Since my plan to go to bed early last night didn’t work out and I didn’t fall asleep until around 1 am, I slept in this first morning in Edinburgh. I didn’t have any plans other than to just wander around and explore so there was no rush to be out the door bright and early. I headed out around 10 am…and was instantly reminded once again how glad I am that I bought that down jacket in London. It was cold, felt colder still with the wind constantly whipping about, and I don’t think it got above 50 degrees all day, although I’d be surprised if it felt anything close to that with the constant windchill. Bundled up in my jacket, scarf, and gloves, I said “good morning” to Edinburgh Castle upon exiting the flat and then headed up Grassmarket. My first stop of the day was Greyfriars Kirk, the parish kirk of the Church of Scotland for central Edinburgh. I wandered through its famous kirkyard with its worn and weathered headstones before finding the gravestone of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier who supposedly guarded his master’s grave for fourteen years until his own death. Just outside the gate to the kirkyard is a statue of him; I think that it was originally designed as a fountain, although it no longer has a water supply.
I then made my way across George IV Bridge to the National Museum of Scotland, which has free admission and houses many different exhibits in addition to the many on the history of Scotland. I wandered about for an hour, dodged groups of school children, and had lunch in their café, before browsing through the gift shop. I bought a friend while I was there, a Harris Tweed teddy bear from the Outer Hebrides, to be my travel companion for the rest of my trip. I’m pretty sure that I’ll name him “Lewis” after one of the main islands. I exited the museum…and promptly turned around and went back into the gift shop to purchase the fingerless lambswool gloves that I’d been admiring. The blast of cold air that hit me when I first went through the revolving door made my decision for me. Since the touch screen-friendly fingertips on my gloves weren’t working very well, now I can easily snap picture after picture on my phone without my hands freezing…just my fingertips. And I received my first Scottish banknote as change for my teddy bear purchase, followed by two more later on at Marks & Spencer.
After leaving the museum (again), I wandered up and over the Royal Mile and made my way down to the Princes Street Gardens on the other side. The gardens are beautifully manicured but daffodils and bluebells also grow wild throughout and I couldn’t resist taking more bluebell pictures. The gardens essentially straddle the train tracks as they run into Edinburgh Waverley station, which makes for an interesting contrast between nature and technology as well as lovely views when you first arrive by train. Making my way up through the gardens on the other side, I eventually reached the Scott Monument, a Gothic spire-like monument to the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. For £4, you can climb the 287 winding stairs up to the top…which I did. The view of Edinburgh was amazing and all four observation platforms ensured a panoramic view of the surrounding area, the highlights being Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat. However, the wind was whipping about something fierce so I didn’t stay up there for very long.
After a quick chat with one of the monument attendants, I headed across Princes Street to Marks & Spencer. I don’t really know why, but as I mentioned in a previous post, wandering through the jewellery (not “jewelry” over here) and scarves seems to be becoming a little habit while I’m here. Alas, this time I was weak and did end up leaving with another scarf. I then headed down to their food hall (how cool is it that their department stores also include groceries?!?) and bought some produce and yogurt (“yoghurt”) before making my way back to the flat…up and over the Royal Mile again…in the wind, rain, and hail, which picked up even more once I was comfortably inside. I was hoping to see a bit more on my first day in Edinburgh, but the weather made it a bit difficult and I do have two more days here before heading to my next destination. Tomorrow, I’m booked on a sightseeing tour to Loch Lomond and Stirling which leaves from the Royal Mile at 8:45, so it’ll be an early morning…which probably means tonight will be an earlier evening than last evening was. The weather is supposed to be about the same as it was today, but at least a lot of my time will be spent on a warm, dry coach with someone else worrying about the driving while I sit back and enjoy the sights.