Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Holiday diary: Day 2 in Edinburgh

A full day today.  I spent the morning climbing and descending Arthur's Seat.  It's about an hour each way, especially if you stop to dawdle and photograph things as often as I do.

Salisbury Craig

I walked across the craigs from left to right, as you face them - big walls of leftover volcanic rock from Edinburgh's more molten days.  As I came down the other side it started to drizzle - a smur as they call it here.  At Arthur's Seat proper, you can follow the tarmac road all the way round the back or take the steeper zigzagging stone-lain track that pushes straight to the top.  Being me, I did that one.  Despite the rain, the view is great; a nice little achievement before Aviemore on Saturday.

Salisbury Craig from above, halfway up Arthur's Seat

Almost there...
Made it!
After a shower and some soup I set out into the town again, heading for the National Museum of Scotland - the sight of the Human Statue Incident.  I do love a museum, and this is a good one with loads of interactive bits.  I was mainly interested in the sections on the history of Scotland, and its change from being predominantly Pictish to Scottish, and then the invasions by the Irish and English and Romans and Vikings at various points.  I made a few drawings of the celtic-style stonework down there, and one Pictish stone too.  The language has been lost to history so the symbols can't be deciphered.  They are fascinating to look at, both swirling and angular in turn.  Bizarrely they made me think of Gallifreyan!

Pictish symbols on a stone

Later, Celtic stonework
Next I spent some time in St Giles cathedral, a beautiful gothic building on the Royal Mile.  I got there just as an organ lesson was starting.  I never really got organ music until I heard it live in a cathedral, so that was a treat.  I snuffled out some information on the Hay clan and their tartan - my Grandpop on my Mum's side comes from that clan, and got to listen to two super-talented buskers.  One played guitar Newton Falkner style, but with added fingerpicking.  Another busker, a flautist, joined him for some impromptu improvisation.  I met a couple of bagpipes players too, and we chatted about the ins and outs of fingering on different pipes and whistles after hearing them play a stonking set of foot-tapping reels at breakneck speed.  I have so much to learn!

Found myself in a posh restaurant for dinner, then onto my date.  It went well for the most part, although the fact I was leaving the following day meant it ended a little flat, but we went up to Calton Hill.  Arguably it gives a better view than Arthurs Seat, because you can see Arthur's Seat from the Calton Hill monument!  The sun was setting over the Firth of Forth and it was a great place to just sit, chat, and enjoy the city.  

On my last day in Edinburgh, I explored the New Town.  I say new, but its all regency style because this part of the city was built very deliberately, and all in one go, to link up the Old Town area with the town of Leith, by the Firth.  Leith people still consider it a separate town. Also, I FOUND HOLMES!  I'd brought the Sherlock Holmes books with me to read, forgetting that the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh.  You can visit where he was born, and a statue of his most famous literary creation stands outside.  No one was around to help me take the photo so it's a rather dodgy selfie but I'm quite proud.  I explored all the way down to the Botanic Gardens and almost to the Firth before I had to go back to catch me train.  I happened to be at Waverley Station when the Royal Scotsman pulled in, and the passengers arrival was serenaded by a bagpiper as I left Edinburgh.

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