Saturday, February 19, 2011

On to Hadrian's Wall

We made it to England in time for dinner.  I still can't get over how small the United Kingdom is.  The distance between the Cairngorms in northern Scotland and Haydon Bridge, England is roughly 230 miles.  The distance between our home in Kentucky and Indianapolis, which is about the half-way point of a trip up north to my folks outside Chicago, is a little less than that.  And we still have a ways to go...

Hadrian's Wall - Sewingshields Turret-28
Anyway, here we are taking a walk along Sewingshields milecastle, which is part of Hadrian's Wall.  We were a little frayed at the edges by this point, so a quiet walk along the lonely edge of a former empire was the perfect way to unwind.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

4 Hours in Edinburgh

We had about 4 hours to spend in Edinburgh before catching the train down to England.  We did nothing but walk those four hours, with a brief break for lunch. First on our list was Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
The entrance to the castle was about as far as we went--we had the whole of Old Town Edinburgh to see!  We didn't even get to see the impressive side of the castle, perched on top of a hill overlooking Edinburgh.  Go to the website to see what I'm talking about.

I thought this guy looked like the twin of the knight in the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie:  "You have chosen...wisely."

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
The castle is built on top of an extinct volcano and incorporates volcanic rock into its walls.

"Let there be light" public library, Edinburgh, Scotland-20
We walked past the National Library of Scotland with its motto "Let there be light" emblazoned above the entrance.  Below, a man gets ready to light his cigarette.  I thought this was funny.

Elephant House, birthplace of Harry Potter, Edinburgh, Scotland
We ate lunch at the Elephant House...

Elephant House, birthplace of Harry Potter, Edinburgh, Scotland
birthplace of Harry Potter!  I geeked out.

Harry Potter fan graffiti on bathroom stall, Elephant House, birthplace of Harry Potter, Edinburgh, Scotland
I geeked even further when I visited the ladies' restroom and saw this graffiti on the door:  "RIP Severus Snape"  "Dumbledore's girl through and through" "Peeves was here," and more.  

I had to go back back to the table to get the camera to take a picture, even though the entrance to the loo was in full sight of everyone seated in the back of the cafe.

John Knox House, Edinburgh, Scotland
We toured the John Knox House, reputedly a home of the famous Protestant who led the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century.  The house itself dates back to 1470.

John Knox House, Edinburgh, Scotland
The rooms were foreign to us 21st century folk, all low ceilings and creaky floors and spare furnishings.  This room had an intriguing, intricately patterned ceiling.  In the corner rested an example of what the ceiling may have looked like back in the day, lively colors and all.

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland
We took a peek at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the Queen of England while in Scotland.  Mary, Queen of Scots, lived here.  

My goodness, the history keeps piling up.

Dr. Who's TARDIS, or, "Police Information Box," Edinburgh, Scotland
A moment of cheer to balance the weight of history: Dr. Who's TARDIS!  Otherwise known as a typical police information box.

George IV Bridge going up (right) & Candlemaker's Row going down (left), Edinburgh, Scotland-26
Falling in love with Edinburgh even more: everywhichway streets!  On the right is the George IV Bridge going up and on the left is Candlemaker's Row going down.  The Elephant House is just up the ways on George IV Bridge.

Candlemaker's Row, Edinburgh, Scotland
Walking along Candlemaker's Row.  It was nice to get away from the crowds on the Royal Mile, like sharing in a secret only the locals know about.

Edinburgh, Scotland-76
A touch of whimsy to end the 4 hour whirlwind tour: a jaunty stag on a fountain.

And with that we caught the train and headed down to our next stop on the trip: Hadrian's Wall.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Old Town Edinburgh: Love at First Sight

Edinburgh, Scotland-06
I fell in love with Old Town Edinburgh at first sight, this narrow stairway burrowing through a building. This was my first glimpse of a "close."

Closes and wynds are Scottish terms for alleyways.  There are plenty along the Royal Mile, the street running from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace (the place where the Queen stays when in Scotland). Some are entrances to tenement buildings.  Others serve as connectors between the Royal Mile and parallel streets, such as Cowgate and East Market Street.   

World's End Close, Edinburgh, Scotland
World's End Close, so named because it was the last close before the old city gates--the "end of the world" for some of the residents of Old Town, who did not ever venture beyond the city gates.  This particular close has been around since at least the 15th century.

Old Tolbooth Wynd, Edinburgh, Scotland
Old Tolbooth Wynd, built in 1591.

Edinburgh, Scotland-58
Striking clock and turret on the building through which Old Tolbooth Wynd passes.

Paisley Close, Edinburgh, Scotland
In 1861, some tenements along the Royal Mile collapsed without warning. While people were clearing the wreckage, they heard a voice, "Heave awa' chaps, I'm no dead yet." Joseph McIver was pulled out. Paisley Close was built in place of the tenements and a monument to McIver erected at the entrance, with his quote memorialized for all to see.

Edinburgh, Scotland-69
Looking down a close.  I'm guessing this one would take you down to Market Street.

This site provides some interesting information on the closes and wynds of the Royal Mile.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Farewell to the Cairngorms

View from Cairn Eilrig, Cairngorms, Scotland
We bid our farewells to kind Mary and her black lab Poppy.  Cairn Eilrig was the place where we felt most at home.  We looked forward to our afternoon teas in the sitting room, where we could look out over the Cairngorms and visit with Mary.  Mary took very good care of us--not only did she feed us hearty food and provide ample afternoon tea fare, she washed clothes for us and shuttled us to the beginning of our hikes.   

While planning the trip and figuring out how to get from Aviemore, Scotland to Haydon Bridge, England, I noticed that we would have to switch trains in Edinburgh or Glasgow to continue our journey down into England.  We decided to squeeze some sightseeing into the layover in Edinburgh before catching the next train south to England.

This is the great thing about the rail system and the compactness of the United Kingdom - you can quite literally wake up in the Cairngorms, eat lunch in Edinburgh, and take a walk along Hadrian's Wall in the evening (which I'll write about later).

View from Waverley Railway Station, Edinburgh, Scotland
Our first good look at Edinburgh ("Ed-en-burrah" is the correct pronunciation, as Mary pointed out to us during one of our afternoon chats) after disembarking at Waverley StationOld Town looms in the distance.

More pictures from our four hour jaunt around Old Town Edinburgh are coming up...