Edinburgh, Scotland

I would be spending five days in Edinburgh, Scotland after a recent
trip to London. I had never been to Scotland and wanted to try
to see as much as I could in the next five days. I had always heard
on lovely it was, and so after a few travel meetings and some extra
add ons, we added Edinburgh to our London trip.

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After a wonderful exciting seven days in London, we left London’s
King Cross Station on the 8:00 train. It was a great relaxing ride
with lovely views of the East Coast in many areas of the journey.
After a quick four to five-hour train ride we arrived in Edinburgh in
the early afternoon.

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We would be staying at the lovely Channings Hotel for the next five
days. It is a four star informal and relaxed hotel with a friendly approach
to all its guest. It is set in a lovely Scottish Country House, full of
charming Victorian paintings, prints, books, furniture and memorabilia.
It is outside the city centre, about a 20 minute walk, shorter by bus,
in a residential area. It is a charming street with rows of homes that
look exactly like the house we are staying at, including lovely gardens.

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Our room was a nice size, beautifully decorated, with a sitting area over
looking a wonderful view of the Fettes University. The hotel has a lovely
upscale restaurant which had great food. Breakfast is served in a
Conservatory like setting with lovely gardens in the back with tables
and chairs.

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We settled in our room and immediately walked into town, over a
Bridge, making our way to the city center of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland. It is the second most populous
city in Scotland and the seventh most populous city in the United Kingdom.
Edinburgh’s old town and new town are jointly listed as a UNESCO World
Heritage Site. The historic centre of Edinburgh is divided in two by the
Princess Street Gardens. To the south the view is dominated by the
Edinburgh Castle, built high on the Castle Rock, and the long sweep of
Old Town descending towards Holyrood Palace. To the north lies
Princess Street and the new town.

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Princess Street Gardens is a public park in the centre of Edinburgh, in
the shadow of the Edinburgh Castle. The park has various concerts
and other events held at the Ross Bandstand including the Festival
Fireworks Concert held for the celebration of Hogmanay, the Scots
word for the last day of the year. Walking around these gardens,
it is like having a green oasis in the middle of the city, with its beautiful
landscaping and views of the castle.

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The Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic monument to Scottish author
Sir Walter Scott. It stands in the Princess Street Gardens, opposite
Jenner’s Department Store on Princess Street and near to Edinburgh
Waverley Railway Station, which is named for one of Scott’s novels.
The tower is 200 feet 6 inches high, and has several viewing platforms
reached by a series of spiral staircases giving panoramic views of
central Edinburgh and it’s surroundings. Bill Bryson has described
it as looking like. “gothic rocket ship”.

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After strolling through the gardens we walked up the steep hill to
the Castle. I think we underestimated how steep that walk would
be, but we did it.

The Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline
of the City of Edinburgh from its position on the Castle Rock. It has
been the Royal Castle since the 12th century and by the 17th century, it
was principally used as a military barracks. Edinburgh Castle was
involved in many historical conflicts, and has been besieged both
successfully and unsuccessfully on several occasions.
Mary Queen of Scots began her reign in the castle in 1560, married
and had her child while living in the castle. Today the castle is
Edinburgh’s number 1 tourist attraction in Scotland. It is used today
for historical ceremonies and concerts.
We spent the next several hours touring the castle, going in and out of
all the buildings. It was very interesting and the view of the city was lovely.

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The Old Town is the name given to the oldest part of the capital city
of Edinburgh. The area has preserved much of its medieval street
plan and buildings.
The Royal Mile is a name given in the 20th century for the main artery
of the Old Town which runs on a downwards slope from Edinburgh
Castle to Holyrood Palace. It is the busiest street in Old Town, with
pubs, restaurants, hotels, shops, tea salons, souvenir shops and
much more. There was so much action on this street. We saw men
playing the bagpipes, people dressed in costume, local people standing on
the streets, just mingling and chatting with each other. It was a good
people watching area.

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On day two we decided to take the city tour around the city on the Hop
On Hop Off open air bus. It takes maybe a little over an hour to drive
around the city and point out the places of interest. It just gives you
an idea of what the city has to offer. Actually, we decided to stay on
the bus for two full circuits, just to make sure we wouldn’t miss anything.

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The Palace of Holyrood is the official residence of the British monarch
in Scotland for the Kings and Queens, since the 16th century.
Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood at the
beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official
engagements and ceremonies.

After walking down the delightful and colorful Royal Mile, we arrived
at the Palace to begin our tour. The Palace is definitely worth a visit
for comprehending a part of the Royal history of Scotland. It’s a
wonderful look into the life of the Stuarts and Tudors. The 16th
century comes alive as you tour the many rooms open to the public.

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The rooms are still very stately with beautiful paintings and furniture
and it is quite interesting to be in the same room that the Queen
greets her guests to this day.
It is a bit sobering and poignant experience to be in the private chamber
of Mary Queen of Scots, where she was a witness to the brutal murder
of her secretary, David Rizzio. One can almost feel the horror and utter
terror of witnessing such an event. I had read the book by Antonia Fraser
on Mary Queen of Scots and also just recently seen the movie and
remembered this scene so vividly, it was quite chilling.
After spending some time inside the Palace, we walked the lovely gardens
and property, admiring the landscaping and setting of this truly amazing
place.

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Ok, close your eyes and think of the perfect Scottish Tea Room, open
them and you are sitting in Clarinda’s. Walking back from
the Palace on the Royal Mile is Clarinda’s Tea Room. It is like being
in an old Hollywood movie, set in Scotland, with the coziness and
homey feel of an enchanting place. Sitting in this lovely tea room
looking at the decor and furniture, plates on the walls, the cute
Victorian lamps and the tiny little kitchen where the food is prepared, not
to mention the array of the different types of homemade desserts, was
a feast for the eyes.
We had a sandwich and the best piece of Apple pie, I think I have ever
had. It was the perfect way to end our day touring Edinburgh.

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Day three would be an all day tour to St Andrews, Fife, and a portion
of the Highlands. St. Andrews is known the world over and has played
an important part of Scottish history. The medieval Cathedral was
one of the most important sites of pilgrimage in all of Europe and the
prestigious University is the oldest in Scotland, most recently famous for
the meeting place of Prince William and Kate Middleton. We had plenty
of time to walk the streets of St Andrews, admiring the beauty surrounding
this town.

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The St. Andrews Royal Golf Club first met here in the spiritual home of
golf in 1754, though it was first played here as early as the 15th century.
I must say, as a somewhat former golfer, this place was truly a golfers
paradise. I even had goosebumps standing here, not only admiring
the beauty, but the history of the course. In a golfer’s world, this is
truly holy ground.
I really enjoyed our time here. Seeing the narrow alleys and cobbled
streets with shops, restaurants, cafés, the elegant Ivey clad University
and gardens, the castles and churches of this historical coastal town,
made this a major highlight for me.

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The rest of the day we would be touring a portion of the beautiful
Highlands, seeing the spectacular Forth Rail Bridge, until recently the
longest cantilever bridge in the world. Over a bridge we entered the
Kingdom of Fife, an isolated peninsula surrounded by waters of the
Firth of Forth, the Firth of Tay and the North Sea. The highlight is
the area known as East Neuk, with small fishing villages hugging the
coastline known as a paradise for smugglers.
The Royal Britannia was the Royal Yacht to her Majesty, The Queen
and the Royal Family for over 40 years. Now berthed in Edinburgh,
it is a number 1 attraction for the curious traveler.

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Our last day in Edinburgh was spent doing some last minute
sightseeing. There were a couple of churches we wanted to see,
Giles Cathedral is amazing. We visited two or three different ones and
then spent the rest of the day shopping. I loved the colorful storefronts
and the quaintness of the stores. What a great city this is. I left
Edinburgh the next day thinking, I Will Be Back.

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