Today we were given a gift – a warm, sunny day in Edinburgh. Unlike the mixed bag of weather conditions the previous days, blue skies prevailed – certainly not the dreadful weather picture I described in my earlier post where Sir William Wallace is drenched in the Highlands (see British Weather-Hollywood Style).
We were lucky with the weather, but not so sure about our luck of getting into Edinburgh this morning.
As we headed into the Port of Rosyth, the Captain came on over the loud speaker with an announcement that (1) a barge was blocking our way into port and (2) a cargo ship was parked in our spot, and he did not know if or when we would be able to dock. Well, you can imagine the rumbling which began to arise among the passengers. This was the highlight of the tour for some folks, especially those who spent big bucks on Edinburgh Tattoo tickets. Fortunately, the ship did manage to pull alongside the dock a short time later, and we were soon on our way into the city, so it all worked out. Whew!
Our must-see attraction for Edinburgh was Edinburgh Castle followed by a walk down the Royal Mile. We did not choose an excursion or organized tour for this port, but simply found 2 taxis for the 5 of us to Edinburgh Castle at a flat rate of £35 each. There were taxis lined up at the port terminal building, and we could see them clearly from our balcony cabin. In order to get to the taxis, you might think – ok, it’s just a short walk from the ship to the terminal along the perimeter of this cargo port. No, not a chance. Due to insurance reasons, most likely, everyone on the ship was required take the free shuttle from the gangway to the terminal, just a stone’s throw away. Silly, really. It was essentially the same as walking to my neighbor’s house, three doors down.
Once in Edinburgh, the taxis dropped us off just a short distance downhill from the castle on the Royal Mile. We had purchased the Explorer passes from Discover Scotland in advance of the cruise and simply walked in through the Fast Pass gate. Not a big deal with the small crowd when we arrived early in the morning, but a real timesaver if arriving later when the queues become large. We joined a guided tour through a portion of the castle and explored the rest on our own. The views over the city and distant hills are absolutely stunning!
Once we had our fill of the castle, we continued downhill along the Royal Mile toward the Palace of Holyroodhouse, stopping for lunch at a Scottish tavern, Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. We were seated upstairs, which was fortunate because the downstairs was crowded and very warm & stuffy. There was a nice breeze and a roomy feel upstairs, and it was a great place to refuel with local favorites, like chicken pie, vegetable tort, bangers & mash, and we shared a plate of Haggis, which was actually quite tasty considering the contents of the dish and the manner in which it is prepared – minced meat and oatmeal cooked in sheep’s bladder. Yikes!
Sir William and Me
We had our fill, left the restaurant and found ourselves in a large crowd of festival goers outside. It was the week in which “The Fringe” was happening, and the streets were mobbed with performers, photo ops, including Sir William Wallace (my personal favorite), Yoda, and lots of people passing out ads of the fun things going on around town.
We made our way down the Mile to the very end, where we finally arrived at Holyroodhouse.
We didn’t go into the palace, but simply peeked through the gate and took photos of this stately retreat for the Queen. We turned around and started back up the hill, bought a few gifts, and when our legs couldn’t take another step, grabbed a 5-person taxi parked at a hotel and went directly back to the ship. The cost was £35 – a very economical and convenient ride when split among the five of us. We loved the picturesque streets and beauty of Edinburgh, and the Castle was magnificent. Next time, though, I might consider taking a HoHo bus tour around the city, similar to what we did in Dublin, in order to see more in a short amount of time.
The reader is probably wondering – did we see the big annual Scotland military extravaganza: The Edinburgh Tattoo? No, we did not. Even though it is a must-see event recommended by many, we chose not to attend. At $199 per person for the ship excursion, it was more than we wanted to spend. Even though we could have easily saved a lot of money by purchasing tickets to the show on our own, stories of cold, torrential downpours during the performances were deal breakers for us, as well as the late night crowds and transportation issues if we were to go on our own. Of course, if we had known the weather would be as pleasant as it actually turned out, we may have re-considered.