Our Scotland Adventure – Day 7

Our last day in Scotland was spent back in Edinburgh.  We had run out of time to see Holyrood Palace on Day 2 so that was the goal for today – and to handle the parking ticket we got while at Edinburgh Castle.  This time though we opted to leave the car at the hotel and take the bus into town.  I was quite excited to ride the double decker buses since we don’t have those here, so of course we immediately went upstairs upon boarding.  We sat toward the back and enjoyed seeing the sights as we headed into town rather than navigating the streets and GPS.

There were grand old homes turned into B&Bs or businesses.

And important looking structures like this one.

When the seats up front became available we moved up and enjoyed views like this as we watched traffic go past.

There were also numerous shop windows to take in.

It was a relatively short ride to reach the area near the magistrate’s office where we had to go to contest the ticket.  Once off the bus we got our bearings and soon realized we had to climb these stairs to get to the right street.

We took a short breather at the mid-way point to peek in the windows of the shops along the way.  I had to wonder how they handled deliveries of goods, but I guess that’s just part of the usual routine in this area.

The stairs took us to the Royal Mile, just down from the castle.  We were still a few blocks from the parking office, so we headed that direction as we enjoyed the sights.

Including architecture like this!

And shop windows like this.  I seriously considered buying that dress for my company holiday party, but didn’t think the Hubs would be up for the matching kilt!

After a couple mis-turns we found the right office to contest our ticket, spoke to the officials and learned that we had parked in an area where you have to have a special resident permit, not just the kiosk permit.  They told us we could appeal the ticket with a written statement and explain that we were tourists and hadn’t understood the difference.  We wrote up our statement and submitted it along with our contact information back home in case they had any questions.  Then we headed back out to the Royal Mile to make our way to Holyrood.  Having handled the pressing item of the day we were both in lighter spirits and totally got a chuckle out of this display!

Several shops had unique and clever names like this one.

And there were several more picturesque spots like this little alleyway, where I could envision Belle walking along reading a book.

I spotted this sign and had to pause, since I grew up on a Manse Rd.  I’d always figured it was a family name but never thought about it being older than that.

Along the Royal Mile I spotted this guy in one of the shop windows and fell in love.  So we stepped inside to find out how much he was.  It turned out he was quite heavy as he was constructed to be a door stop, but they had other similar designs as pillows and ornaments.

They also had this amazing Highland Coo bag that I had to have.  I offered to get one for my sister, but she turned it down – much to her disappointment when she saw mine in person later!

I also eyed this pretty scarf, but it was a bit beyond my budget so I got a picture instead.

We were getting hungry after our trek down the Royal Mile so we decided to stop and eat before getting to the castle.  We ducked into a quaint little pub, which we soon learned was the Tolbooth Tavern – full of history and stories.  We ordered and were pleased to see the hearty meals that were presented.

I had a few giggles watching the Hubs try to eat this massive burger without getting it all over himself.  I’m pleased to say that he did a pretty good job!

We walked off our food comas with the remaining blocks to Holyrood, where we quickly toured the gift shop and purchased our entrance tickets.  The courtyard in front of the palace has a magnificent fountain with ornate carvings of several historical Scottish figures.

There were dragons and lovers, and of course unicorns – the official animal of Scotland.

The palace had several impressive details like the stone carvings and gilded lanterns on the front wall.

Across the courtyard I spotted these cross windows.  I’m not sure what room they were for inside the wall but it was quite an interesting design that took countless hours of crafstmanship.

Photography is not allowed inside the palace, but the exterior gave plenty to take in.

After touring the palace, including the apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots, where David Rizzio had been murdered we made our way over to the abby ruins.  They were absolutely stunning.

These stone caskets were likely pulled from the sealed tombs within the abby when it was raided.  We headed out into the Queen’s gardens and made our way around the outside of the abby.

It was a beautiful landscape, where a giant jubilee is held each year.  I was so enamored with the gardens that I didn’t notice the stone ruins on the hillside beyond until I was editing these images!  The large crag behind the palace is Arthur’s Seat.

We sat for a bit just taking in the grounds and the history in this place, then made our way along the path to the exit.

On our way back to the bus station we stopped to see the Scott Monument, a victorian monument to Scottish author, Sir Walter Scott.  Luckily, it was just a few blocks from our bus stop so it wasn’t far out of the way since we were quite tired from all the walking we’d done that day.

We took in the skylines of the city as we boarded the bus, knowing these would be our last glimpses of the city and it’s history.

The ride itself was very entertaining as the buses, kept stopping so close to each other that we made noises each time and then giggled.  Just to give you an idea of how close they get there was only inches between them at this stop.

Back at the hotel we asked our new friend Steven, who works as a concierge, where the best nearby spot to go for dinner was.  I was wanting fish and chips for my last night and he drove us to a spot just a few miles away that did to-go orders.  With fish and chips and a Greek gyro in hand we grabbed a cab back to the hotel to rest our feet and dig in.  It was the perfect ending to our trip.

The next morning was rainy and gloomy as we headed to the airport.  But the rain did have an upside – I finally got a full shot of the Edinburgh sign without gaggles of tourists on it.

We lugged our very stuffed suitcases into the terminal and checked in as we thought about the wonderful trip we’d had.  It’s been fun reliving it through these posts and I hope it inspires you to go see some of these amazing places.  We’ll definitely be back again at some point!

Check out our other Scotland adventures:

And our travels through Iceland on the same trip with Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.

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Our Scotland Adventure – Day 2

Our second day in Scotland was one of my favorite days of the entire trip, but it was a long one so I’m going to divide it over two posts.  We started the day at Edinburgh castle.  Driving in downtown Edinburgh is crazy and parking is downright insane.  After several loops around the castle on congested one-way roads we found a spot below the castle.  We paid at the parking kiosk and made our way up a large staircase to the Royal Mile a few blocks in front of the castle.

We were surprised to spot these iconic phone booths along the walk to the castle.  I’m not sure if they keep them just for the tourist attraction or if the locals still use them but they made me smile either way.

The crowds grew as we approached the main entrance to the castle.  This wide area is called the esplanade and was often used for large public gatherings and displays.  We made our way past the tour groups and headed inside.  As we waited in line to pay for our entrance tickets I took in the various textures of the inner wall, which showed the craftsmanship of those who had created it and the changes in material available as it had been built.

Once inside we stepped up along the walls to take in the view of the royal gardens below and the Firth of Forth beyond.  It was certainly impressive and a great vantage point to see the entire area.

The view toward the inside of the wall was pretty amazing too.  Because the castle had been built, rebuilt and added to over the centuries it’s now a combination of structures, each with their own purpose and look.

I’m a sucker for old world architecture and there was no shortage of that here.  The stone turrets on the corners of the walls were lovely and I marveled at the design skill it took to create them without modern day tools.

There was a row of small buildings that had been houses at some point, which were now a small cafe and gift shop.  There was so much texture and character every way I looked, especially in the smaller areas where the crowds weren’t filling the scene.  I felt like I’d landed in the pages of a story book and imagined the various scenes that likely played out in these very places.

Several of the buildings are still in use for official purposes, including military head quarters and private residences for castle officials.

In one of the alleyways tucked behind these buildings I spotted this cool vintage work truck and wondered what they use it for now.

We toured the military displays which included medals from various campaigns, artifacts from the daily lives of the soldiers and their leaders in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards regimental museum.  I also enjoyed the view of the historic homes below the castle from the windows in this area.

Next we toured the underground dungeon where prisoners were held during the various wars.  The extra lighting for tourists and my editing skills don’t paint the full picture of how depressing and dark this space must have been.  It certainly wasn’t the worst conditions but it wasn’t the most comfortable either.

Other areas of the prison had displays about how those held here would forge bank notes to pay off guards or for use if they escaped.   There were also several doors on display with carvings prisoners had created during their countless hours of time to kill to tell their stories.  It was the early version of graffiti.  Many prisoners also used their time creating hand-crafted artisan boxes and trinkets that they would sell to the guards and locals who came to the castle and when they were in the outdoor yards.

Back outside we wandered past several more buildings which included a war memorial and a small workshop that is now a retail space for the castle’s own brand of whiskey.

Then we headed into the main courtyard of the castle, which was flanked by the great hall, the Royal Palace which contains the royal apartments and the vault for the crown jewels and the stone of destiny which is used in coronation ceremonies for the monarchs of England.  The long line you see coming out of the tower with the clock was to see the jewels.  We did partake of that, but there are no photos allowed in that area for security reasons.

The arched doorway you see on the right of the clock tower led to Mary Queen of Scots royal apartments where her son, James VI was born. It was amazing to tour the spaces where so much history had occurred, especially a story line that has captivated generations and been retold in various ways.  Having watched several of the shows that depict Mary and her family’s role in Scottish history it was even more interesting to see where it had all really happened.  We saw the symbols of the lion and unicorn throughout the castle, which represent the United Kingdom.  The lion stands for England and the unicorn is for Scotland.

The great hall was an impressive structure indeed.  Built to showcase Scottish power and style it was used to impress visiting dignitaries and nobles.  The ceiling of the hall was built like the hull of a ship with massive beams that create an unique design.  The walls were decorated with various weaponry and armor and several of the windows had elaborate stained glass panels.  There was also a secret spy hole called the Laird’s lug where the King could see what was happening in the hall from above.  You can just make it out behind the light in the second picture.

Nearby is the very small St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh.  It would only hold about 29-30 people at a time, so visitors took turns viewing the interior of the chapel where there was a small alter at the front and a few benches to line either wall.  Stained glass windows were installed when the chapel was restored in the 1920’s and depict four saints including Margaret herself (the closeup below) and the national hero, William Wallace.

I was pleased to spot this dog cemetery along the edge of the castle wall.  The sign identifying it as such said that it had been in use since Queen Victoria’s reign as a burial place for regimental mascots and officer’s dogs.

We also got to watch the firing of the One O’Clock Gun. This is a long standing tradition which dates back to the days before accurate timepieces were available and the signal allowed sailing ships in the Firth of Forth to check and reset their chronometers.  I’ll try to share a video of the event on Facebook in the next few days.

Having seen all the major attractions at the castle we decided to head out to other sights we had on our list.  The view of the castle from where we parked was a great last look at the history this location has witnessed.

That excitement was tampered when we got back to the car and discovered that we had a parking ticket even though we had paid at the nearby kiosk.  We we decided to research our options and address the ticket another day once we were able to print out proof we had paid for a permit.  So we made our way out of the bustle of the city to see some more history in the nearby countryside.  I’ll share that next, so stop back by soon to continue the adventure. 🙂

Check out our other Scotland adventures:

And our travels through Iceland on the same trip with Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.

Our Scotland Adventure – Day 1

Now that I’ve finished sharing our Iceland adventures it’s time to catch you up on the fun we had in Scotland.  We had an early morning flight from Iceland into Edinburgh, but by the time we got our luggage, rental car and made our way to the hotel it was time for a late lunch.  After lunch we made our way to the Royal Botanical Gardens near downtown.  It took a bit longer than we had planned to figure out the directions to the garden and the parking app since we didn’t have any coins to pay the physical meters.  And once we had paid for parking we realized we were a 2 block walk from the only open entrance to the gardens.  But it was all part of the adventure and it was perfect fall weather for a stroll through the gardens with crunchy leaves underfoot on the sidewalk along the way.

We wandered the various gardens only occasionally looking at the map we had picked up in the visitor center.  This area was one of the first we explored.  It had several different zones to showcase the various climates around Scotland and nearby areas of Europe.

I spotted this driftwood arrangement in one of the display beds and had to point it out to the Hubs as proof that his wife and his mother aren’t the only ones who decorate the garden with “sticks”.  See even the pros do it!

As we wandered to another area there was a unique looking tree.  From a distance I first thought it was a pine tree but upon closer inspection we realized it was quite different.  It’s called a Monkey Puzzle and was brought over from the mountains of Chile.

Just beyond the Monkey Puzzle tree was this MASSIVE green house.  I could see trees growing inside and was excited to investigate, but it was closed for maintenance work.

So I browsed the flower beds around the green house, where I found these amazing Arabian Nights Dahlias.  I’m going to see if I can find some to plant in the Gifted Garden this summer.  There were also some flowers that looked like ones I’ve seen on cactus in the dessert.  I haven’t researched them yet, but they were pretty cool looking.  I’m sure they wouldn’t do well here in Alaska though.  They were surrounded by moonfire dahlias so I’m assuming they would have similar growing needs.

Along the walkway was this sign notifying guests that there were robotic lawnmowers at work in the gardens.  We didn’t see any but I thought the idea was quite smart given the expansive areas they have to maintain.

We spotted this unique gate nearby.  It took me a few minutes to distinguish the design but once I did I though it was very whimsical and perfect for an English style garden.

Around the corner was this beautiful green house, which was also sadly closed to visitors.  But the giant log out front was a petrified tree that had been discovered in a nearby region.  I’d seen such pieces in the US at national parks, so I didn’t spend much time on that when there was so much else to see.

The next area was this beautiful green house and cold frame setup.  I about swooned when I saw them.  These ones were set up to display a variety of alpine plants, which  I thought was interesting given we have so many of those varieties just above our home on the mountain and they are a specialty garden item in the local nurseries for those who have the set up or right micro climate for them.

Next to the alpine displays was the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden.  It is a typical English style in honor of it’s name-sake, but the most stunning part of the garden was this small building in the back which was covered with a pattern of symbolic shells on all of the interior walls.   I can only imagine the man hours that went into creating this design and in maintaining it.

Nearby was my favorite area of the gardens by far.  This area was wild and free form with flowers and edibles mixed together.  There were trellises and archways made of bamboo and willow drawing you in to the various areas.  To one side was a knot garden, so-called because of the knot pattern the plants created.

The entire area was bordered by this massive hedge, which had openings cut into it to return to the other areas of the garden.  There had been some sort of event there in the days prior and a little flag banner was left up across the arch way.  It was just the right amount of decoration for the space.  You can tell the Hubs was super excited about my need to run back and get a shot of the whole scene.  Good thing he loves me and knows I can’t resist documenting pretty garden ideas.  😉

We stopped in the gift shop on the way out and I fell in love with several items they had in the outdoor area.  This bird feeder with a slate roof and stained wood definitely called my name, but the price tag and weight it would add to my suit case sure didn’t.  So I took a picture instead hoping I can find something similar when we visit my mother-in-law in Washington later this year.

I also considered this bug house for our garden, but it too had a hefty price tag and I’ve seen similar designs online so I passed.  I did find a smaller version that had a better price tag, so I bought that and will be adding it to the garden this summer.

I was surprised to find these hedgehog houses in the shop.  Apparently hedgehogs are great bug eaters and are often kept in gardens to help reduce pests.  I’m going to research if they would be able to survive in Alaska indoors during the winters and if so I might just try to talk the Hubs into getting one when we have our barn built in a few years, and then he can build said hedgehog a cutie garden house for a summer home!

There were also an assortment of bulbs that I really wanted to buy, but after checking online we were fairly certain they wouldn’t be allowed into the US due to agriculture laws.  The gardens were closing so we purchased some yummy treats and made the walk back to the car.  We enjoyed the old world style of the homes along the way noting how the gardens were part of the houses and helped provide privacy from the street.

We had planned to visit the Edinburgh castle that day as well, but I had spent too much time in the gardens we were tired from our flight and wandering the gardens so we opted to save the castle for the morning.  We headed back to the hotel and had dinner in the restaurant there before calling it a night to rest up for a full lineup of sights the next day.

Check out our other Scotland adventures:

And our travels through Iceland on the same trip with Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.