We decided to have a bit of a relaxed morning, so didn’t get moving until later. Our city tour started downtown and we weren’t sure how long it would take to get there, so left in good time. It only took us 15 minutes to walk down, since the apartment is so well situated. We were early, so wandered around Waterloo Place for a bit, just marvelling at the beautiful buildings surrounding us. The architecture in this city is overwhelming. I don’t think I had expected this level of grandeur and sophistication. It seemed every time I turned my head, there was another glorious edifice to gawk at in amazement. Took a peek in at the Old Calton Burial Ground, which houses the final resting spots of a number of Edinburgh luminaries, including philosopher David Hume, scientist John Playfair and clergyman Dr. Robert Candish. Opened in 1718, it is also the site of Scotland’s American Civil War Memorial, with a statue of good old Abe Lincoln on top.
We waited at the stop for our tour and started getting a little worried, as no one else was showing up. Well, turns out we had our own private tour with just us two and our jovial driver, Derrick, of whose conversation we managed about 70%, due to his heavy accent (at least to us, whose ears have not become attuned to the Scottish speech.)
The tour was quite extensive, covering a good chunk of the city and hitting pretty much all of the major points. It was a canned audio that worked on GPS, so kicked in at the various points of interest. We covered everything from Edinburgh Castle, to the Walter Scott monument, to several notable churches, to a very posh private school, to the Scottish Parliament. You name it, we saw it!!
A quick lunch in the Waverly Station Mall gave us enough energy to tackle the trek over to Edinburgh Castle. It was a bit of a grunt, but not too bad. To say the castle is impressive would be a gross understatement. We lucked into a tour right off the hop, so gained a little more insight than if we had just gone through on our own. There has been a royal castle on the site since the 12th century, and continued to be a royal residence until 1633. In the 17th century, it became a military barracks. From the early 19th century, its importance as a part of Scottish heritage was recognized and restoration work was begun and continues to this day. The castle played a role in many historical conflicts, including the Wars of Scottish Independence and The Jacobite Rebellion. One highlight is the Scottish War Memorial, which commemmorates soldiers who died in both World Wars as well as more recent conflicts. It was opened in 1927 and has a special place for each different regiment, along with books inscribed with the names of those from the regiment who died. It is a beautiful building, but, out of respect for the dead, you are not allowed to take photos. Another highlight was seeing the Honours of Scotland, better known as the Scottish Crown Jewels, the oldest surviving Crown Jewels in Europe. At one point, following the Act of Union in 1707, the crown, sword and sceptre were hidden away in David’s Tower and lay there until in 1818, Sir Walter Scott instigated their unearthing. Also on display is the Stone of Scone, or Stone of Destiny, which is a block of sandstone on which Scottish kings placed their feet at coronation. It was stolen from Scone Abbey in 1296 by King Edward I of England and remained in England for seven centuries, a symbol of England’s subjugation of Scotland. In 1996 it was returned to Scotland and rests in Edinburgh Castle, only to be removed and sent to England for the coronation of the next King or Queen, who, by tradition, sit on a chair under which the stone has been placed.
After we’d had our fill of the castle, we decided to head for “home”, but once there Irv decided to have a lie down so I headed back out in search of Greyfriar’s Bobby. Found him quite easily - a much smaller monument than I expected! But also found Greyfriars Kirkyard, which has a beautiful old church along with many old gravestones. There was even one with a “mortsafe"‘, which was an iron cage placed over the graves to prevent grave robbers from digging up the bodies and selling them to the anatomy classes at the medical school.
Got home and rousted Irv out and dragged him over to the Southsider, a little oub not far from our apartment. Had a great deal - ‘pie and a pint’ for 5.99. Can’t beat that with a stick !