A Day Out in Edinburgh

On Wednesday we drove into Edinburgh, we don’t go into the centre all that often, mainly because the more interesting wee independent shops are elsewhere. I really wish I had my pedometer with me to see how many steps I walked because we were all over the place in a big circle from Meadowbank to George Street where we had lunch at Cafe Andaluz. Then we walked on to Lothian Road the West Port and the Grassmarket and back to Meadowbank where we had parked the car. Click on the links if you want to have an armchair trip to Edinburgh with me. The castle just looms up on you as you can see from the photo below. It does seem incongruous when you’re out shopping but the rock and castle were there long before anything else.

acastle 1

acastle 2

The Christmas lights in George Street are truly hideous. I didn’t even bother to take a photo but I found the one below online. Oh for the days when we just had ordinary coloured light bulbs strung from side to side across streets in various patterns!

hristmas lights

I hate these modern LED lights, the light they give out is so cold and brash looking. You can see photos of Princes Street Christmas lights here. I noticed that Google and umpteen other places on the internet think that it is Princess Street – it isn’t!

We were aiming for the second-hand book-shops around the West Port and Grassmarket area, we hadn’t been to those ones for ages so I had high hopes of finding some goodies. But as ever when you have high hopes you tend to end up disappointed and I only ended up getting a couple of J.I.M. Stewart (Michael Innes) paperbacks.

From West Port we made for the Grassmarket and by then it was quite dark and the tree lights were on. This is the old town and in our younger days we used to frequent this area. As you can see Edinburgh Castle towers over this area too.

acastle 3

alights 1
It was quite atmospheric in the gloaming.

alights 2

Below is Victoria Street, a steep one which I could have been doing without but Edinburgh is very hilly and multi-layered, so you just have to get on with it. Just above the top set of lights there is actually another street but you can’t really see it in this photo.

alights 3

You can see more images of The Grassmarket here.

From there we went on down The Royal Mile which had absolutely no signs of Christmas about it, it seemed appropriate for that very Presbyterian stronghold. You can read about that area here.

By then I was fairly exhausted but we still had a long way to go to get to the car, all the way down the Royal Mile (High Street) past the Scottish Parliament building, yes – it IS a bit of a mish-mash!

We walked on past Queen Mary’s bath house. I love that wee building, it’s like something out of a fairy tale.

At last we reached the car and drove on to Morningside to visit one of our ‘boys’ and his lady. By this time it was getting on for dinner time and we were lucky to find the Oxfam book shop still open. I was so lucky to find three Dorothy Dunnet hardbacks that I had been looking for – and a third of the price of the others I had seen and decided against earlier.

We’re at that stage in life when we really don’t need or want anything in the way of expensive presents. It’s going to be a very bookish Christmas for us both.

I hope you enjoyed that armchair trip around Edinburgh. It’s the best way to do it really, a lot less tiring anyway!

Edinburgh with Evee

What a great day Evee and I had for our first ever get together in Edinburgh, a blue sky and shiny bright sunshine – what more can you ask for! Well I suppose we could have done with out that wind which cuts through your bones – but it would hardly be Edinburgh without that.

I think Evee looks great in this one I took with Edinburgh Castle in the background. It’s nothing to do with my photography ability I can assure you and I know that in the photo she took of me I will look like a complete dingbat, because I always do in photos, and that will be no slur on Evee’s photography abilities!


The only thing missing was all the other bloggers and commentors and yes – even you lurkers, you know who you are! Mind you we would have needed more than one day for us all to get to know one another, and that transporter from Star Trek, if not Samantha’s nose from Bewitched.

The photo below was taken from the top of Nelson’s Monument on Calton Hill. On the left you can see Holyrood Palace, it’s that building with all the spires and turrets like a fairy tale castle. The Scottish Parliament building is in there too, in the middle rear, with Dynamic Earth the white spiky one at the right. We still haven’t found time to walk up Arthur’s Seat, the hill in the background.

Holyrood Palace

I took the one below from Calton Hill too and it’s of Waterloo Place with Princes Street beyond and Edinburgh Castle in the background.

Princes Street, Edinburgh

We both took loads of photos but it’s a short blogpost tonight because all that rushing about early in the morning and walking around Auld Reekie has tired me out so these are just a couple of wee tasters to be getting on with. More soon.

More Edinburgh

From Rose Street we strolled down to Princes Street which was fairly mobbed but I managed to get a few photographs from there.

This is just the usual view of the castle. I suppose when you’ve seen something from an early age then it’s inevitable that you get blase about it. I was on an airport bus years ago coming back from Germany and there were tourists on the bus whose jaws actually dropped when they saw the castle in the middle of the city.

I like these buildings, I’m not even sure what they are but they always remind me of a German fairy tale. You can see them better when the trees have lost their leaves.

This one is of a part of the National Gallery of Scotland.

Then we walked back to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, taking the route through the city instead of the scenic way. The park land in front of the gallery has been landscaped by the American architect Charles Jencks and looks really lovely.

The autumn trees looked really beautiful reflected in the water.

New Year 2010

Well it turned out to be just about the quietest Hogmanay that we have ever had. For the first time since we had kids we ended up spending it on our own. Usually our house is full of young people as our boys have always had their friends spending the time here and we come down to a lot of half dead bodies in the morning, which has a charm all of its own.

This year however, as they have both finished university and found good jobs, one has his own place with his girlfriend and the other is planning to move out very soon, they were both doing their own things, very strange.

We had a bit of a drink together and after a short time decided just to go to bed as the pavements are still too dangerous for gallivanting about on even in the daylight, very icy.

We were all strung out along the east coast of Scotland from Dundee to Burntisland. From Burntisland beach you can see the firework display which they have on Edinburgh Castle battlements. At midnight all the ships in the Firth of Forth hooted their horns. Everyone ended up back at home base in Kirkcaldy for the New Year meal. I know that as the cook I shouldn’t boast but I must admit that it was a great leg of lamb.

The cooking reminded me that in my family home it was the tradition to have a huge meal on Hogmanay. Whilst I was doing all the house cleaning, my mum was busy cooking an enormous steak pie with all the trimmings which was ready to be served around about 10.30/11.00 at night on Hogmanay. The idea was that if the men got a big stodgy meal inside them, then they wouldn’t get so drunk after midnight – they needed something to line their stomachs.

Notice that I said ‘the men’, because when I was a youngster very few women drank alcohol. A very small sherry would be the most that any of them would have. I can’t help thinking that things would be much better if we went back to that way of behaving. I’ve seen some terrible mother role models for young girls recently. Why would any woman want their children to see them paralytically sozzled? Mind you, it isn’t any better if fathers end up like that too.

Well that’s me got my first blog moan of the year over with and my last post about this new year.

Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser

This book was first published in 1969 and at 667 pages the sheer thickness of it could be a wee bit off putting to anyone with lots of books in the ‘to be read pile’. However, if you are at all interested in Mary Stuart then this is a must read for you.

You can easily tell that Antonia Fraser has a real passion for Mary and she obviously did a fantastic amount of research on her subject, which I suspect was a real treat for her.

Mary Stuart has always been a familiar tragic figure to me. My favourite doll as a teeny wee girl was that well known one of her dressed in a black velvet gown with a lace cloak. When I was told of her sorry tale and ghastly end – well, you couldn’t not love the idea of her.

So it was inevitable that I was going to read this book sometime.The book won the James Tait Memorial Prize and although it was written so long ago, it has never been bettered.

Although the book is packed with historical detail, it never becomes dry or boring as Antonia Fraser has a wonderful free-flowing way with words. Despite the fact that she is so keen on her subject, it hasn’t blinded her to the fact that Mary was very far from being perfect. It’s a real pity that she didn’t take a leaf out of her cousin Elizabeth’s book and steer clear of marriage altogether.

It seems that wherever you live in Scotland, you will be close to a castle or palace with links to Mary Stuart.

She was born in Linlithgow Palace in 1542. The palace is just a shell now as it caught fire in 1746, but it must have been wonderful in its day.

Linlithgow Palace and Loch in late evening

Her first marriage to the dauphin ended when he died of complications from an ear infection a month before his 17th birthday. So at the age of 18, Mary sailed for Scotland after 13 years in France.

Considering that she was a Roman Catholic queen in a Presbyterian country, things went rather well for her. She was greeted by enthusiastic crowds and she didn’t disappoint them.

Her choice of husbands left a lot to be desired and brought nothing but trouble for her.

She gave birth to her only child James VI in Edinburgh Castle.

Castle lit up at sunset - Explored

She spent a large part of her life being held captive in various
castles, and managed to escape from a few of them. Lochleven Castle being the most famous escape.

Loch Leven Castle

She loved to spend time at Falkland Palace in Fife, where she could ride and fly her falcons. This palace is well worth a visit, there is plenty to see, it has lovely gardens and the village of Falkland itself is worth a walk round. For those who are a bit more energetic, take time to walk up the East and West Lomonds, to get a great view.

Falkland Palace in Spring