ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
[personal profile] ilanarama
Crowds in Edinburgh CastleAfter an overnight flight at the end of a very long day, during which neither Britt nor I slept a wink, [ profile] tryfanstone collected us at the Edinburgh airport, shepherded us into the bed at her flat, gave us her spare keys, and then went off to work. A couple of hours of delicious sleep later, by afternoon we were ready to be tourists. Along with everybody else in the world; Edinburgh is a major tourist destination, and as we walked along the Royal Mile toward the castle, the crowd thickened. (And this was early-season! I'm told it's ten times worse during the festival season in August - I can't imagine!)

Edinburgh is a grey city: grey stone buildings, grey skies. Narrow streets cross even narrower alleys (closes and wynds), and even the 'new' part of town dates to the 18th century - the 'old' stuff is literally medieval - so at times I felt like the Awesome Weight of History was closing in all around me. (Not to mention the Awesome Weight of Tourists!) But the city is thickly dotted with parks and open spaces, and the deep green of trees and grass (and the ubiquitous golden gorse) stands out even more vividly against all that grey.

Our first half-day was cold and windy - we worried we hadn't brought enough warm clothes for our trip - so we were happy to stay sheltered, wandering through the closes and wynds, visiting the Scottish Parliament building (weirdly modern in the midst of all this Old Stuff, but we learned a lot about Scottish politics) and the tiny Museum of Edinburgh, which is housed in a 16th-century building. (Not to be confused with the National Museum of Scotland, which is anything but tiny! We visited it as well, on another day.)

A couple of days into our stay, we wandered onto Calton Hill and ended up spending quite a bit of time in this lovely park. We climbed the 143 steps of the Nelson Monument for a great view:

Nelson Monument Ilana on the Nelson Monument's viewing balcony

You can see the dense central city behind me, with the castle on the hill by my shoulder. In the other direction, we got a great view of the Firth of Forth (I just like saying Firth of Forth :-) and Arthur's Seat, at 822 ft the highest hill in Edinburgh and part of the system of extinct volcanos that also form the ridge on which the city's built (as well as Calton Hill).

Arthur's Seat from the Nelson Monument

By Thursday we'd had enough of waiting for good weather to go up Arthur's Seat, and headed up in okay weather. Needless to say, hundreds of other people had the same idea. This picture - Britt on a sub-summit (which only had about six other people on it) with the main summit in the background - gives some idea of the hordes.

Britt on a sub-hill of Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat is the high point (literally, though perhaps not figuratively) of Holyrood Park, which has several other attractions. The 15th-century ruins of St. Anthony's Chapel are very cool:

St. Anthony's Chapel St. Anthony's Chapel wall detail

We also visited Holyrood Palace, which is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Pictures weren't permitted once we got inside, but it was an interesting tour which covered a wide range of rooms and history, from the 16th century chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots, to the room in which the Queen received Pope Benedict XVI during his official visit in 2010. Next to the palace are the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, originally built in the 12th century(!) by King David I of Scotland.

Not the Queen Holyrood Abbey

Speaking of old and royal things, we spent nearly a full day at Edinburgh Castle (along with approximately sixty billion other tourists). First thing in the morning (on J's advice) we headed straight for the Scottish Crown Jewels - sure enough, by the time we had gone through all the displays on their history and the history of the rulers of Scotland, and seen the shinies (and the Stone of Scone! Another thing I like saying!), there was a line snaking out of the building and around the courtyard. Then we poked our noses into every nook and cranny that we could. Many of them were filled with military museums of one type or another, including a really cool recreation of the castle's days as a military prison in the 1800s. Different parts of the castle were built at different times, and some had fallen into disrepair and were later restored, but overall, it is itself a museum of sorts to days very long gone by, and it sits on its rock very comfortably amid contemporary office-buildings, roads, and automobiles.

Edinburgh Castle

While doing all this walking, I'd noticed that my trusty old hiking boots were rubbing a bit on my feet and threatening to give me blisters, which is not what you want to notice when you're preparing for a two-week hike across an entire country. In particular, my right boot seemed to rub in a place that my left boot did not; when I took my boots off that evening I ran my fingers across the inner soles of both, and noticed, curiously, that they seemed lumpy in different places.

At my urging, Britt took his pocketknife and cut at one of the lumps, which seemed to deflate, suggesting that the inner soles were bubbling up somehow. The next day, I felt an improvement - but as the day went on, a different place under my foot felt lumpy. So I took off my boots and poked at the inner soles with the knife...and about a cup of sand poured out! These were the boots I'd worn on many backpacks in the canyon country of Utah over the past several years; apparently I'd taken some of the canyon home with me!

Sandy boot

Britt argued very strongly that I ought to get new boots, and at first I demurred, not wanting to trade the familiar for the unknown at the start of a long hike (nor spend the money!) but eventually I gave in. As it happened, J had suggested that we visit Leith, Edinburgh's waterfront neighborhood, and mentioned as a draw that Tiso, "the best outdoors gear shop in Scotland" was there, and even drew in an asterisk on the map to indicate it. So we had a pleasant walk through the streets to Leith, and after trying on approximately five hundred pairs of shoes I settled on a pair of Scarpa Baltoro GTX.

Of course, after the arduous rigors of shopping, we needed a drink. Fortunately, there is no shortage of bars in Edinburgh (and Leith), and we discovered what was to be one of our favorite UK beers, Innis & Gunn's 'original', a beer matured in oak casks a la whisky. Really tasty! And, er, strong.

(I should add out that a secondary goal of this trip was to drink our way across Great Britain. There's been a huge revival of real ale (cask beer served from a hand-pull pump) all over the country, and there are hundreds of different ones available from an ever-growing number of craft breweries. We did not manage to taste them all, but we made a good try at it! More on our adventures in beer in another post.)

We returned to central Edinburgh by the 'Water of Leith Walkway' which is a very nice greenway footpath/cyclepath along Edinburgh's main river. And by the time we turned off the path and onto the streets it was about dinnertime. Clearly we were walking through a restaurant district, so we poked our heads into a number of places, but none of them seemed 'right' until we hit The Barony - which we later found out was J's favorite pub! We had a very British pub meal (steak pie for me, beef stew in a giant Yorkshire pudding for Britt - both yummy) washed down with pints of delicious cask ale (Stewart's #3 for me, Sharp's Doom Bar for Britt - both yummy), and then stopped in at a random bakery to buy treats to share with J back at her place.

On Friday afternoon, we took the train (UK trains! So zoomy fast!) to Newcastle. But that'll be in the next post.

All 12 photos from Edinburgh (the above plus a few extra), no nattering, new fancy Flickr format

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-21 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Awsomeness. LAready waiting for Part 2

Thanks for sharing you Edinburgh Adventure

Date: 2013-06-21 01:58 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Very cool photos and narrative of your trek through Edinburgh! Thanks for sharing Ilana. :) Mr. T from Greenbelt

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-23 11:54 pm (UTC)
traveller42: (Default)
From: [personal profile] traveller42
I describe my trip to Scotland in 2005 as "furthering my whiskey education".

Edinburgh was one of my favourite stops on that trip.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-04 08:21 am (UTC)
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
From: [personal profile] luzula
The Stone of Scone, seriously? *giggles*

And gah, I've never seen anything like that, with all the sand in your boot. Glad you could get new ones.
Edited Date: 2013-07-04 08:22 am (UTC)


ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

August 2017

131415 16171819
20212223 242526

My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @


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