A June 2002 trip
to Edinburgh by Mary Porcher
Quote: With a lot of research and planning, we found the perfect mixture of sights to see in Edinburgh. These days were part of a five week journey in Britain. Read my most recent journals for more!
The Museum of Scotland is a fascinating look at the history of this great country. We actually rearranged our travels in order to return to Edinburgh and spend several hours there. For travelers who cannot trek through the fields of Scotland to see ancient stone circles or Pictish standing stones, you will see a bit of everything in this musuem.
Walking in Edinburgh really gives you a feel for the city and the people (not to mention the loud traffic). But in order to do so, be prepared for every type of weather. One day can bring glaring sunshine, pouring rain, high winds, and perfect stillness. Take a jacket or sweater that has a zipper! Pulling mine over my head ten times in one day got to be pretty annoying.
We used Cadogan Edinburgh as our guide and thoroughly enjoyed it. The walking tours were excellent!
Related UK Journals:Aberdeen & the Castle TrailA Few Days in London
Hotel | "The Maitland Hotel"
The tourist board at the train station made a reservation for us at this hotel at the last minute. The location is excellent, less than a mile from the castle and major attractions. But this hotel is very basic, and the building is old. They have several fire drills each week (they only advertise one, but there was one when we were there on a different night). The rooms are small, so small that I couldn't get a good picture at all! The bathroom felt dirty, with the floor showing age and brown stains. The shower was minute!
On the positive side, a kettle and shortbread are provided in the room. There was just enough space on the floor to set down our suitcase (but then there was the problem of getting around it!). The room was available when we didn't have a place to sleep, and the staff was friendly.
All in all, I recommend making reservations in advance in a nice B&B (like 7 Chester Street). If you need a bed for two at the last minute, then this place will do. For a budget bite to eat, there is a pub across the street that serves two entrees for one, Sunday through Thursday from 6-8pm.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on July 26, 2002
25 Shandwick Place
Edinburgh, Scotland EH2 4RG
44 131 2291467
Our room was large and comfortable, with a spacious wardrobe, ladies dressing table, television, kettle and snacks, pitcher of cold water, and wonderfully cozy beds. The bathroom (with shower) was a bit smaller than American ones, but it was very clean and well stocked.
There was quite a selection for the full Scottish breakfast, including cereals, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, and toast. Fresh coffee and tea were accompanied by the juice of our choice. The breakfast table looks out on a lovely garden in the back yard.
Guests here have their own entrance and key to the building, which allows for privacy and the ability to choose their own schedule. 7 Chester Street is really the best of all worlds, with the friendliness of a B&B, an excellent meal provided, and plenty of privacy.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 26, 2002
7 Chester Street
7 Chester Street
0131 225 5027
Attraction | "Linlithgow Palace (daytrip)"
St. Michael's church is located at the entrance of the palace and can be visited for free. It is what I would call the typical British abbey. High ceilings, cold stone, and colorful stained glass.
The palace can be entered a only a few steps up the hill, and admission is about 3 pounds per person. You'll find that you can roam around the ruins, duck through all of the passageways and stairs virtually alone with history and nature. This palace is one of the oldest and most historic in Scotland. It was built in 1200 and rebuilt in 1400. It had a wooden roof, which has long vanished, and much of it has crumbled. But you can still look through the large stone windows of the king's bedroom over the amazing loch and town below. You can almost feel the centuries of history here.
I highly recommend this adventure to anyone visiting Edinburgh. In only a few hours, we saw rolling countryside full of widlflowers and cattle, a palace overlooking a lake, and all sorts of interesting passageways and rooms from the past.
NOTE: if you plan to visit this palace, Edinburgh Castle, and more sights in Scotland, you may want to seriously consider purchasing a Historic Scotland membership. A couple will get free entrance to all HS properties for 53 pounds. Admission to Edinburgh Castle and Linlithgow Palace alone is 20 pounds.
Town Of Linlithgow Off The M9
Attraction | "Dunkeld Cathedral (daytrip)"
About an hour and a half's drive from Edinburgh on the way to Aberdeen, Dunkeld was a highlight of our trip. This small, secluded town is surounded by lush green hills and is built around a fast-flowing river. The colorful shops neatly line the winding road, and the ancient cathedral stands majestically beside the river.
We happened to walk into a local flower celebration, and there were all kinds of flower arrangements set up in the cathedral, along with a string quartet playing at the altar. Locals were milling about on this brilliantly sunny afternoon. The grounds were so green, with tall trees waving down at the river. There was a cool breeze rushing through the older ruins and over the weary tombstones. This was the first cathedral we've visited where we could truly feel the spiritual history and sacred air hanging from the trees. And not only that, but we also passed by the Dunkeld Records Shop where Dougie MacLean started out. I just love him! And it turns out that he will be playing in our new hometown in September.
History Long before this cathedral existed, the site was a Celtic monastery. The monastery was built at the time of Columba, who was an Irish Christian who landed in Iona in 563. Columba was an interesting character. Yes, he was a monk, and a Celtic Christian instead of a Roman one. But he was also of royal blood, and had influence in politics. He single-handedly changed the face of religion in Scotland.
When Columba arrived in Scotland, the Celts worshipped the Maker of the Sun. Their stone circles attest to their appreciation of the sun and stars, and they also had festival days of worship, which were believed to be held at the stone circles. Columba did not attempt to do away with their religion, but instead expanded on the Celtic understanding of God. He built monasteries and churches in the center of the stone circles. He expanded the Celtic festival days to include Christian celebrations. He spoke with the influential men of the time, converting many to Christianity. St. Columba is said to be buried underneath this cathedral. His bones were hidden here when Vikings were invading Iona and other isles.
The current cathedral was built over a 200 year span, starting in 1260. The building has suffered a great deal of destruction, during the Reformation in 1560, and later in a 1689 fire. The choir and other parts of the structure have been restored. The grounds are especially beautiful. The town of Dunkeld is also worth a visit. In the year 850, it was named the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland. Although the Cameronians razed the whole town to the ground in 1689, it is now a lovely place, surrounded by the Perthshire hills.
Suggested Sights Nearby:Stirling Castle
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 28, 2002
Dunkeld PH8 0AW
+44 1350 727249
We picked up the car and started off without a problem this morning. I was surprised at how easy it was to adjust to driving on the left. And I quickly fell in love with the roundabouts. There are so many less stops and starts!
Our first stop on the way to Aberdeen was Stirling Castle. It is at the top of a winding road that would have been torture to climb! I was really thankful for the car. The castle has a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. The great hall, the kitchens, and the palace rooms were all very simple. It was fun to walk along the walls in the light rain and enjoy the view. This castle is worth a visit for anyone interested in Scottish history. The Bannockburn visitor's center is nearby, and has an excellent short film and presentation information about the battles fought here. I left feeling incredibly angry at the English, which I think was the film maker's intent.
History Stirling Castle is one of the most famous and fascinating in Scotland. For centuries it has been a virtually impregnable stronghold, located on a hill of volcanic rock. Though it is believed that the castle dates back to the 11th century, with some sort of milatary presence there even before that time, most of the buildings visible today date back to the 13th and 14th centuries. The castle houses the largest Great Hall of its kind, which has been heavily remodeled to appear as intended when designed in 1500.
The castle's location is an important one, connecting the lowlands and highlands of Scotland. Many a noble has taken residence here for protection against internal and external enemies. The rocky cliff leading up to the castle is intimidating, and any attack would be attempted in full range of castle defenses.
Two significant battles were fought within view of the Castle. The first was the Battle of Stirling Bridge, fought in 1297, and the second was the amazing Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
Details Open 9:30-6:00, Cost: *6.50, Tel: 178-645-0000,
Historic Scotland members get in free
Suggested Sights Nearby:
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 28, 2002
Stirling FK8 1EH
+44 (1786) 475165
Today we discovered that there is no railway from Edinburgh down to the most famous places in the borders of Scotland. So we purchased a day explorer ticket on the bus and headed down to Melrose. After taking this first bus trip, we had no idea where we would end up and which buses we would be taking to get there. There are about four separate bus companies in the Borders. They all have different timetables and often different stops, so I will say the whole outing felt adventurous.
Melrose Abbey was only a few steps from the bus stop in Melrose Market Square, and it was a beautiful ruin. The sun revealed blue sky just long enough for some photos. Then we walked in the rain to the first restaurant in sight for an early lunch.
Despite the rain, we left the restaurant to find a bus to Dryburgh or Jedburgh to see another abbey. We could find no timetables mentioning Dryburgh at all, so we took a bus to Jedburgh. The sky clouded over and the wind rushed in when we arrived at the abbey. We watched a video describing the abbey's history, then walked through the ruins rather quickly, as the abbey acted as a huge wind tunnel with no roof to soak up the cold rain.
Both of these abbeys had no roof. They were each built in the 12th century, attacked several times, and restored at least once. In the 12th century, King David I encouraged the building of many abbeys an cathedrals throughout Scotland. Most were occupied and built for different orders of monks. But the Borders have endured much fighting between the English and the Scots, and even sacred buildings were not exempt from the constant violence.
DETAILS: I highly recommend a day trip to the Borders. The countryside is beautiful, and the towns are quaint and less touristed than Edinburgh. For seven pounds, you can purchase a day explorer ticket (on the bus) to Melrose from Edinburgh. Make sure you talk to someone at the office (across from the train station) about WHICH STAND the bus leaves from, and pick up free timetables there. Both of these abbeys belong to Historic Scotland, and members get in free.
Daytrip to the Borders
Melrose and Jeburgh Abbeys
The oldest part of the castle was built in the early 1100's, and is a small chapel commissioned by Queen Margaret. It was partly destroyed when Robert the Bruce had the castle burned instead of letting it go to the English. He felt bad about the chapel and had it restored. I can't tell you how it feels to walk in a building that old, and full of Scottish history, which we are both in love with.
We found a small sandwich shop off of high street, and purchased fresh sandwiches, drinks, and dessert for only 5 pounds! We needed that, because we have been over the budget constantly so far. We sat on the sidewalk and ate lunch, then walked high street some more. The shops there are definitely for tourists, full of kilts, wool, and Celtic jewelry. The street is small, and the buildings old and very tall. It's a romantic stretch of road, if you can look past the throngs of people walking and driving about.
WHAT TO DO with the rest of the day? If you have several hours, take a lovely stroll in the morning along the Waters of Leith to the Botanical Gardens. Then head to the castle and join the crowd. After that, Gladstone's Land is just a stone's throw away.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 26, 2002
Edinburgh, Scotland EH1 2NG
+44 (131) 225 9846
Edinburgh, Scotland EH1 2NT
+44 131 226 5856
Attraction | "Royal Botanic Gardens"
We arrived at the gardens before noon, and were pleased to find them large and uncrowded. There seemed to be as many locals there as tourist...walking their dogs or letting their children romp around in the grass. The sun was shining as we made our way through the azalea garden and on to see the greenhouses. There were trees and plants from all over the world there, a gardener's delight I suppose! The day was still young when we left.
DETAILS: Open 9.30am-7pm, April-August; February, 9.30am-5pm; March, 9.30am-6pm; September, 9.30am-6pm; October, 9.30am-5pm; November-January, 9.30am-4pm. Location: The Garden is located in the Inverleith district of Edinburgh, one mile north of the city centre. By Public Transport: buses no. 7a, 8, 9, 19, 23, 27, 37 and 39 stop at the East Gate entrance (and at 20A Inverleith Row).
Royal Botanic Garden
20A Inverleith Row
Edinburgh, Scotland EH3 5LR
+44 131 552 7171
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