, at their own risk.

The cliffs along the path going up Arthur's Seat.
The view of Old Edinburgh with Edinburgh Castle and Scott Monument in background

This was only half of our day. We went back to the hotel, dried off (it was STILL raining - rain, sun, rain, sun - that's how it went all day), and headed back out for more adventure - up next would be Edinburgh Castle, the Scott Monument, and Mary King's Close!  What a jam-packed day!

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  3. Have a wonderful time - Edinburgh quickly became one of my favorite cities in the world and I'm sure you'll love it! I'll be sure to check out your blog as well. ;)

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