Scotland Stories and Tips

Touring Edinburgh and back to Glasgow

Holyrood Abbey ruins Photo, Edinburgh, Scotland

Another sunny morning! Breakfast was, as warned, somewhat controlled but utter chaos. It was crowded and noisy and there must have been 4 tour busses of people there. Not the way I like to start my day. The extremely long line up did at least move smoothly but you felt really rushed. We later decided we'd find someplace to buy some rolls and stuff and have breakfast in our room tomorrow morning.

The morning had a rather unusual start. As we were crossing the road to the bus, our local guide, Tom, was trying to hold up traffic so we could cross safely. But one guy had no intention of stopping and came through anyway, running over Tom's toe so he kicked the car and a piece of the chrome trim fell off! Next thing we knew, the driver of the car was out, brandishing the fallen piece like a weapon and the two men were hollering at each other and we really did think blood was going to fly! Peter and Alec managed to keep the peace in the end so nobody got thumped. Tom apologized profusely for the incident several times even though the driver was initially at fault for not stopping. Tom shouldn't have kicked the car and he knew it.

Anyway we were finally off, driving from the new town to the old and back and forth. We stopped in the Grassmarket area to take a photo of the South face of Edinburgh castle where the Royal Palace is, not the view you normally see of it. The grassmarket was the market area though it grew unused and unsavory for quite awhile. It's been redone with shops and pubs now. Eventually we got to the castle and to the top up the inclines. Of course we are on a schedule so rather than go through the exhibition to the Crown Jewels which, I remembered, takes a fair bit of time, I went to see the things I didn't have time to see last time. I wanted to see the Royal Apartments and the Great Hall and St. Margaret's chapel. The apartments are nicely decorated but unfurnished. The plaster ceiling was really nice. The Great Hall dates from the early 16th century though there are new decorations and artifacts in it. There's also a painting of a man named Ewart who captured the French Standard at Waterloo.

I went to the tiny St. Margaret's chapel, dating from 1093. It's very plain inside, with a few benches parallel to the walls and a tiny stained glass window behind the altar which has fresh flowers on it. The light inside is very warm and yellow and it's very peaceful. The chapel is still used by the regiment that lives at the castle and can be booked for weddings for anyone associated with the castle, even the guides! I went down the "Lang" stairs in to the shop and then to the loo. I was first one back at the bus on the Esplanade where the workers are still dismantling the scaffolding that held the bleacher seats for the Edinburgh Tattoo in August every year. A spectacle not to be missed if you're there! I saw it last time and was impressed.

Down at Holyrood, we walked through the public rooms into the old part where Mary Queen of Scots had her private apartments and saw a little exhibition of artifacts, mostly from her era, pistols, letters, miniature paintings, lace, needlework, medals and a christening robe.

Back to the hotel at lunchtime. We had a cuppa in our room and rested for a bit. This afternoon and evening is free time and we are not doing the evening outing to see the Royal Yacht Britannia, so again, will find somewhere for dinner on our own.

We wandered in and out of shops from the Royal Mile and along Prince's street, including the lovely department store, Jenners. I found a gold Luckenbooth ring for 60 pounds which I am quite pleased with. Jenners is a privately owned store and the older part is several floors around a large center open "court". There is a small food hall as well so we were able to buy some rolls, jam for breakfast tomorrow. We had a scone and tea in one of the tea rooms there as well.

It was sunny when we went into Jenners but starting to spit rain when we came out. We looked around some more shops on Prince's street, working our way back up toward the North Bridge and went into the underground Waverly shopping center by the train station. Went back to our room for another tea break and to sort out more photos. We decided to watch Corrie and then just eat in the hotel dining room, too tired to walk any further. Dinner was ok, but the service was very slow. At least the entrée was a buffet at the carvery.Tomorrow is the last day of the tour and then back to London.

Thursday
The day starts out sunny though there are clouds in the distance. It took awhile to get out of the city but then it got green and hilly with lots of farms as we crossed the center of Scotland. Our first stop was supposed to be at the base of Stirling Castle after hearing all about Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. Except we drove into a heavy Scottish mist that laid fairly thick on the ground and couldn’t see a thing. Peter assured us there really was a castle there! Bit of a disappointment but that's Scottish weather for you.

Our next stop was the Scottish Wool Center in Aberfoyle where we are scheduled to see some sort of presentation on sheep. I was skeptical, expecting a boring lecture and a sales pitch and of course the whole center is a big shop. Pleasantly surprised in the end though, the presentation was interesting and amusing, all about the history of sheep in the British Isles. It doesn’t sound brilliant does it but they also had live sheep, representing the various evolutions of the sheep and several of them were actually the same as the sheep bred 2000 years ago! One little fellow had four horns on his head. These sheep had been isolated over the centuries and not cross bred with bigger or newer species. Later on outside in the paddock, they brought out a sheep dog, a border collie, for a demo on how they train them to round up sheep with of course, actual sheep to be rounded up by the dog, commanded by specific words. They also train them to whistles as well for up in the hills where they will often be too far away to hear a man call.

We had a browse in the shop and a quick sandwich. The weather has cleared up. It wasn't a long drive into Glasgow from Aberfoyle, our destination being the Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum. We went to the Art Gallery to look at the paintings but there was an exhibition of armour that was interesting and there is a natural history section as well that we saw some of. Particularly liked the rooms that had costumes and artifacts from various cultures around the world, Japanese, Maori, North American Native, India. We had a bit of a drive around Glasgow which was nice. Though Carole and I had done the tour last week, this time we got to see it under blue sky! The photos I took today, when compared to the same buildings I took photos in the rain last week, you would hardly recognize as the same buildings!

The hotel, the Forte Posthouse, is central, only a few blocks from the train stations in Glasgow. The luggage was already in our rooms when we got there. The room is small but comfortable. We are all meeting in the lounge for 7 for a group photo. In the mean time Carole and I walked down by the train station. I had wanted to go to the internet café and she wanted to do a bit of shopping at St. Enoch's centre

We took photos of most of the people we have spent the week with. We chatted and talked to Peter and Alec and later went in to dinner. We gave Peter and Alec their tips in the cards we had bought earlier and a lot of people were doing it at this time, before dinner.

The dinner was a buffet and quite good. The party broke up after dinner with hugs for everyone. Alec and Peter had disappeared before dinner and we didn’t see them again. Tomorrow we need to be at the train station by 9:30 for the 4 1/2 hour journey to London.

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