Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Edinburgh to Stirling Scotland

Tuesday Sept 6, 2011

Ty and I woke up in a Travel Lodge just off of Princess Street in Edinburgh.  The good news about breakfast was that it wasn’t “Full English” but the bad news was that it was no better than what one would get on an airplane with individually packaged muffin, croissant, and a bowl of half milk/half cornflakes which was mixed after the removal of cellophane. Tch tch.  From there, we made arrangements to keep our rental car another week and we parked near the Royal Mile which we walked from end to end several times.  We joined a queue with several hundred people, bought tickets and joined a thousand more for a walk through Edinburgh castle.  Highlights included the Scottish War Museum and viewing the Royal Crown Jewels and the famous one-of-a-kind Stone of Scone, ""Except old seers do feign and wizard wits be blind, the Scots in place must reign where they this stone shall find."  But lowlights were the line-ups and herds of international tourists underfoot at every attraction.  We tried posing at a number of vantage points though we were hard pressed to not have more of them than us in every shot.  Hundreds more poured through the gates pushing us against the walls and, frustrated we left after only an hour or so, our parking meter ticking expensively, one $50 CA parking ticket already on the dash.

Serendipitous as it may sound, we did happen to chance upon Grey Friars Bobby on our way to our car from the Royal Mile.  History has it, and depending on who holds the brush, it is said that this world famous dog waited at the grave of its dead master for 14 years before it finally succumbed to mortality itself. A local baroness had a statue placed out front guaranteeing its infamy in 1872 and world travellers have been dropping by the local bar ever since.

Edinburgh is a beautiful city with a half million residents and half as many more tourists.  We found it inhospitable for our moderate tastes but in retrospect, one should come in a warmer season, have a week to see it, book a room at the Balmoral and do it right.  There isn’t a brand name in the civilized world not represented on Princes Street and it’s a delight just to hear the pipers piping, and look at the monuments and massive architecture of the hotels, castle and parliament. The Royal Mile holds two miles of Scottish Souvenirs and McRestaurants as well as pubs, taverns and tours deep into the bowels of the city where impoverished people lived 400 years ago. If you have a taste for tartans, shortbread, whisky, knobby knees and kilts, this is the place to come for all things Scots.

Finally, having had enough tourism for one day, we headed west towards Stirling jumping between dual motor ways and sheep trails for a couple hours.  We intended to head north towards Inverness but alas the draw of the William Wallace (aka Braveheart) monument was too strong and we took a B&B for two days in the lee of the castle wall just north of the famous bridge over the River Forth.  Here, camped out in the comfort of a Victorian mansion, we are waiting out a torrential storm with hurricane force winds and rain that comes sideways.  The funny thing is that the storm dies down to a calm, the sun comes out for ten minutes and then it starts up again.  We have managed to find our way down to a neighbourhood eatery for dinner and made arrangements to have our laundry done tomorrow and we experienced everything from T-shirt weather to sweatshirt, hoodie and jacket weather!
News of the Day:  We booked our flights from Glasgow to Belfast, Northern Ireland next Monday!  Hopefully we can rent a car there and head over to Omagh, Antrim where our ancestor William John Nichol, and his wife Isabella were buried in 1872. We brought Canadian Flags to tie on a tree as a tribute to the Nichols from Canada!