Edinburgh - 2015

By Jacob Goodwin

Surprisingly, at least in my opinion, we were able to get a train traveling directly through Oxenholme to Edinburgh. We hopped on the Transpennine Express and headed northeast.

July 8 - Wednesday

Arrival in Edinburgh and Hike of Arthur’s Seat

We arrived at Waverly Station in the early evening. On account of my complete and utter lack of research on Edinburgh, I did not realize that Bridge Street was actually elevated quite above the area of the train station (which is basically in a pit off to the west of the old city, and below said bridge). Fortunately, the data connection on my phone was strong. Unfortunately, Google Maps does not always guide you to the gentle paths (there’s probably some metaphor for a sermon here). This resulted in our climbing the steep road shown below (there were about 5 flights of stairs before the incline).

After checking into our hotel, we got some kabobs because they are quintessentially Scottish … right? The food was nothing to write home about (though worth blogging about, evidently). But I am probably spoiled for international cuisine on account of residing in the Bay Area.

After the long day of travel, I left mom at the hotel as this evening would be my only chance to ascend Arthur’s Seat. Fortunately, being early July, I had plenty of daylight to ascend. The photos below were taken just before 9:00 pm. The walk up this crag in the earth (or whatever the technical geological term is) is not so lengthy or brutal as it would appear (if you choose the right path). I ascended the southwest side with some nice steps and descended to the north along a gradual path toward Holyrood House Palace. The view from Arthur’s Seat were as grand as expected. I am glad I had the chance to make it up, and then to wander through some of the modern street of Edinburgh on my way home. I was actually quite impressed with the growth and modernity in some parts of Edinburgh as it makes for a fun mix of the old and new.

Much to our chagrin, this was the small road we had to drag our luggage up to get to our hotel on Bridge Street. Even more to our disappointment was to subsequently find the many more gradually inclined roads leading to Bridge Street.
One of many photos taken from Arthur's Seat, which has a fantastic 360 degree view
View of Arthur's Seat from the northern side of Holyrood Park

July 9 - Thursday

An extremely busy day in Edinburgh

The section title says enough. I am almost inclined not to write anything, but for the sake of my own memory perhaps I ought to. Of all days on our trip, on this one I think we logged the most steps on our FitBits.

First thing in the morning we headed straight to Edinburgh Castle. In fact, so direct was our route that I cannot recall if we even ate any breakfast. Perhaps we had some leftover pastries and fruit from the local Sainsbury in the hotel room.

Edinburgh Castle’s best feature is probably its location, which is certainly why they erected a Castle there. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the museums or exhibits, but if I had to pick two of the better ones they would be the War Memorial and the Scottish War Museums. Perhaps I am a bellicose fellow.

We descended from the castle and headed down to see some of the old Edinburgh sites. We entered Saint Giles Cathedral, which was quite a nice little building. And you know me, I like any chance I get to see an organ, though I didn’t get to hear it played.

I also geeked out upon seeing the statue of Adam Smith, which was right next to the cathedral. I don’t know whether I am more sad for myself being the only person photographing the statue, or sad for the rest of the ignorant populace. O the confused feelings!

We decided to regroup at our hotel after the morning, but first we stopped to get some pies at a shop across from our digs. The place was incredibly affordable and simple, and I worried the quality of the food would be equivalent to that found at a 7-11. No sir, these were some delicious pies, and my only regret was not having more opportunities to consume them.

After eating the pies and briefly recovering, we went around the block to check out the National Museum of Scotland. This is an excellent museum for kids I think, as evidenced by the many families in attendance. I wish we had more time to explore, but we took a similar approach as in other museums and attempted to see the exhibits highlighted in the brochure as we weaved our way through the building… quite a cool building, by the way with a surprising design featuring natural lighting that you wouldn’t expect given the exterior.

We then made our way to the other side of the tracks (sketch) towards Princess Street. We were hoping to see the gardens there, but they were not actually all that “gardeny,” else we were missing something. However, I did get a very nice photo of a bagpiper in front of the Walter Scott Memorial.

We later found that you can climb narrow staircases to the top of the tower. I passed the man the mandatory 4 pounds for entry and began to ascend. Evidently mom didn’t want to be sliding past sweaty tourist on the way up, but I quite enjoy the closeness with the public, whether or not they feel likewise is probably not debatable.

Given there was still daylight, I really begged mom to let me go to the birthplace of James Clerk Maxwell. My giddiness at the site of the birthplace of Maxwell and statue of Adam Smith prove me a true nerd, in case there were any still doubting. It turns out his birthplace features a small museum, but other than that it is just a normal house. Also, we went to find the statue of Maxwell, which is across from Saint Andrew’s Square on Queen’s Street.

The last event of the day was to walk up Calton Hill for yet another fantastic view of the city and the structures in the park. We then headed home, stopping for fish and chips at Benes. Oh, and I headed out to grab some sweets at a nearby patisserie… after that long a day of walking, the sweet tooth gets a-hankering.

At Edinburgh Castle, looking toward Foog's Gate and the Scottish National War Memorial
Overlooking the grandstands for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
St. Gile's Cathedral
Scottish pies and pasties. Both scrumptious and affordable!
From the natural history portion of The National Museum of Scotland
The Sir Walter Scott Monument... and a bagpiper. The views from atop the monument are well worth the small fee to enter, though I don't not recommend ascending the narrow staircases if you are claustrophobic.
The birthplace of James Clerk Maxwell, the father of Electromagnetics, and the reason I have a job.
Calton Hill - The National Monument of Scotland and the Nelson Monument are seen in this photo

July 10 - Friday

Scottish Highlands Van Tour

We took a Scottish Highlands tour with Rabbie’s. The countryside was fantastic, I especially liked the scenery near and around Glencoe Pass where the rocks pushed up steeply and water cascaded down the hills on account of the day’s rainfall.

I wish we had more pictures of the scenery, but our tour guide was more concerned about saving fuel (he attested to being proud of saving fuel and driving slower then the other drivers). Of course, this meant we had no time to get out of the van and be tourists. I understand this was a lot of travel, to Loch Ness and back in a single day, but I’ll be honest that I was not impressed with Rabbie’s as a tour agency, and I was especially unimpressed with our driver. I would probably recommend getting your own car and spending a couple days, otherwise I would recommend doing a shorter trip to be able to get out more.

Nevertheless, we learned some things about the highlands, how some believe the land across the water from the series of lochs was originally attached to the Appalachians, and that IKEA gets most of it’s pine from Scotland. We also stopped at a delicious bakery in Stirling, a town serving tourists entering the highlands.

We also had the chance to stop in Fort Augustus and take a Loch Ness tour. This tour was not nearly as beautiful as the Ullswater tour in England, but it was at least nice to be out of the van for a little while.

We headed back through some of the higher passes, passing the highest distillery in Scotland and spotting some Kuhs, traversing scenic landscapes and pleasant streams along our route. Upon our arrival home, we must have found a small bite and then went to sleep ahead of our journey home.

A waterfall near the Pass of Glencoe
Fort Augustus, a town on the southern end of Loch Ness
On Loch Ness

July 11 - Saturday

Headed Home

Our flight departed very early. So we headed to the airport, had one last breakfast, and headed back to the states (colonies).