The bargain BMI-Baby flight from Birmingham to Edinburgh, at just over £29 return, departed just about 20 minutes late. Thanks to favorable winds the flight was only 10 minutes late arriving in Edinburgh. So at 8:10am I got off the plane walked out of the airport and purchased a £5 ticket on the AirLink bus. Bus left a couple of minutes after I boarded and so I was on my way without any major delays.
Edinburgh Castle – 19th March 2005
I got of the bus a few stops early on Princes Street after seeing the castle from the bus. I walked along the road towards Carlton Hill until I found my hotel. Then it was off to start sightseeing. After crossing the road I walked through the park taking in the views of the castle and taking lots of photos of both it and the spring flowers that were in the park. Eventually I came to the end of the park and started to walk up the hill to the castle, taking the longest route possible in order to see as many of the daffodils that lined the paths up to the castle hill.
Once at the castle I purchased my ticket and excellent optional audio tour and went through the castle entrance, at which point both sets of camera batteries failed. After purchasing some overpriced replacements at the gift shop I proceeded on my way round the castle. Unfortunately repairs were being undertaken at the main gate within the castle so it spoilt some photos. The castle itself is the highlight of any visit to Edinburgh and requires half a day in order to explore its many building and exhibits.
I left the castle just after lunch, having seen the 1 o-clock gun be fired. Yet more walking as I wondered along the Royal Mile looking at the buildings and gift shops along the way. St Giles Cathedral was being used for a wedding so it was closed to tourists. Walked to Greyfriers Kirk, made famous by Greyfriers Bobby and his owner Auld Jock – saw the graves of both the owner and the dog, as well as a statue of bobby sitting outside of the pub that financed the monument.
Then it was back to the Royal Mile after a detour around some of the many winding streets of the old town, and a visit to the tourist information office housed in an old small church with nice stained glass windows and the ruins of some old settlement houses. Well worth a visit if you’re ever passing the building.
After walking around the old town for a few hours I walked back to the new town and along the main shopping street, Princes Street. My hotel was located on Princes Street and so I decided to go and check in so that I could make a reservation for dinner and leave my coat and bag which, due to the, unusually, very hot summer like weather was too uncomfortable to carry around.
After checking into the hotel I walked along Princes Street in the opposite direction to earlier, towards Carlton Hill. I decided not to climb the steps up to the top of the hill as I was tired from all of my walking. So instead I walked back to the shopping centre before heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. I took a short detour on route so that I could take some photographs of the castle in the evening light.
After dinner I went out and took some photos of the castle at night, walked along some of the busy streets by the hotel before heading back to the warmth of the hotel. The temperature had dropped dramatically from the hot sunny weather of the afternoon.
Royal Yacht Britannia – 20th March 2005
Got up early and went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Breakfast was a full cooked breakfast served buffet style. I had a good window seat in the restaurant but unfortunately, unlike the previous evening I could not see the castle due to the amount of fog. It was hard enough trying to see the other side of the street.
After breakfast I walked out of the hotel and caught the bus from the stop directly outside the hotel. I was off to the Royal Yacht Britannia. After all any other sightseeing would have been difficult in the fog. I wished I’d walked up Carlton Hill yesterday in the glorious sunny weather.
The bus ride to the Royal Yacht Britannia was a short one the journey ended at a new shopping centre, within which the entrance to the Royal Yacht was located. The ticket price included an audio tour which was very informative and interesting. After a short walk though a museum of royal yacht history we were directed across a walkway that lead to the dock and the royal yacht. The tour started at the top and worked down. The working areas of the ship including the bridge, map room etc were the first ports of call the tour then went through the spacious royal apartments and the considerably more cramped crew quarters. The tour ended in the engine room featuring what is believed to be the world’s oldest working diesel engine. The walk back to the gift shop passed by the launch used to transport the royal family from the yacht to shore and back.
After some shopping in the gift shop it was back to the bus stop. Upon arriving back in the city centre I decided to do some shopping. Princes Street is lined with shops including the Disney Store and Jenner’s. Jenner’s was right next to my hotel and is the oldest surviving department store in Europe. However, the selection of Edinburgh Crystal was a little limited.
It was still foggy in the afternoon so I decided to visit an attraction that was mostly indoors, Holyrood House/Palace. The audio guide included in the admission was good but not as easy to follow as the Royal Yacht. Photography was not permitted inside the building so I had to stop at the gift shop and purchase some postcards on my way out. There were not many tourists so it was very relaxing walking through the various rooms, some of which were more interesting, and lavishly decorated. One room in particular where the audio tour became confusing was the small museum room with hand written notes about the various artifacts.
Once the tour of the house was completed the audio tour led to the ruins of the abbey located at the side of the house. In summer months the gardens are also open but I had to make do with viewing them from the door of the abbey.
Upon leaving Holyrood I walked along the Royal Mile, passing the hideous new parliament building en route. Further up the road I took a walk past the far more interesting old parliament buildings beside St Giles Cathedral.
Despite the foggy weather the sun was starting to break through the clouds, so I thought it was bright enough to get good photos of St Giles stained glass windows. I paid for my photo pass and took lots of pictures inside the cathedral whilst the choir rehearsed. The singing really enhanced the atmosphere and my visit to this beautiful old church.
When I’d photographed every window in the church I continued along the royal mile to the castle. The sun had finally appeared and the fog dissipated, just in time for the sun to start to set. After taking a few photos of the sun setting behind the castle I made my way along the road that circled the castle, taking more pictures as I went. Upon reaching Princes Street I browsed the shops before heading back to the hotel to warm up before dinner. I was once again given a really good seat for dinner with an excellent view of the castle. After a very good meal, but extremely poor service I headed back to my room for the evening.
Carlton Hill – 21st March 2005
The weather was better than the previous day, no fog but lots of cloud and very overcast. The temperature whilst cool was comfortable for walking up hill. So I headed off to Carlton Hill. Despite being very tired from all of my walking I wondered around all of the buildings before climbing to the top of the Nelson Monument. The view from the top of the monument was impressive with a good vantage point of the city spoilt only by the grey cloud cover and bitterly cold wind. Both of which helped explain why I was the only person willing to pay £2 to climb over 100 steps only to be frozen by the wind. Still it was well worth it and was really good exercise.
Having spent several days looking up at Arthur’s Seat I decided it was time to hike at least part was up this so called Highland Peak in Miniature. I decided upon the point on which I wanted to get to and started walking. The views whilst impressive would have been nicer in the sunshine. But at least the cloud cover and mild temperature was more pleasant to walk in. Upon reaching my designated target point I discovered more of this extinct volcano existed ahead, and above me. So I continued to hike to a new target, gone was the nice gentle climb of the sloping path. In its place was a set of stone stairs zigzagging up the steep slope. Upon reaching the top of the stairs I decided that I’d come this far and so I was going to make it to the top of the peak!
The path started to level out and eventually leveled out to a flat windy grass area. This allowed me just enough time to regain my energy and strength for the final, short, steep and rocky scramble on all fours to the peak and a white marker. After taking in the view, taking some pictures and having my photo taken by another hiker as proof that “I made it”, I headed back down. From the vantage point at the top of the peak I could see a nice gentle slop that lead to the conveniently located car park. After getting a little frustrated that I need not have worked so hard to reach the top I made it back down and walked along the road back to the Royal Mile, tired but happy and very pleased with my achievements, and hoping that the Edinburgh Crystal in my backpack had survived the climb to the very top of Arthur’s Seat!
After a short walk across to the new side of town I took a stroll through Princess Gardens and sat to take in the view before heading to the Waverley Bridge bus stop for my ride back to the airport and my flight home.
A collection of photos from Edinburgh can be found in the Photo Gallery