Thursday, July 13, 2017

Edinburgh, Day 2

View of Castle from Princess Street Garde
My second day in Scotland begins early with a standard breakfast (porridge) with Ewan.  As he has some things to tend at work in the morning and both he and Hilary had a funeral for a friend in the afternoon, I’m on my own.  I take the bus downtown into Edinburgh with plans to see several things I’d missed during a previous visit (I've done the National Gallery, the Castle, St. Giles and some of the other sites).  My first stop is the Writer’s Museum.  It’s located near the castle, which meant climbing the royal mile from the bus stop.  Although early, the street are teeming with tourists and the bagpipes are out.  I stop to admire the statue to David Hume, the great Scottish philosopher I once had to read.  His bronze statue is all grey and tarnished, except that he is barefooted and his big toe is bright and shiny, as if someone has a toe fetish and his been polishing it (Or rubbing it).  I don't touch the toe and soon the bagpipes are encouraging me to make my way on up the hill.

Hume's toes

View from a window at the Writer's Museum

After wandering around, I finally ask for guidance and find the the narrow street that leads to the Writer’s Museum.  It’s small, mostly dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, Robert Lewis Stevenson and Robert Burns.  Although the home in which houses the museum had no relationship to the authors, its architecture is interesting and there’s a collection of artifacts for each of the big three.  There are also a few other authors who get recognized including J. K. Rowling who completed her Harry Potter stories in Edinburgh.   While there, I discovered the answer for the Ayn Rand nuts who have the bumper stickers asking, “Who is John Galt?” He was a Scottish novelist in the early 19th Century, long before he became one of Rand’s characters.  I come away with even more admiration for Stevenson.  He once said, “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.”  I agree.

Trains approaching Waverly Street Station
After the writing museum, I walk down the bottom of the castle as it begins to rain.  I find myself in New College’s Seminary, where I looked around a bit but nothing much is happening as everyone is on summer break.  I then duck into a coffee shop to avoid the rain.  When the rain subsides, I walk further down the hill and through the upper part of the Princess Street Gardens, which at this level was mostly forested.  I stop at the walking bridge over the tracks to photograph trains approaching and leaving the Waverly Street Station. 

Rev. Dickson--19th Century rival of Jesus?

Then I head on to St. Cuthbert’s Church, which a friend recommended me to check out.  Sadly, the church is closed but I’m able to loiter a bit in the graveyard.  At the church’s front, there is a statue of a 19th Century pastor whose piety, according to the words on the monument, must have rivaled Jesus.   This “accomplished scholar and theologian,” served the church for 40 years.  He was “sound in doctrine, earnest in exhortation, in labor unwavering, accuse in argument, expert in business, affectionate, generous, affable and accessible to all.”

Photobombed by a pigeon

Leaving St. Cuthberts, I walk through the lower level of the Princess Street Gardens, which was filled with flowers, pigeons, war monuments and the distant sound of bagpipes.  There was even a monument for the Scots in America who signed up in 1914 to fight in the Great War.  There was another of a Polish soldier and his “pet bear.”  This guy had made his way into Persia after the fall of Poland (and adopted the bear along the way) and then fought with the Scots in World War II.  Gunfire didn’t scare the bear as he would haul ammo to the front lines.   At the far end of the garden, there is a clock done in flowers.
American Scot Volunteers of 1914
Wojac the bear
Princess Street Gardens

Photo from top of Scott Monument
After walking through the park, I come to the Scott Monument (not Scot, but Scott as in Sir Walter) and decided to pay the 5 pounds to climb it.  Supposedly, this is the largest statue to a writer in the world.  It is certainly unique.  Charles Dickens, upon observing the completed monument in 1858 said, “I am very sorry to report the Scott Monument is a failure.  It is like the spire of a Gothic Church broken off and stuck in the ground.”  To ascend the statue, one has to climb through four series of tight circular stairwells.  The first set, with 90 steps, is the only one large enough for two people to pass.  The other three sets of steps have 60 steps and if someone is coming down, one has to back up and let them descend. By the last set, it’s so tight that I have to take off my small backpack and turn sideways.  Once on the top, I’m treated to gale force winds and some serious contemplation as to what might happen if my heart decides to stop ticking at this point.  On a good note, I might have dropped another five pounds from my waist just by climbing the monument.  Seriously, the view of Edinburgh is wonderful and with the wind, I was spared from the sound of bagpipes. 

I duck into the Waverly Street station to get a quick bite for lunch, as it was already 2 PM and I’m famished after climbing the monument.  Then, as I make my way back over to High Street, I pass a number of Indian restaurants and am bummed.  The best meals I’ve enjoyed in the UK have always been Indian, instead I had a salad from a fast food restaurant.

John Knox's So-called House
My next stop is what is referred to as John Knox’s House.  I quickly learn that Knox may never step foot in.  The house was built by a royal goldsmith and whose son was one of Queen Mary’s men who tried to restore her to the Scottish throne.  While he and his fellow conspirators were held up in the Edinburgh Castle, Knox made his final return to Edinburgh (where he died). If Knox did end up in this house, it would have been where he died.  Knox died not knowing if the Reformation of Scotland was going to succeed, but after the fall of the castle, when most of those supporting the queen were hanged for treason, the Reformation was secured.  This house was purchased by the Church of Scotland in the 19th Century because of a possible connection to Knox, and has been a museum since.  It is also one of the few homes remaining in the old part of Edinburgh that would have been there during Knox’s life.  One of the upstairs bedroom has a fairly risque painting on the ceiling.  I chuckled at the thought of John Knox, on his death bed, having to look up at it.

Knox Window
I'm sure he's rolling in his grave!

Lord Craig (right) and Clarinda's grave
I continue down the road, stopping next at the Canonsgate’s Church.  According to the agreement tying Scotland and England together is the stipulation that when in England, the royal family will worship with the Church of England and when in Scotland, they will worship with the Church of Scotland (Presbyterians).  Canonsgate is the church just up the road from their Hollyrod Castle and their place of worship when in Edinburgh.  The graveyard around the church houses the remains of a number of notable deceased from Edinburgh, including Adam Smith, the economist.  Even more interesting, to me, was the grave of Clarinda, the wife of the Honorable Lord Craig.  Although Craig has a nicer monument and a title, Clarinda is better known due to having had a relationship with the poet Robert Burns.  Nobody comes to see Craig’s grave anymore, but Clarinda is remembered in Burn’s poems and continues to have flowers brought to her grave.  I’m pretty sure Canonsgate isn’t the only church in Scotland that holds the remains of a lover of Bobbie Burns.  According to legend he got around.
Next stop is the Dunbar's Chase Gardens, just a few doors down from Canongate Church.  At the bottom of the hill (and just before you'd begin climbing Arthur's Throne, is the new Scottish Parliament building which stands in contrast to the older buildings in this section of town.  I walk around a few minutes before heading back to where I can catch a bus back to Ewan’s home.

Scottish Parliament 
It was the last day of school before the summer break.  I arrive in time to go with Ewan and Hilary to their daughter’s “Improv Show” for the end of the semester.  The youth, mostly late elementary school age, were given situations and had to act them out on stage or to guess what another was acting out.  There were lots of jokes about Theresa May and a demon (aren’t they the same thing, one student asked) and even an improv with Donald Trump as the butt of the joke.  My favorite line of the night came from Ewan’s daughter.  She was to sit on a park bench next to another person and “drive them away.”  She started her spiel by seductively asking “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”  The boy was soon running for his life.
Hilary has an engagement that evening, so after the play Ewan and I head to the Barrel House for dinner.  It’s a local establishment, within walking distance of their house.  Ewan and Hilary’s son works there when he’s home from college.  The evening turns out to be an international experience.  The proprietor is from Australian, but loves New Orleans cooking so they have Jambalaya, Gumbo and Southern Fried Chicken on the menu, along with a lot of American beers and bourbons.  I stick with Haddock, Chips and Peas and a bottle of a local IPA called “Loaf of Life.”  While eating, a very good Scottish country-rock band takes the stage.  Among the songs they played were Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher” along with the blues tune, “Train, Train.”  At least I’m not having to suffer more bagpipes!

Afterwards, I hit the sack early, humming “Train, Train.”  In the morning, I’m catching the train for Glasgow and then on to Oban, as I head to Iona for a week.


  1. really interesting and beautiful pictures. Always I dream to know Scotland !

  2. Hi Sage - well you certainly walked your legs off ... and those stairs up the Scott monument must have been somewhat heart worrying and puffing lungs ... but congratulations for doing it - an interesting view from the top. For a gloomy day you managed to walk between the showers ... and so glad you had a happy evening with Ewan and Hilary and other internationals away from the bagpipes at the Barrel House ... lovely tour thank you - cheers Hilary

  3. So glad to see you glad, friend Sage ... my son and wife and daughter and husband just returned from some high way or Scotland trail ... They returned sunburned and happy to returned to Canada ... But son and wife will leave on a 1 year travel across Canada and down to the States/ Mxico in September ... once a gypsy always a gypsy ... I guess ... Wishing you very happy travels my friend ... Love, cat.

  4. "Mexico" I meant to say ... I hate spelling mistakes ... Love, cat.

  5. I love seeing all the flowers. You packed a lot into one trip, didn't you?

  6. Sounds like a great day. I would love to climb a tower like that. Staircases, especially spiraling ones, have always fascinated me.

  7. I had to google up an image of the monument for Sir Walter Scott. Charles Dickens was right but I still think it is breathtaking from ground level. Can't imagine the view from the top.

  8. A full day with so many interesting things to see and do! I could probably lose hours in the Writer's Museum. The climb up the Scott's monument sounds interesting, but I'm not so sure about the tight squeeze near the top.

  9. It looks like you're having a terrific trip. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  10. I enjoyed seeing your photos and reading about the events of your trip. I don't think I would have liked climbing up Scott's monument. It was enough for me to hear you describe it. :)

  11. Great post Jeff! Great photos (even better when enlarged) and running narrative. I felt like I was on a tour. This really reminds me of your posts when your were traveling around Asia by train. Good stuff!

  12. Bag pipes don't actually need to be played with all the drones blasting out in full throat. They actually can be played inside, and are. Granted they haven't the the fine sound of the Uilleann pipes, but the bag pipe is a war wipe while the other is a inside instrument.

  13. I had to do a little looking around about the statue of David Hume, from what I have found his toe is so shiny because people rub it for luck and or to absorb some of his intelligence, not sure why that stuck in my head but there it is.

    You had an extremely busy second day, some of the views you saw had to be amazing, I'd sure like to see this one day.

  14. Oban! Yes. I was in Oban many years ago and loved it. In order to get there from London, we flew to Glasgow, took a coach, a ferry, a coach and another ferry! :-) I loved the people (we stayed in a little village) and the scenery. I read your previous post and this one. You're really enjoying yourself! :-)

    Greetings from London.

  15. Sure sounds like you had a good time. I loved seeing all the great pictures.

  16. I totally missed that you went to Scotland. Wow. I'm jealous. I enjoyed seeing the pictures and hearing about your day.

    Hume's has some big toes. lol

  17. Oh my where to begin, it's all so interesting and your photos and statues are great to see. I wonder are those toes that large in real life? They are funny indeed, and what a wonderful view out of one of the windows in the Writer's Museum, it's quite interesting. You appear to be having a great time just by your photo!

  18. What a quirky town Edinburgh seems to be. I've long wanted to visit Scotland, and your depiction of the city only reinforces that.

  19. Looks like you had a great tour of Edinburgh. I've never been to the top of the Scott Monument as i get really bad vertigo!

  20. You make me feel as if I'd been touring Edinburgh. Great photos and travelog. Loved Hume's shiny toes and I could hear those bagpipes quite clearly. The Tattoo's coming soon and the whole city will be filled with bagpipes and drums.

  21. I always enjoy seeing flowers, but had to laugh at the pigeon!
    Loving your posts.

    All the best Jan

  22. Suffer more bagpipes???!!! The skirl of bagpipes one of the grandest sounds in the world! They make my Scottish blood race! I really enjoyed reading your account of walking about Edinburgh, Sage!