Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Edinburgh Castle, 5.10.05

Posted by Lisa Hill on January 22, 2006

 There was a much better guide called Bart on the Edinburgh Tour, who took us through New Town but along a different route to the earlier tour. We got off the bus at Edinburgh Castle, home of the Tattoo that we watch every year on TV at home. We were surprised to find that it is a much smaller area than it seems on screen, and that the ground slopes, which must make it all the harder to do some of the exploits we have seen…
 They say that people need hours and hours to see all that the castle has to offer, but too bad: we scampered round and took the panoramic shots & the shots with the the famous 15th century gun Mons Meg; checked out the Second Best Crown Jewels (only pearls!); tried again to understand the intricate history of the Marys and the Jameses and Civil War and the Restoration, and then had afternoon tea in the cafe, served by a vivacious young Aussie from Byron Bay!
Obviously there is much more to see, and we didn’t get to the war museum, but we managed to see the tiny room where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to the boy who was to become King James VI of Scotland and, after Queen Elizabeth I, James 1 of England. We also had a quick look at St Margaret’s Chapel, a tiny Norman building which – the oldest building in Edinburgh – has remained intact for more than 900 years – surviving all manner of sieges and bombardments including the hordes of tourists who descend on the Castle every year, (apparently second in visitor numbers only to the Tower of London).
I think my favourite part was the cemetery for dogs owned by soldiers stationed at the castle. There, in a special garden set aside just for the graveyard, are a dozen or so little gravestones for dogs buried there. This is the kind of British eccentricity I like.
 By the time we’d tramped all over the castle we were in need of a rest, but the Scottish Heritage Whisky Centre was conveniently close at hand. After a welcoming sample glass (only a blend), we got on on a conveyor belt of seats made from barrels and travelled around 300 years of whisky making dioramas. The best part, however, was afterwards when we went into the bar and tried some 12 and 18 year old single malt Islay whiskies – for comparative purposes only of course!
 For our last night in Edinburgh we dined at a fine restaurant called La Garrigue, just a stone’s throw from the hotel in Jeffrey Street. We had a quiet table in a little room off the main dining room, with a view of the courtyard. The restaurant specialises in cuisine from the Languedoc region, and the menu includes scrumptious dishes like a cassoulet of rabbit with juniper berries and a confit of duck. It was an excellent meal and the service was great.

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