This is a continuation of what'll be a series of blog posts about my trip to the UK this September. Part 1 of Day 1 is here. Part 2 of Day 1 is here. Here is day 2. This is Day 3.
This post will probably be a bit shorter than other posts, but then again, those sound like famous last words, don't they?
I woke on the third day of my trip in my room in Edinburgh. I was well-rested and had slept in until almost 8, which is unusual for me. First stop was breakfast in the dining room upstairs. It was a nice continental breakfast, so I had a mishmash of eggs, cereal, toast, and fruit. During this trip, I often didn't have much of an appetite even though I knew I needed to eat for the energy. For breakfast, mostly what I want is a nice bowl of cereal, full stop. But that wouldn't cut it when I was going to be hiking all over the place and might not get lunch until a bit later than usual. So I forced down more than I would normally eat.
In any case, it was another gorgeous day in the UK, with cool, clear blue skies and a promise of warmer temperatures as the day went on. I weighed my options as to where to go and what to do--Edinburgh Castle? Holyrood Palace? Both? St. Giles Cathedral? The cafe where JK Rowling wrote some of Harry Potter? Holyrood Palace was at the top of my list, and the cafe (Spoon, previously Nicholsons) was just behind. I figured I would have time to tour Holyrood, then go over to Spoon for lunch before picking up my bag and making my way back to the train station.
So I set off to Holyrood on foot, figuring it was a beautiful morning and it was much simpler to just walk. It was well worth it to walk around Edinburgh, enjoying its medieval heart. I found this a lovely sight (obvs its not a medieval sight, but that isn't what I mean):
I also stumbled across a little graveyard perched on the side of the hill. Just a centuries-old graveyard tucked in a corner. No big:
|Cemetery just hanging out along the side of the street (New Calton Burial Ground).|
Holyrood was one of Mary's main residences while she was in Scotland. There is a suite of rooms that she lived in, and in fact you can see the room where Mary and her attendants were having supper when Lord Darnley burst in with some of his men, dragged Mary's secretary (David Rizzio) into the next room, and stabbed him to death. Good times.
So, in any case, that was my reason for going to Holyrood. It is currently the Queen's royal residence in Scotland, and lots of fancy and important events happen here. But it's also been an important palace and residence for centuries. The James V Tower is the oldest part of the building. That's where
Like with many palaces, upon entering, you go up a fine grand staircase and begin on the processional route of state rooms. The further you go through the rooms, the closer you are to the presence of the sovereign. These rooms are largely furnished in a mix of 17th century and Victorian styles, with a lot of dark wood and red velvet. It's certainly cozy, if a bit cloying.
At the end of the state rooms is a long gallery hung with portraits of all the kings of Scotland, real and legendary, as painted by Jacob de Wet in the 1680s. Some of them sustained damage shortly after Bonnie Prince Charlie fled the palace and British troops moved into it. The soldiers slashed some of the portraits.
Just beyond the gallery are the queen's room, and the Mary, Queen of Scots rooms. To get to Mary's rooms, the ones where Rizzio was murdered, you take a narrow spiral stone staircase up. The dining room where they were all supping when Darnley burst in is absolutely tiny. I'm amazed it could fit more than three or four people, but apparently it did. It's just off the bedchamber, and beyond that is the larger Outer Chamber, which today has displays of artifacts like the Darnley Jewel.
|Me at Holyrood Abbey.|
|Within the ruins of Holyrood Abbey.|
|Holyrood Abbey from the gardens.|
On a side note, I do not have any pictures from inside Holyrood Palace because photography isn't allowed. For some rad pics, try this.
After trundling about the gardens and looking up at the crag of Arthur's Seat, high above the palace (and thinking, hell no, I'm not climbing that), I spent some time at the gift shop. I had to take care to buy things that were small and unbreakable. Tea cups wouldn't do at all. They were going to have to sit in my soft-sided bag for several days as I traveled by train and plane, and they wouldn't survive. I went with a lovely tartan-patterned (soft) Christmas ornament, some orange-flavored chocolate, and postcards. Yeah, I'm not extravagant.
But I was feeling rather flush, so instead of either walking or taking the plebeian public transportation
|Spoon, formerly Nicholsons, Cafe, where JK Rowling wrote some of|
the first Harry Potter book.
My plans tanked, I had to find somewhere else for lunch. I spotted a place nearby that advertised itself as a grill with a selection of stuff. I thought a burger might do, so I went in and ordered a burger, but when it came, it just wasn't quite right. My appetite was off, and the burger wasn't the thing to tempt me. Still, I most definitely needed food, because I was currently hungry and still had quite a bit of a day left before me.
As an aside, it's interesting that when you ask for a soda in the U.K. you don't get a fountain drink. They give you a glass and a (rather small) bottle or can of soda. Which seems wasteful in many ways. You're using a can/bottle unnecessarily, and that's gotta be more expensive for the restaurants than fountain drinks, which are dirt cheap. But I digress . . .
I still had a few hours before my train left, so while I was waiting for my meal/forcing it down my throat, I pulled out my phone and looked at my options. I noticed that the National Museum of Scotland was just around the corner, so that's where I went.
|National Museum of Scotland.|
|Lewis Chessman, National Museum of Scotland.|
A few other items at the museum:
|Monymusk Reliquary, National Museum of Scotland.|
|Argyll Flying Fifteen motorcar, National Museum of Scotland.|
Along the way, I saw an early British-made car (see above) and a lot of cool artifacts from Scottish history. But again, I felt a bit off and wandered listlessly most of the time, until I decided it was time to get going back to the hotel to pick up my bag and get to the train station.
So that's what I did, taking the tram back, then walking from the hotel back to the train station. I paused to get a sample of Coke Zero Sugar that was being handed out and sat in the sun in a little seating area of AstroTurf above the station, right across from the Scott Memorial, listening to live music. It was really quite nice to relax, enjoying the sun, sipping some Coke, and listening to the music.
|Enjoying sun, music, and a sample of Coke Zero Sugar|
outside Waverley Station.
|A busy, sunny Scott Memorial.|
Then it was down to the train station, where I had to wait a bit for the platform to be announced. Then onto the train I got.
|A parting view--from the top of the hill where my hotel stood, down|
to the firth below.
This journey required a transfer at Carlisle. It went smoothly. I had to go up and over the tracks, and there wasn't a heck of a lot of time to spare as my train had gotten in a few minutes late. But I got on the train, and off I went. I got off at Haltwhistle:
Isn't it a cute little station? I was charmed, while being painfully aware that I would need to get to the opposite side of the tracks the next day and that that would require going up the stairs, over that bridge, and back down again with my bag. No ramps, of course, and no lifts--only stairs--because this is the UK.
But anyway. Haltwhistle is a small village just south of Hadrian's Wall. I walked along, happily taking in the little town with its lovely stone buildings. There was a cross to WW1 dead at the center of a town, and a little square with a pub. I checked into my guest house, which was adorable and comfy and, of course, had no lift. The people who own and operate it also operated the post office and candy shop on the ground floor, and they were extremely kind and helpful.
By this point, I had a pretty raging headache. I knew I wasn't up for a pub or pub food, but luckily there is a Sainsbury's nearby, so I walked over there, got myself some odds and ends (enough for dinner, breakfast, and lunch) and went back to the guest house, where I spent the rest of the evening on the bed, watching TV. Not an exciting end to the day, but I'd had quite a day already . . .