/ Scotland2016

Wednesday - the Edinburgh tourist bit - at last

Well the forecast yesterday was for heavy rain today, but this morning it suggested light rain with, wait for it, the possibility of not rain for some of the afternoon. Perfect Scottish site-seeing weather (well as good as it gets anyway).

First stop - Greyfriars churchyard. Remember those days when there was not a dry eye in the house when the 1960's classic Greyfriars Bobby came on the TV. Well my sister does and when we mentioned we were going to Edinburgh it was the first thing she associated with the city. So a photo of the wee duggie's grave was in order (and will appear here when we get time to upload).

Next a stroll through the Grassmarket, site of mediaeval marketplace and gibbet, now a trendy eatery and chic shop area, situated at the bottom of the castle rock. Then the 187 steps up the Castle Wynd to the castle itself. I'm glad to see the Edinburgh Royal Mile site classifies Castle Wynd as a shortcut for the fit. Fit we are not, knackered we were!

Thanks to our Christmas pressie of English Heritage membership being over two years old we get free admission to Historic Scotland sites, and a good thing too - it was probably getting on for half the cost of our EH gift! Perfect timing though as a tour was just about to start - however, we were informed this would be slightly curtailed tour so we could all get back down to the lower level in time for the one-o-clock gun ("187 steps", "back down to the lower level", your probably getting some idea of the three dimensionality of this part of the day).

Every day since 1861 a gun has been fired as a one-o-clock time signal. One-o-clock local time, not GMT, UTC or whatever. Why one-o-clock not 12 noon? I suggested to the guide was a Scottish thing that someone realised the cost of 12 shots and decided paying for just one would be more prudent. The real reason, of course, is that the time signal came from Grennwich via the telegraph and would take enough time to reach Edinburgh too late for an accurate 12 noon signal so they settled on the next hour.

Lots more to see in the castle, including the Honours Of Scotland, the Scottish Crown Jewels and the small rectangle of rock known as the Stone Of Scone on which monarchs have been chilling their buttocks in coronations since Scottish king David 1. I was particularly impressed with lifesize brass replicas of the Honours, along with Braille descriptions so that those that could not see the display could also experience it.

On then in the rain to seek shelter in the National Museum Of Scotland. Mistake, we should have come here first thing and spent the day here. We'd barely got started before an assistant was tapping us on the shoulder warning us it was 10 minutes to closing time. Highlights were the Lewis Chessmen although the lion's share of the horde is in the British Museum. The astronomy section was interesting but the natural history section was fascinating. Instead of the usual boring classification by genus, each of the displays took a different theme e.g. differing number of legs, or a particular aspect like flight and displayed animals of all orders that were unusual in the category, Much more interesting and stimulating for youngsters (and us not so youngsters). But only having 90 minutes or so meant seeing but a fraction of this fascinating museum.

Still raining and we're hungry - now one thing Edinburgh is not short of is pubs, many very good ones at that. The Real Beer Guide suggested a wonderfully fitted Victorian gin palace where we managed to squeeze past the crowds of vertical drinkers at the bar to snaffle the last remaining table. My steak with Orkney ale pie was a bit predictable but Liz sampled more local fare with her Haggis, tatties and neaps.

And guess what, when we stepped outside for the bus it had stopped raining!