Wednesday Wanderings: Crieff to Edinburgh

I’m sorry I missed last week, and believe it or not, I’ve been working on today’s post all day! I had lots of other things to do as well, and interruptions, but whew! I was determined to not let another week go by.

Friday September 22, 2017

We woke up in Crieff and after Michael’s delicious breakfast, we decided to head back to Edinburgh. We had originally planned to take our time returning to the city and to explore the countryside a bit. But we had really loved our few hours in Edinburgh Tuesday afternoon and wanted to see more of the city. Not to mention tea! We hadn’t had tea anywhere yet. I know, I know. I still can’t fathom it either. So tea was a priority since this was our last full day in the UK.

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The drive back to Edinburgh went smoothly. I finally felt comfortable on the roads, which were a smidge wider than in Ireland. It took some time to turn in the rental car, but we finally Ubered back to the hotel. We were too early for check-in, so left our luggage at the desk and headed out. It briefly occurred to me that I should change into better walking shoes, but decided it wasn’t worth the hassle of digging through my suitcase in the hotel lobby. Bad decision.

My friends, Sue and Alysa, had recommended Clarinda’s Tea Room in Edinburgh, so we set out. It was a bit early for tea. It was actually still a bit early for lunch, about 11:00, but2017-09-22_04-56-53_680 we decided to have lunch and tea. We found Clarinda’s easily, although it was at the opposite end of the Royal Mile from where we started. I had the toasted brie and cranberry sandwich which was to die for. Creamy brie with tangy cranberries–amazing! Stud Muffin had the Ploughman’s Lunch: cheese, crackers, bread and salad. The woman at the table next to us had a baked potato with haggis on top, which Dave said he’d order “next time.” Then we had tea and a scone each. I’m in love with clotted cream and the scone was delicious, light and beautiful. The dishes were charming and mismatched and everything was lovely.

As we wandered the Royal Mile, I found the Canongate Tolbooth, which played a part in the Liz Curtis Higgs books I love, Here Burns My Candle and Mine is the Night. So I made Dave snap a shot of me in front of the building. We also found street performers, pipers, illusionists, and musicians.

When we’d been along the Royal Mile earlier in the week, I had seen signs to a Writer’s Museum, so that was our next quest. Along the way, we bought some Christmas ornaments, and cigars (don’t ask me why he didn’t have enough already). We took our time walking and looking. We managed to miss the close (alleyway) where the museum was located at least twice. Finally, a clerk from a nearby shop walked out to show us exactly where it was. Bless her, because I don’t know if we would have found it on our own. The museum is in a small and ancient house just off the main road, down a small close.

The museum houses permanent collections showcasing Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter Scott, and, of course, Robert Burns. It’s small, as museums go, but intensely interesting with exhibits about the history of writers and printing in Scotland. There was also a temporary exhibit about Ian Rankin. I took my time in the museum while Dave enjoyed a cigar outside.

We then headed to Edinburgh Castle. We’d walked several miles by this point, and my feet were wishing I’d changed shoes from my boots to sneakers when I had the chance. But I soldiered on. The Castle is a fabulous attraction. Part ruins, part museums with exhibits, part scenic views. We saw the battlements with the huge cannons, the Scottish Crown Jewels, the rooms where Scottish royalty breathed their first and last, and the Royal Scots Dragoons Guards museum.

It was now nearly 5 pm and my feet were done. We walked back to our hotel, The Old Waverly, with only a few more quick stops. We saw some tea towels in a shop window that were meant for some friends, so we had to buy them.

We arrived at the hotel to discover the staff had put our bags in our new room. On the sixth floor. And the lift (elevator) was out of order.

Can you picture me and my worn out feet hearing that news?

We immediately went to the bar/restaurant for a restorative. Then we started up the stairs. Because once I climbed six flights, there was no way I was coming down again unless there was a fire or it was time to leave for the airport.

The upside of being on the sixth floor was the great view of the city and the Sir Walter Scott monument across the street.

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Edinburgh was a highlight of the trip. We both loved it and would go back in a heartbeat. We only scratched the surface of this ancient and fascinating city. We know we both have plenty of Anglo-Saxon genes, but I think the Highlands and the city spoke to our DNA. We felt at home in a way we hadn’t in England or Ireland. My father told me long ago we’re from the Campbell clan and I believe it.

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Wednesday Wanderings: Edinburgh

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

We packed up, bid farewell to the Lancaster Gate and our driver ferried us to Kings Cross train station for our five-hour ride to Edinburgh. We were veerrrry early to the station and had quite a bit of time to kill. I babysat the luggage while Stud Muffin wandered around, got us coffee, and turned in our Oyster cards to get the credit refunded from our unused Tube rides. After a bit, we traded places and I headed to the restroom.

Right behind where I’d been sitting was the area marked Platform 9 3/4, which, as any Harry Potter fan knows, is where Harry, Hermione, Ginny, and Ron catch the Hogwarts Express.

There’s a luggage trolley jutting out of the wall and an employee standing nearby to take pictures and hold your scarf so it looks like you’re running through the wall. Of course, we had to pose. There’s a huge Harry Potter shop there too. I wandered the shop quite a while, debating whether to buy any souvenirs there. I didn’t, and that’s probably my only regret of the trip. We have several HP fans in the family and I wish I’d brought them back something from there.

On our Strawberry Tours walking tour of London, our guide, Will, told us J.K. Rowling actually made a mistake about the train station in the first book. She’d gotten confused and said Platform 9 3/4 was at Kings Cross, but her description of the station was of Euston, not Kings Cross. Just a bit of Harry trivia for you.

The train ride was comfortable and the time passed quickly. We saw lots of beautiful scenery. In Edinburgh, we had a driver from the train station to our hotel. He questioned why he’d been booked when our hotel was so close. We shrugged, said we didn’t know the area, and besides we had luggage. But he was right. We could have walked to the hotel more quickly because he had to deal with traffic. And because of the traffic, he dropped us around the corner from the Old Waverley Hotel, so by the time we wrangled our luggage out, crossed the street and got it up the front steps, we were tired! There was a step up from the street, (not bad) then a long hallway, then more steps to get to the lobby. There was a sign that said, Ring Bell For Porter, which we did. A few moments later, a young woman arrived to carry our bags, our two big bags up the two flights of stairs. She hefted one and Dave carried the other up. We were able to check in and dropped off our luggage in our 3rd floor room. The lift was working. This is important to remember for later.

Then we hit the streets of Edinburgh.

2017-09-19_15-57-36_521First up: The Scotch Whiskey Experience. It’s a visitor attraction maintained and put on by one of the Scotch associations. It’s not a distillery, it’s an attraction. You ride in a motorized “barrel” (kind of like at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion), while watching videos of the whiskey making process. You also visit a collection of over 3300 bottles of whiskey. It was truly fascinating. I’m not a whiskey drinker, but the place is amazing and definitely worth a visit.

The Scotch Whiskey Experience is located at the top of the Royal Mile, in old town Edinburgh, right in front of Edinburgh Castle. By the time we finished our tour of the Whiskey experience, the Castle was closed and we couldn’t go in. Every August, Edinburgh hosts a music and arts and drum festival, called the Tattoo. The castle is the venue for military drum corps and marchers. The bleachers that had been erected for the festival were being disassembled while we were there. We watched the process for a few minutes, then left to find dinner.

The Whiskey Experience had a restaurant and bar called Amber. I had to take pictures since we also have an Amber.

We wandered a ways down the Royal Mile and settled on the Ensign Ewart pub for dinner. It’s a small place but warm and cozy and charming. The dinner offering was venison pie and it was delicious! Tender chunks of venison in a thick gravy, topped with mashed potatoes. A wonderful and hearty meal to end our first day in Scotland.

We fell in love with Scotland and Edinburgh today. The old buildings are really, really old. Much of London was old, too, but many of London’s buildings were destroyed in the Blitz and there’s lots of newer construction. In Edinburgh, particularly where we stayed, we could tell we were in the midst of history.

Our hotel was named the Old Waverley, after a book by Sir Walter Scott, a revered Scottish poet and writer. Many of the streets and shops referred to Scott, or Robert Louis Stevenson, or Ian Rankin, or Robert Burns. From our hotel room, we could see the Sir Walter Scott memorial, on the right above.

Tomorrow (or next week, actually): driving in Scotland, more whiskey, and the very real possibility of sleeping in the car.