Auld Reekie*

20 October 2019

Edinburgh put on a cracking day for us! Cold but no r#*n and there was even sun and blue skies. Take that England!!!

Our Uber driver, Ali, was a charming, cheerful and chatty young man from Pakistan who kept us informed and entertained on our trip into the Royal Mile (High Street) . Ali has set the benchmark for what was going to be another great day.

Now, the “Royal Mile” isn’t actually a mile long and it has not had a monarch living anywhere near it since the days of Mary Queen of Scots, so it’s not actually Royal either. A much better name would have to be “Tartan Terrace” or “Souvenir Street”, because that’s about all there is along the entire length.

There were tartan scarves, tartan beenies, tartan hats, tartan ties, tartan shawls, tartan coats, tartan shoes, tartan underwear and tartan tartans.

Even the garbage trucks are tartan!

I had booked us into a Free Walking Tour, but even that is a misnomer! By “Free” they actually mean “Not Free, just give us what you think we are worth at the end”. This could be potentially awkward but fortunately we had Kenny as our guide and he was fantastic. Two hours of walking and talking! Lots of interesting facts and amusing stories. There were times I wasn’t quite sure what was fact or fiction, but it didn’t matter. It was fun anyway. We didn’t mind parting with some of our “hard earned”.

Scotland’s National Animal

Isn’t it cute that the Unicorn, a mythical creature, is Scotland’s national animal! Isn’t it cute that England’s national animal is the Lion! Kenny told us that unicorns are the only animals that can defeat lions! How symbolic! Fact or fiction?

We visited Greyfriars Kirk and paid our respects to Greyfriars Bobby. Grahame left him a stick to play with in the after life!

Along with all the others!

The Heart of Midlothian, outside st Giles Kirk, records the position of the 15th-century Old Tolbooth , demolished in 1817, which was the administrative centre of the town, a prison, and one of several sites of public execution. Tradition allows passers by to spit on it . Although it is now said to be done for good luck, it was originally done as a sign of disdain for the former prison of which the entrance lay directly at the Heart’s location. It is probable, that the spitting custom may have been begun by the accused.

Hearts of Midlothian football fans spit on it for good luck but the Hibernian fans spit on it because it’s the emblem of their arch rivals.

JK Rowling wrote the first two Harry Potter books whilst sitting in local cafes, this being one of her favourites. So, of course it’s on the tourist circuit. We didn’t go in, but I did jockey for a position to take a pic.

And it would have been remiss of us to not visit “Diagon Alley” Doesn’t look like quite as magical as it did in the movie!

We spotted several William Wallace’s a few Harry Potter’s and a Highlander or two throughout the day.

But it was the Bagpipe buskers who were out in force along the Royal Mile.

These two young’uns were too busy checking their mobile phones, missing out on the lucrative busker market.

But most impressive piper of the day goes to this guy!

Press play

Kenny, our guide, introduced us to a guy called William Brody, who became the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde.

Read this

Brodie was a Scottish cabinet-maker, deacon of a trades guild, and Edinburgh city councillor, who maintained a secret life as a housebreaker, partly for the thrill, and partly to fund his gambling. When he was eventually caught and hung, it is said that the gallows were of his design and he was the first to test them out. Oh the irony!! Fact or fiction???

In the afternoon we headed up to the castle.

The views were stunning.

We were on a mission to find my Uncle Col’s favourite canon, Mons Meg. It didn’t take us long. Mons Meg has had a bit of a chequered history but is quite infamous in our family, so it was nice to meet her at last!!

We spent a few hours exploring the castle along with hundreds of others.

There were the rooms of the Royal Palace to see, the Honours of Scotland (Scottish Crown Jewels) and the Stone of Destiny (or coronation stone).

Google pic: no photography allowed

We explored the prison cells, the War Memorial and the War Museum before deciding it was time to leave.

Back on the Royal Mile
Skinny selfie

During the day we visited two pubs recommended by a Scottish guy we stayed with in Aracena many weeks ago.

Both were lovely.

The Guildford Arms
Kay’s Bar

Back at our accommodation, we got to watch an important darts match on the hotel dining room TV. I made the mistake of voicing my lack of interest, and was given an immediate education by some locals who were more than happy to try to convince me that I did indeed like watching darts, I just didn’t know it yet!

They are good at maths, I’ll give them that!!

*So why “Auld Reekie”? There were two possible explanations Back in the day, the walled city of Edinburgh was pretty crowded. There was no room to spread out , so they built up instead. The first explanation was that with so many chimneys and the need to keep warm there was always a pall of smoke hanging over the city. The second was that, given that the buildings were so high and it was a long way down to empty the chamber pot, it was highly probable that people flung the contents out the window, splattering the ground below and stinking the place up. Fact or fiction??? Perhaps it was both!!

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