MaiTaiTom Gets The Royal Treatment…Two Weeks Exploring London and Scotland
DAY SIX – Pass The Jam, Gorgeous Garden, Get Those Guards Outta Here, The Write Stuff, Is That Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Cone Head, It’s In The Bagpipes, Close Encounters, Knox Knox It’s James’ House, How Much Do We Pay At The Tolbooth, Kirk But No Captain, Controversial Building, Anne Shuts Us Out, It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, Dedicated Dog, More Harry Potter, We Finally Make It In The Castle, The Giant Store and The Best Darned Steak Tartare Ever!
A little before 8:30 the four us, bolstered by a good night’s rest, met in Louise’s dining room. Kim, Mary and Tracy went for the full Scottish breakfast, complete with eggs, tomato, mushrooms, Canadian (Scottish) bacon and a banger.
I, on the other hand, devoured a great French toast with strawberry jam. Speaking of jam, we all really enjoyed the toast with Mum’s homemade raspberry jam and orange/lemon marmalade. Wow! We loved it so much that both Mary and Tracy asked for the recipe, and Tracy is ready to fatten me up with some soon.
Admiring Mum’s garden and lovely flowers…
…we reluctantly told Louise about our Tuesday night escapades in London and that we had made dinner reservations for the “Reverend” and his guests on Saturday night at Prestonfield House. Louise said Prestonfield House is a gorgeous property, but she suggested we might want to go for tea instead so as to not further endanger our already rapidly dwindling bank accounts. She changed our reservations to Saturday afternoon.
We took a taxi to Edinburgh Castle where our day ostensibly was to begin. It was about 10 a.m., and the castle was surrounded (sorta like the olden days) by massive throngs of people. Nobody could get in. Although I read that the “Changing of the Guard” usually takes place at 11 a.m., it seems they were an hour early on this day (must be that darned daylight saving time).
We decided to save the castle for later in the day and down the Royal Mile we walked (which I believe was the only time we walked downhill in Edinburgh). We spotted the Castle Wynd Steps that takes you to the Grassmarket, which we would visit the following evening.
Just off the Lawnmarket is The Writer’s Museum, which was built in 1622 by Sir William Gray. The house was gifted to the city as a museum in 1907. The Writer’s Museum is free and was a nice diversion, especially if you’re interested in Scottish authors. They do have tours, and since this museum highlights authors, it helps to book your tour at what is now known as Lady Stair’s House, which is accessed by the Lady Stair’s Close.
In 1719, Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Stair, bought the building and so the close and house took on her name…and here I thought she was Lady Stairs because she was a step daughter.
Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson are celebrated here, including busts of the three. These guys had the “write stuff” alright.
We considered taking a tour of Gladstone’s Land, a 500-year-old building that offers tours recounting tenement life in Edinburgh’s Old Town, but didn’t know if we’d have time for it, Holyrood Palace and the castle. The building was once owned by merchant Thomas Gladstone. We never ended up taking that tour, but we ran into a couple of interesting creatures there a couple of days later.
We found ourselves in front of Deacon Brodie’s Tavern at the corner of Lawnmarket and Bank Street. It seems William Brodie was a Deacon Councillor of Edinburgh who also possessed a dark side. “By day he was an outwardly respectable citizen and pillar of society, but by night ‘he was a gambler, a thief, dissipated and licentious.‘ To support his lavish lifestyle, Brodie would copy the keys of his wealthy clients and return at night to rob them. He escaped to Amsterdam in the Netherlands after being recognized at the scene of one of his crimes only to be caught and returned to Scotland. He was hanged from the city’s new gallows at the Tolbooth (which ironically it is said he had a hand in designing) on 1 October, 1788.” Brodie served as the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.”
Lawnmarket now becomes High Street, and once again we ran into our old friend, the philosopher David Hume. It seems that sometime overnight a reveler got the crazy idea to put a construction cone on Hume’s head.
While he pondered his fate, we ran across the street and made a quick stop in St. Giles Cathedral again, paying homage to the Unicorn overhead.
We decided to save The Real Mary King’s Close tour for another trip, because Kim and I had a place we wanted to visit recommended by a friend of mine. Before that, however, we walked by the John Knox House, supposedly the one time home of the reformation preacher.
The Paisley Close has a tragic backstory. “In the early hours of November 24, 1861, 35 people were killed when a five story tenement, whose timber supports had become rotten, collapsed. In the frenzy of trying to rescue those trapped, the workers heard the repeated cry of a young boy from under the rubble saying. ‘Heave awa men, I’m no deid yet.’ Joseph McIver was rescued without major injury.” The lintel on Paisley Close is inscribed with McIvor’s cry for assistance.
I believe this could have been where Monty Python got the idea for the famed, “I’m not dead” scene, although I didn’t see any wheelbarrows in the vicinity.
After walking by a couple of shops that made me hungry (hey, isn’t that Mary?)…
…we stopped by an establishment my friend Andy told me about before I left. He said that when we walked the Royal Mile to be sure to stop into a certain whisky shop. When Andy talks booze…people listen. At 172 Canongate (the Royal Mile changes names more often than Sean Combs)…
Truthfully, we were treated to an expert and enlightening course in Whisky 101 at Cadenhead’s, which purports to be the oldest independent bottler in Scotland (1842). We were shown and told about our choices…
…Kim and I listened intently (Kim a little more intently)…
…and then we took a few sips. Sufficiently lubricated, we purchased a couple of bottles and we were back on our walk.
Looming ahead was the Canongate Tolbooth, constructed in 1591 and served as the municipal building, court and prison for the Burgh of Canongate.
Our docent related that the church was formerly very dark, so they decided to brighten it up with the blue pews.
The docent also informed us that Zara Tindall Phillips, the only daughter of Princess Anne, was married here in 2011. We were told it was quite a scene as the guests walked to the reception at Holyrood Palace with more than 5,000 people looking on (Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, along with Charles and Camilla, took a car).
There is a war memorial in the church, as well.
Back outside, we saw a statue of a man walking in front of the church. Scot poet Robert Fergusson was a huge influence on Robert Burns. Fergusson was killed from a fall and passed away at only 24 years of age. Burns paid for a headstone to be erected to Fergusson, who had already been buried in the cemetery. This is Fergusson’s statue in front.
Across the street is the Museum of Edinburgh, but we were itching to see a controversially designed building, and, of course, Holyrood Palace. Had we known that there were possessions of a famed dog housed at the museum, we would have stepped in for a moment I’m sure.
…outside the Queen’s Gallery.
After crossing the street we saw an ominous sign posted. It read, “Sorry, Tom, Tracy, Kim and Mary, HRH The Princess Royal, Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is in residence. You are SOL. Love, Anne.” At least I think that’s what it said. Downtrodden…
Suddenly the gates opened and out drove a couple of cars.
We walked up the Royal Mile and the end of the world approached (or was it The World’s End?). According to its propaganda; “Back in the 16th century Edinburgh was a walled city. The gates to the city were situated outside the pub, and the brass cobbles in the road represent their exact location. As far as the people of Edinburgh were concerned, the world outside these gates was no longer theirs.” I told Kim that it was the end of the world as we know it. He just replied, “And I feel fine.” We would have eaten there, but we had a dog to see.
We detoured off High Street and in ten minutes we were at Greyfriars Bobby (30-34 Candlemaker Row).
So the tale (or should I say “tail”) goes, Bobby was a Skye Terrier, who was inseparable from his owner John Gray, a night watchman for the Edinburgh Police. Sadly, in February 1858, Gray died of tuberculosis and was buried in the Greyfriars Kirkyard. For the next 14 years, loyal Bobby is said to have just sat on Gray’s grave every day (and I thought our dogs were lazy). At first, they tried to evict him, but eventually a shelter was set up for Bobby, who died in 1872. Dogs could not be buried in the cemetery itself, but Bobby was given a final resting place just inside the gate of Greyfriars Kirkyard, not too far away from his master.
Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, located behind Greyfriars Bobby Bar, is said to be haunted, but we managed to walk around its grounds…
…and visit Greyfriars Kirk unscathed. For some reason, with Bobby buried nearby, I thought we’d find more bones.
I ordered a half-pint of beer. “Half pints are for Jessie’s,” our hostess remarked. Not knowing at the time what that meant (aka “wimp”), but quickly getting the gist of her fake wrath, I quickly upped my order to a full pint. I didn’t tell her that Tracy sometimes has to open the jar lid for me. A little later as we talked about being shut out of Holyrood Palace due to Princess Anne’s visit, she muttered, “Nobody should inherit a title. Look at North Korea.” And she was still irked that, “Elizabeth killed Mary.” Every time she walked by, it was a one-liner.
In between her monologues, we ate. My Beef Pie with Creamy Mashed Potatoes had enough butter to stop your heart in mid-beat… “Wow!” I’m also addicted to this mustard after trying it here.
In front of Greyfriars stands the statue of Bobby. It is said that you should rub the nose of the little guy for good luck, which we, and many others did.
Not too far from the bar is the Elephant House (21 George IV Bridge), a gourmet tea and coffee house. This is where J.K. Rowling hung out and wrote some of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle. Being the Muggle that I am, I told the crew to press on…we had a castle to see.
On we trudged up…and up…and up to the castle. After a few stops for oxygen, we were at the statues of Scotland’s famed Freedom Fighters, William Wallace and Robert The Bruce, who kind of resembles Steve McQueen. Wallace, however, bore no resemblance to Mel Gibson.
Inside we activated our Explorer Pass (which we had elected to buy instead of the Heritage Pass…more on that as we travel through the countryside), which also afforded us a 20% discount on the audio guide and, of course, the opportunity to skip the ticket line.
This courtyard contains an equestrian statue of the second Earl Haig. For almost 90 years, the monument commissioned to honor Borders military commander Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and his welfare work for ex-servicemen, stood on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, but it was moved here to help in preserving and protecting it.
Not in any particular order, here are some of the castle highlights.
The Scottish National War Memorial truly is a masterpiece both inside and out. It commemorates the dead of both world wars and of military campaigns since 1945. The memorial was opened in 1927 by the Prince of Wales (no photos allowed inside unfortunately..one below is from internet).
Signs throughout the complex keep you from getting lost…and this guy guards the Regimental Museum.
The Great Hall was completed in 1511 for King James IV and is located in the heart of the castle.
As in every great hall in every castle, knights and armor reigned supreme. In 1650, Oliver Cromwell converted it into soldier’s barracks, and it was restored in 1887. It is still used for state and royal functions.
No pictures in the Crown Jewels Room either, so this is stolen off the internet, which is much safer than attempting to steal the Crown Jewels.
Bringing out its big gun, nearby is Mon’s Meg, which at one time was at the cutting edge of military technology.
Ninety minutes walking around the castle gave us ample opportunity to catch many different views from various vantage points… including this view of a church near Princes Street Gardens that we thought we’d check out while we were in town…
…and it was time to leave. As we left, others were still marching inside.
Just like at Windsor Castle, they attempted to lure us to stay with ice cream.
Make a point to visit the castle if you have the chance.
Tracy and Mary were in a shopping mood, and they lured Kim and me into what looked like a small store near the castle. Instead the interior resembled an Amazon warehouse. We would return on our final day.
Because we had only walked about 100 miles, we foolishly attempted to walk back to Millers64. At one store, Kim thought they should buy this book for their grandchildren with the cover featuring an uncanny likeness of the 45th president. Mary vetoed the idea and fired Kim.
Along our walk, Tracy spotted a thistle, the national emblem of Scotland. This one was real and she grabbed a quick photo.
A taxi soon approached, and we willingly hopped in after waving it down. We actually had a little time to rest before dinner, but then it was back on our feet again for the 15-20 minute walk to a nearby French restaurant.
I had made reservations at L’Escargot Bleu (56 Broughton Street), and it so happened that Louise is friends with them, so we got some royal treatment (although it looked like everyone received great service).
We were offered an amuse bouche of whipped chicken liver paté on a cracker. Thankfully Kim did not want his, so I was the lucky recipient of two. He did take a lovely photo, however.
Next up, I flew over the moon with this restaurant’s Steak Tartare, served table-side. I was able to pick the ingredients and the hotness strength of the dish. I chose a “7” (out of ten). It was (and it’s really not even close) my favorite Steak Tartare ever. Next time, I’m going for a “9!” “Wow!!”
I also enjoyed the Heritage Pig special. The server told us Heritage pigs have curly hair (fortunately not in the dish) and are very unusual in Scotland…it was quite good.
Kim’s salad would have given him his 5 A Day allotment, but he traded with Mary for her vegetable soup when he found out it contained tomatoes (Eat your tomatoes!!). They each had a faux filet.
I finally ordered my first Sticky Toffee Pudding of the trip, but my greedy cohorts stuck their utensils in and I was forced at fork-point to share. I’m coming here alone next time!
On Saturday, we’d check out another Sargent that Tracy fell immediately in love with and took a walk through Princes Street Gardens to a beautiful church with an even more gorgeous cemetery. We would then visit another church, tour an historic house, attempt to see a nearby village, stop in a pub before a downpour of biblical proportions and enjoy a decadent tea amidst peacocks, bagpipes and a wedding. After a brief (key word being “brief”) respite at our b&b, I’d rally the troops for a visit to a part of Edinburgh that we ended up loving, including magnificent sunset views and drinks at an historic pub.
Next: Day Six – Magnificent Museum, Not Related To Spiro, Prince & The Paupers, Closed Kirk, Remembering Bob, Unique Ceiling, No We’re Not In Atlanta, It Takes A Village (Sort of), Climbing Everest Would Be Easier, Any Pub In A Storm, Disheveled Guests, Our Foursome Has A Tea Time, So This Is What 20,000 Calories Tastes Like, Don’t Fowl Up This Wedding, Sunset Of Our Lives and Happy 500th Birthday!