“What is there to see in Edinburgh?” I thought to myself. Surely I wouldn’t be able to track down Ewan in just 4 days. I mean there’s no way I could learn to ride a motorcycle, serendipitously catch a red light next to him while still looking cool and have time to explain why I should accompany him on his next docuseries.
Until a week before my trip I had never seen Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, not that Braveheart is the epitome of Edinburgh but because it’s a movie and most likely sprinkled with some Hollywood faux cheese, watching it would have intrigued me enough to research the facts. In a nutshell, Edinburgh turned out to be so much more than Ewan McGregor as it now sits up high on my list of favorite places that I have traveled to.
After spending some days visiting Ireland I boarded an airplane to continue my journey from Dublin to Edinburgh. Upon boarding my Ryanair flight I was handed what looked like a Skymall type of catalog but instead of the usual Lord Of The Rings cuff links and pet stairs type of merchandise this catalog was filled with perfumes and make-up and I was intrigued. After about an hour of flying and resisting the urge to buy a new perfume from the flight attendant’s cart that also featured drinks available for purchase, I touched down on the tarmac at the Edinburgh airport.
While waiting for our taxi the first thing that was most apparent to me was the weather. It felt more like an Arizona winter than an Edinburgh summer day. It was cloudy, drizzly and wonderful! It felt like a whole new world to me. Riding in the taxi along the winding roads from the new town into the old town the driver explained that Edinburgh consisted of 2 parts, new and old.
At the center of it all, dominating the skyline in the old town was Edinburgh Castle elevated atop Castle Rock.
As we got closer to old town the change in time periods was all the more evident. I was trying wrap my head around how old Edinburgh was. I was finding it hard to believe that I was in this medieval city filled with countless stories and history. My mind was thoroughly blown and my photos don’t give justice to what it was like to experience it in real life.
Our hotel was located in an area called Grassmarket and appropriately named The Grassmarket Hotel (great hotel and phenomenal location). Grassmarket is a vibrant picturesque section located in Old Town. Today it’s lined with restaurants, cobbled streets and shops but hundreds of years ago Grassmarket was sectioned to accommodate weekly sales of horses and cattle between 1477-1911. Also located in the Grassmarket (directly in front of my hotel) were the gallows, the site of public hangings.
Because it was summer when I visited Scotland the days were long as the sun wouldn’t set until around 9 p.m. and even then it never got completely dark. Evenings were spent exploring and climbing numerous stairs to visit the multi levels of this venerable city.
My curious eyes looked for clues in hopes of making it easier for me to go back in time and imagine the day to day life of the commoner that lived here. As I began to look harder, evidence of another era seemed to be all around, just waiting for fresh eyes to remember them once more. Old hinges and medieval mortar unveiled shadows left behind to show where the castle wall once stood many lives ago. And yes, there was even a marker commemorating those whom were hung, which I wasn’t aware of until after I had dinner in a pub across the way called The Last Drop.
There has been a royal castle atop Castle Rock since the reign of David I in the 12th century and since then it continued to be a royal residence until 1633. The famous Royal Mile is literally a mile in distance from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace, today’s Scottish retreat of Queen Elizabeth II.
There are also many stories about the underground tunnel beneath the Royal Mile. Mary Queen of Scott’s is believed to have travelled the tunnel from Holyrood to Edinburgh Castle to give birth to James VI. Hundreds of years later when the tunnels were re-discovered comes a story of the boy who was sent down to play bagpipes so that others above could track his progress. About half way along the Royal Mile the bagpipes suddenly stopped and the boy neither returned nor was ever found.
Despite overloading my itinerary each day, 4 days just wasn’t enough time for me to begin to scratch the surface of the city I thought I had no interest in visiting, Edinburgh.
The Girl With A Quirky Side