Now I’m totally lost. Arriving at the airport, I buy my city link bus ticket in to town then quickly register as William Wallace on the wifi and prepped my route from Waverley station to my room. On my map it looked easy enough, I even did a street view and mentally checked off landmarks for where I turn. Except I missed one turn and ended up a block too far. Searching for a signal on my ipod only pushes me further down the rabbit hole.
I missed my turn because I am happy and completely enamoured with the old town of Edinburgh. Gothic architecture and cobblestone streets, the youngest buildings I can find here are 100 years old. The streets are animated with pubbers, shoppers and street performers. I finally find a signal and it turns out I’m just as close to the room if I had made the turn or not. I find my way and check in. A private, rented out student dorm room. Spoiled, compared to a hostel bunk.
It was late but I was restless. After my layover in Copenhagen I was eager to make my maps. You know, find all the paths to places, attractions, shops and, of course, pubs! I stayed close to the Grassmarket which made it easy to find everything including a great view of Edinburgh Castle. Noted, and placed at the top of the list tomorrow. Okay time to sleep.
I haven’t been to Castle before. £16.00 gets you access to everything. You can actually buy a ticket for other castles in the area, including Stirling, at a discounted rate if you plan go to all of them. I don’t know about you, but walking around a castle, for the first time, makes me think what I would be like as a king. As a medieval dictator, I think I would be generous to my people but ruthless to my enemies. I might even dispense with the royal robe for the royal birthday suit. I’ll fully imagine that fiction later but for right now let me tell you the castle is old. The first chapel built here dates back to the early 12th century. Today it still houses a UK military office. A reoccurring theme in a lot of the information on display is about repelling imperial English attack or exchanging ownership between the English and the Scots. Today, it is still well preserved from the the 15th & 16th century. Cobblestone streets seamlessly turns in to castle walls. The stones are smooth from time. I’m early enough that the big tours haven’t invaded yet so I snap some empty pictures that I’m sure are usually impossible to get.
The Scottish crown jewels are housed here. Which consists of the crown, sword and sceptre. There is a good story about how they were hidden during English rule or times of war. You’re not allowed to take pictures of them. Yet, I’m always amazed how many people miss these signs. The Scottish war memorial is also housed in one of the castle buildings and it is truly a great site. It is about remembrance in many different ways. For every conflict there is a memorial, setup around the building are books with dates. If you have any family or ancestors that fought for Scotland their names are listed in these books.
After the Castle, The famous Royal Mile is asking to be explored. It’s best to start at the castle as it is all down (a) hill from there. Literally. Hard to believe what Edinburgh or the Royal Mile was a hundred years ago. Let alone almost a thousand. What is now novelty shops, pushing out kilts and bagpipes, a starbucks, fashion outlets and various restaurants. Was once butcher, tailor and craftsmen shops. People, and sometimes animals living in the tenants (name of the residential buildings at the time)The shops that have stayed established, like you would have guessed, are the pubs. At the bottom of the royal mile is the Scottish parliament building, a modern, decisive looking building. Across the street, in contrast, is the Palace of Holyroodhouse dating back to 1128.
After spending my first full day in Edinburgh at the castle, the city was now open to be explored. Walking tours of the famous underground, stories of the Old town vs. the New town, every ally, every pub has a story. Climbing Holyrood hill to Authors Seat and culminating with a huge fireworks display with Edinburgh castle as the back drop!