Thursday, January 19, 2017

Walking in the City - Edinburgh

Looking out towards the Firth of Forth

Apparently, on average, Edinburgh gets 192 days of rain per year. Which means you take your chances with the weather if you go for the day. I'm not sure how many windy days the city averages, but unfortunately the day we visited it was both wet and windy. So wet and windy that we decided to head straight for the Castle in the hope we'd find some shelter. The Castle dominates the city skyline meaning even on an overcast day you can see for miles from the battlements.

Our first stop was a peep into St Margaret's Chapel, the oldest building in the castle. Dedicated to the memory of Queen Margaret who was later canonised for her charitable deeds, it's believed to date from 1130.

St Margaret's Chapel

Then we attempted a walk around the grounds. It was definitely a day for holding onto your hat.
The Royal Palace courtyard

And getting inside as soon as possible.

Fortunately there are lots of indoor exhibitions to see - so many that you could easily spend a full day here. We had a limited amount of time so were only able to take in the National War Museum and one of the Regimental exhibits before heading to the Royal Palace.

The Royal Palace

The Crown Room is home to the jewels used in the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots, making them the oldest crown jewels in Britain. Apparently during the second World War the crown was hidden beneath an ancient latrine for safekeeping from the enemy!

The Great Hall
The Great Hall dates from the 1500's in the reign of James IV. While some of it has been restored the roof is the original. I was fascinated to read that it was built using wood from Norway as suitable timber was difficult to find in Scotland by the late 1400's!


The Argyle Tower was a later addition to the castle (1887) but named after the unfortunate 9th Earl of Argyll whose last night is recounted on a plaque:

There was no obvious explanation as to why the spellings of the name differed.

During our time indoors the weather had only worsened so we decided to head back into the city center. As we made our way down we realized there weren't many other people around. It turned out that the castle had actually been closed to further visitors due to the high winds and we were one of the last to leave!

The Lang steps

How windy was it?  The picture below might give you an idea:

Can't be fun trying to play the bagpipes in those conditions.

We took refuge at the Cafe Royal for lunch. Given we were in Scotland I thought it only fitting to dine on haggis, neeps and tatties. (That's haggis, turnip and potato for those not in the know.) Delicious!

Well fortified, we ventured out again to take in some of the other sights of the city. Part of Edinburgh's charm is the number of beautiful old buildings which add a strong sense of history to any stroll.  

St Giles Cathedral

The Balmoral Hotel 

 Even the main shopping streets are lined with grand buildings. (Our visit was two days before Christmas hence the decorations.)

As we walked along George Street, one of the main thoroughfares, we could see an impressive light display at the end of the road. 

It was only when we reached it that we discovered it was a 3D display with a tunnel running through the castle of light.

Next stop was the Scottish National Portrait Gallery with its spectacular Grand Hall:

It features statues of prominent Scots including Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns.

Robert Louis Stephenson

Robert Burns

On the first floor, one gallery was dedicated to the entries for the BP Portrait Award 2016.  The portraits ranged from artist's family members to celebrities using techniques from sketching to photo-realism. There are some stunning works, so lifelike that from a distance they appear real. I'm not a huge fan of art, but these were well worth seeing.

As darkness fell the weather improved slightly. Or at least the rain stopped and the gale subsided to a tolerable wind. We took this as an opportunity to have a quick look at the holiday market which had taken over Princes St Gardens. With a fun fair, a Christmas tree maze, an ice-rink and a huge array of vendor and food stalls, even the awful weather didn't deter visitors. 

The fun fair and holiday market

The Christmas tree maze 

 The Big Wheel and  the Star Flyer had presumably been deemed too dangerous to operate in such a wind as they remained stationary, but the rest of the market bustled with activity adding a festive end to an enjoyable day out.

There is so much more to see and do in Edinburgh, it really deserves a visit longer than a day. Maybe next time, And hopefully next time the weather will be better. 


  1. What a fantastic trip! Thank you for sharing, Mel.

    1. Thanks Elisabeth. I only wish I'd had longer there, the combination of time limits and weather meant I only saw a fraction of what Edinburgh had to offer. Still, it gives a reason to go back one day!

  2. Edinburgh is a beautiful city. Thank you for sharing your trip. It's been seven years since I've been there. Thanks for bringing back wonderful memories.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Karen. It had been over 20 years since I was last in Edinburgh (and again that was only for the day) but I'm now wondering why I waited so long!