Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Bonny Day in Edinburgh

It has already been established that we are American.  This distinguishes us in many ways from Scots, not least of which is the way we handle vacation (or holiday, as they say here).  One of the ways in which Americans are unique (some may say "crazy") is that they tend to cram a lot of vacation activities into a small stretch of time.  You can see this tendency in our previously documented trip to Oban/Mull/Iona/Staffa.

But oops, we did it again. Fortunately our visiting friends are also American so they don't find our "cram everything into a day" behavior odd. We didn't really do everything in Edinburgh, but we did visit two high points (literally) in the Scottish capital in one day, and came home exhausted.  But it was a lovely day.

First we went to Arthur's Seat.  For those of you not familiar with Edinburgh, this is the top of an extinct volcano.  Sources online had tipped me off to the fact that you can drive about halfway up this mountain and then take a 15-to-30-minute (depending upon the source) walk up to the summit. Uphill, sure. But not that far. Allegedly.

Later, in the taxi. The taxi driver regales us with a story of two Canadians who flew to Edinburgh, got a train to Waverly Station, got in his cab and asked to be taken to Arthur's Seat. They had an urn with them and it turned out the ashes belonged to one of their fathers, an Edinburgh native, who wanted to be scattered at the top of Arthur's Seat.  Because the adult child and his/her partner were quite overweight, they took one look at the hill and decided they were not going to make it, so they asked the taxi driver to make the climb.  He obliged, saying it wasn't really the kind of thing you could say "no" to.  But he quoted 45 minutes up the hill and 30 minutes back down as the time for the trip.  And I'm thinking, 45 minutes? For one man and an urn? Without two seven-year-olds and a three-year old who is probably going to need to be carried? We may be in trouble here.

But it turned out OK. Six out of seven made it all the way to the top of Arthur's Seat. And #7 was an adult, so it was okay. 

Kathleen climbing up from Dunsapie Loch where the taxi let us off.

Patrick waiting for me maybe 1/3 of the way up the mountain (Arthur's Seat peak behind him)

Paul, Claire and Patrick, nearly there (Claire rode on Paul's back most of the way)

Success! Paul and the kids at the peak.

More success: John and Patrick

And me! I'm there too! John bemused by girls channeling their inner divas.
But we weren't done yet. As the old saying goes, what goes up must come down.  And so we did, down the other side of the mountain to St. Margaret's Loch, where we had a picnic, and were filmed for a training video.  Not sure what they were training on - the proper art of picnicing? Staying a safe distance from swans? It remains a great mystery.

St. Margaret's Loch, with tone of the 2-person film crew.

Post-hike picnic.
Then, on to the iconic Edinburgh attraction - the Castle. Located, of course, on a big hill at the other end of the Royal Mile. So we called a taxi.  After a brief snafu (Paul: We're at St. Margaret's Loch, at the car park. Dispatcher: We can't send a taxi to you unless you're at an address. Paul:(phoning back after walking 100 feet) Okay we're at #1 Royal Mews. Now send a taxi!))

Orzechs by the Castle Gate
MacCubbins by the Castle Gate

 Once inside, we spit up, though everyone did see the Scottish Crown Jewels (except Paul, who had already seen them twice and has a better memory than some of us who went again because we had forgotten some of the experience...)

After the jewels, there was time for photo ops near the Scottish War Memorial, near the forewall battery (a collection of cannon), and of course our historic meeting with Queen Margaret (later St. Margaret) in the Great Hall, fit in around the all-important afternoon tea.
Claire posing outside the War Memorial.

Kay and Audrey selfie near the forewall battery.

Girls with Queen Margaret in the Great Hall, Edinburgh Castle. 

Finally it was time to head back on the train, in time for a beautiful sunset over the River Tay.

Patrick entertaining the kids with Uno in the train station.
Tay sunset from train window.

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