Our first day in Edinburgh – after the fateful “James McAvoy” airport gaff (if you haven’t seen his air traffic control SNL skit, please do so now) – consisted of getting familiar with our immediate surroundings. Like any good cat in a new home we started small. Our apartment is superbly located about a block away from the Royal Mile – the long stretch of hill that leads up to the Edinburgh Castle at the top and ends at the HolyroodHouse Palace and Holyrood Park at the bottom. We figured with our jet lag a straight line in both directions was a fairly safe bet so off we went after a wee nap.
The Royal Mile is an interested mix of truly beautiful architecture and shop fronts to typical (i.e. chotchkie) tourist shops. Some at least had interesting names “Great Scot!”, “Really Scottish”, while others left a bit to be desired in the creativity department “I heart Scotland” and ‘Taste of Scotland’. They all seemed to be shilling the same items – tartan, cashmere, and tweed; truly a college professor’s fever dream. There were also several street performers ranging from bagpipers to the awful bubble-blowers. Sure these bubbles are pretty to look at from a distance but when they pop they turn into this nasty mucus mess – Zeke has since dubbed them the “yucky bubbles” after getting smacked in the face with a particularly large one (and dutifully wiping his face and hands off on my pants afterwards). To quote a local who was trying to enjoy the sunshine and cuppa outside: “Oh GOD, it’s CONSTANT!” (Please read in a Scottish accent, thanks). Same dude, same.
We made our way up to the Castle for our first views over the city and then all the way back down to the Palace of HolyroodHouse where we first caught sight of Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano that is a popular hiking destination. Denver must be rubbing off on us because we immediately made plans to make use of our jet lagged induced early wake up the following morning to beat the crowds and see the top for ourselves.
HolyroodHouse itself has a nicely laid out tour of the Palace which serves as the royal family’s Scottish residence. It’s probably most famous (at least in my mind) for being the home of Mary Queen of Scots during her reign. The most enjoyable part of the tour is of the gardens and abbey ruins which date back to 1128 but are still a prominent fixture on the grounds.
We were thoroughly wiped out after this and found a cute spot for fish and chips (Zeke’s first, with mild approval) and went back to our flat for a hoped for good nights rest.
Jet lag is such a B. While we all slept fine we had far too little of it. Waking up at 4 AM to the sounds of birds chirping out your window as the sun was already rising is lovely…but it quickly wears off when one can only have one cup of actual coffee per day. We decided to make the best of it and continued with our plan to hike up to Arthur’s Seat. Edinburgh is, apparently, not a very early rising town because by the time we were out the door around 730 AM there were only a handful of people and cars on the typically bustling Royal Mile. Fine by us!
There were slightly more hikers on the trail but we mostly had it to ourselves. Adam had a new experience of carrying Zeke this time around and we made quite good time. The trails are gorgeous this time of year completely lined with gorse bushes which are vibrantly yellow. Once you start the final ascent the trail shifts abruptly into red volcanic rock, the last reminders of what Arthur’s Seat used to be. It was quite windy at the top with minimal flat spaces so we had our look and then had to retreat back down the summit to let Zeke rest his legs and have some space to run around.
As always the way down was much quicker but no less beautiful as your view is then dominated by the sea and cityscape of Edinburgh. Truly a highlight of our stay here and an excellent way to work up an appetite for something I’d been wanting to try from the start: a full Scottish breakfast complete with haggis!
Don’t let the naysayers or bad rap convince you – it’s actually quite yum, ridiculously rich and tastes very similar to chop liver. Everyone likes chop liver, right?