Tuesday, September 29, 2009

An Excellent Day in Edinburgh--Sept. 2

We docked in South Queensferry for our day in Edinburgh.


After the long tour the day before, we had cancelled our Edinburgh Castle tour figuring it was easier to do it ourselves. We had met up with Larry and Joan, and they didn’t have plans for Edinburgh either, so we decided to go together. On the pier we were met by another Scottish piper group. They all look like they are ready to blow a gasket!


We thought we might take the train into Edinburgh and then do the Hop On, Hop Off bus tour. Here is the Crown Princess below the train bridge. It was quite a tender ride to the pier.


Larry and Joan had the idea of checking out hiring a taxi for the day and that seemed like a great idea. The fare was ₤35 per hour and split between the two couples was a good deal.

Graham was our cab driver. I am sure at first he didn’t quite know what to do with us. He thought five hours was a long time to see Edinburgh. But he got into tour guide mode and our first stop was Fettes College.


Fettes College is a very prestigious college. It has been in existence since 1506 and has produced many famous alumni including businessmen, poets, and lords. The annual fee is approximately ₤22,000 and potential students are tested as early as age 4.

J.K. Rowling used Fettes College as her image of what Hogwarts would look like in the Harry Potter series.


I thought this statue looked quite flamboyant and was curious as to what it symbolized.


The inscription was as follows…


Graham stopped in the city ("Edinbra" as he says in his thick Scottish brogue!) for us to take pictures of the Scott Monument. Following Scott's death in 1832, a competition was held to design a monument to honour him. The winner was an unknown who entered under the name of a medieval architect fearing that he would be prejudiced against for his lack of architectural background. There are six viewing decks in the monument, and if you walk the 287 steps to the top one, you get a certificate.


He also pointed out the department store, Jenners, which would be the Scottish equivalent of England’s Harrods. The store was family owned for many years, but has recently been taken over by a corporation. Sadly, the locals have noticed a huge difference in the store, not for the better.


We went through the financial district and the statue in front of the Royal Bank of Scotland amused Graham.


The locals have always wondered what kind of man was larger than the horse!


Our next stop was the High Kirk (Church) of St. Giles, Edinburgh’s cathedral. There has been a church on this site for over 900 years. This picture doesn’t really do it any justice!


Outside the church is a heart shaped pattern on the pavement. Legend has it if you spit on it, you’ll have good luck. Here we are having a go at it! Thankfully, they wash it down every day...


This plaque for Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson has a prominent place in the church.


The church has been undergoing a major restoration in many phases, the first of which was completed in 2000. They are currently doing the roof as it is leaking.

The lovely organ…


One of the many stained glass windows…this church had more windows than we have seen before in any church!


Graham patiently waiting for us. The cabbies sign contracts for advertising on their cabs usually for one year. Graham told us that white cabs are in high demand for weddings, so when his contract with FFDR is complete, he is going to freelance. If he can get four months of weddings, it pays the same amount as a year with an advertiser, and then anything he makes above that would be extra.


One of the city streets in Edinburgh with its many limestone and sandstone buildings. Edinburgh is now a no-smoke zone, so the only way to use fireplaces is with smokeless fuels (natural gas, etc.). They are working at cleaning the faces of all the buildings as many of the older ones are blackened from years of coal and wood burning.


From here, Graham drove us to Edinburgh Castle, which we had visited a few days before for the Tattoo. The castle crowns the topmost hilltop and dominates the landscape with its 12th-century battlements. The Castle became so strongly fortified during its time that no one dared attack it. It was the only castle that the English could not conquer.


As a note, it takes them four months to put up the staging and stands for the Tattoo and four months to take it down. So there is really only four months of the year that you get a clear view of the castle. That was quite hard to imagine. I have no idea why it would take that long to put up and take down the stands. Someone suggested they might hold other events here while the staging is up. Who knows…


One of the statues at the castle entrance…


View of Edinburgh from the castle…


We thought an hour would be lots of time (what were we thinking??) and Graham had arranged to come back for us then. But once inside the gates, we realized we would be 30 minutes just in line to get tickets. So we walked around outside and poked around the shops. Us at the castle…the arch at the top of hill is as far as you can go without paying.


Hello from Jim in Edinburgh!


The inside of the castle will have to wait for another visit!


Graham then took us up to the top of a hill for a beautiful panoramic view of Edinburgh. The more we exclaimed about Edinburgh's beauty, the prouder he got!


Here we all are enjoying a wonderful day!


The hill is known to the locals as Suicide Hill. A fall from here does not normally have a good ending. Graham said sometimes hikers get to the top of the hill and an unexpected gust of wind can cause an unpleasant ending.


The castle in the distance and many church spires…


A lovely golf course in the city…


At Graham’s recommendation, we went to the Sheep Heid Inn for lunch. It is one of the oldest inns in Scotland and an inn has stood on this site since the 16th century. In 1580 King James VI presented the landlord with an embellished ram’s head.


Lots of ale on tap…


We enjoyed a local cider…maybe a little too much from our goofy looks!


While Jim, Joan and I all enjoyed fish and chips, Larry got adventuresome and ordered black pudding with goat cheese. It was yummy! The goat cheese really gave it a nice flavour.


After lunch, we did a drive by of Hollyrood Palace. This is where the Queen stays when she is on official business in Edinburgh. When she is vacationing, they stay at Balmoral Castle where they enjoy riding and hunting. Princess Anne is a strong presence in Scotland and is at this palace quite often. She is very well thought of (as far as the Royals go!).


We have noticed a lot of men in kilts and also in tartan pants which look really nice.


With that our five hour tour was over, and after a stop at a pharmacy to pick up a few items, Graham brought us back to South Queensferry to take the tender back to the ship. It was an excellent day and I think once Graham realized we were pretty flexible, he was happy to tour us around. I really do think at first he wondered what the heck he would do with us for five hours!

After we had our picture taken with him, we looked across the street and his cabbie buddies were pretending they were paparazzi and snapping his picture. They were yelling “Over here, Graham, look here!” It was really funny!! What a great day!


Before getting on the tender, we enjoyed a bit of sunshine outside with another cider…


The wasps finally chased us away and we headed back to the ship. A wonderful day in Edinburgh!

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