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Walking through Edinburgh, the Royal Mile

Home -> Europe -> Scotland -> Travelogue Scotland -> 16 & 17 May 2005

Monday 16 May, walking through Edinburgh, the Royal Mile

At noon we have to return the car to the airport of Edinburgh, so we have some time this morning to drive around a bit. When we leave the hotel we realise that the fine weather is over, the thermometer in the car indicates that it is 8 degrees outside, instead of 21 as we had yesterday. It really feels cold and wintry, but we are happy it is at least dry. Near Falkirk and Grangemouth we drive through disconsolate industrial estates so we soon turn southwards to find nicer places but it is not as nice as in the mountains or on the west coast. So we just stray a bit through the villages, but the weather is not very inviting to get out and look around. After a couple of hours we arrive early at the airport to leave our car and take the bus to the city center.
We start looking for a hotel, comfortably from a pub where it is warm. We have some leaflets and start calling hotels, including the George hotel right in the center of town. Well, we skip the George when we hear it is 265 pounds for a night and later arrange a room in the Travel Inn. They have rooms for 60 pounds a night, still a lot of money, but except for youth hostels, it is hard to find anything cheaper in Edinburgh. The walk from the center to the hotel is about 20 minutes.
Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh CastleWe can already check in at two o'clock and then we return immediately to the center again, first to Castle Rock on which the vast Edinburgh Castle stands, dominating the city. Edinburgh has been build on a number of extinguished vulcanos.
Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh CastleWe have seen the castle and the museums in it before, so this time we stay on the outside. The oldest part of the castle dates back to the 11th century and even in the 20th century some new constructions were added.
EdinburghFrom the castle a road leads for almost a mile downwards to Holyrood palace through the old town. The old town was only 300 meters wide and in the late Middle Ages one of the most densely populated cities of Europe and without question the most dirty. Therefore Edinburgh has the nickname 'Auld Reekie', the Old Stinker. Nowadays the smell isn't so bad anymore, but the atmosphere of the Middle Ages is still present.
Expensive whiskyAt the beginning of the Royal Mile as this road is called (the streets Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate, going from the castle down for almost a mile) is a whisky museum (the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre) where we can follow the production of the Scottish whiskys. The entrance is not cheap, but worthwhile to learn more about this Scottish water of life. The bottle to the right on this photograph was waiting for a buyer, but we decided to leave it where it stands...
Edinburgh EdinburghWe walk a part of the busy Royal Mile where, except for a lot of pubs, many souvenir shops have been established in the old houses that once belonged to the rich and influential people of Edinburgh. We almost never go to these shops, but this time we visit a few and see a lot of nice and funny things. But we have already enough souvenirs, so except a couple of Scotland baby t-shirts we don't buy anything.
It is still very cold and not really pleasant walking outside too long, so after a meal in a restaurant near the castle, we walk back to the hotel at 7 o'clock where we turn on the heater. Would it be better tomorrow? The weather forecasts say it won't, with a maximum of 10 to 12 degrees. Well, we will be happy enough when it doesn't rain.

Tuesday 17 May 2005, walking through Edinburgh, the Royal Mile

Edinburgh Edinburgh CastleToday we start at the top of Castle Rock where the castle stands and walk down the Royal Mile aflopen, the streets that connect the castle to Holyrood Palace, through the old town. We first visit the Outlook Tower where a camera obscura was placed on top in the 19th century. From the top we have a very nice view over the city.
And over the castle and the square before it where preparations for the military tattoo in August have already begun. The costs of building the stands for the spectators are supposed to be a fortune every year, but it attracts also lots of tourists.
Outlook Tower Outlook TowerIn the dome on top of the building a camera obscura shows us the whole city center and is for more than 150 years one of the top attractions of the city. On the five floors a lot of holographic art is displayed and fantastic paintings and drawings of Escher and other artists and every object is concerned with deceiving the eye and how we see things differently from reality.
Giles CathedralThere are many monumental buildings along the Royal Mile worth visiting, like the High Kirk of St. Giles where John Knox started the Scottish Reformation. Under his influence Protestantism became the official national religion of Scotland from 1560. The leaded windows in this church are very clear and detailed and very famous.
EdinburghThrough the alleys we see now and then the 200 meters high Scott monument, a memorial for this well-known Scottish writer. Teije still wants to climb it one day, but today we have other things to see and do. Another attractive place is the Tron Kirk where we can see the results of excavations and the fundaments of houses and the street plan from the 17th and 18th century.
EdinburghFurther down the street is John Knox house which can also be visited, the building in scaffolds, but it is not sure whether he really lived in this house. The building right of it is the oldest preserved house of Edinburgh from the 16th century, called Moubray House. But this one is not open to the public. A few hundred meters further stands Huntly House (free entrance) and there we get a good idea how an original 17th century house looked like. Of course this was the dwelling of someone who was quite rich for that time.
EdinburghIt takes us quite a few hours before we come to the new Scottish parliament and a bit further Holyrood Palace at the end of the Royal Mile. The palace, where the queen stays when visiting Edinburgh, is closed now. But there are enough nice places and houses along this one and a half kilometers long road through the heart of the old town. In a paper we read that the new Parliament (which costed tens of millions pounds) still has a lot of flaws, but even this very modern building fits in perfectly with the surrounding old town.
Primitive and modern manJust south of the Royal Mile we visit 'Our dynamic Earth', a very interesting museum with audiovisual shows about the evolution of the earth and the possible effects on earth from the greenhouse warming up and overpopulation. It is an ideal experience for children, since you may touch everything and play with things. We see the succes of it on the faces of the many groups of schoolkids that were walking around, they all seem to have a lot of fun and so do we!
National museumOn the way back to the hotel we make a last stop at the National Museum and the Royal Museum of Scotland, a huge building where we could spend at least a couple of days to see all of it! We only visit a few rooms which we find interesting and decide we surely have to come back here one day. But now we are full of impressions of everything thet we have seen today, so after an hour we call it a day and return to the hotel.
When we sit down in our room, we notice how tired we are from walking all day and seeing so many things. Time to read a bit, have a good sleep so we will be rested enough to go for it again, tomorrow. But tomorrow we will mainly take busses, so we should be allright.


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