Today we did not have any class tours, but instead were given the opportunity to branch out and explore this awesome city! Dr. Griffis took several of my classmates on a trip to the Dunfermline Carnegie Library; Dunfermline was Andrew Carnegie’s birthplace, and its library was the first Carnegie library. Unfortunately, the library is now closed, and is undergoing renovations to be turned into a museum and art gallery, but Dr. Griffis got special permission for our class to tour the building and to then see the town itself. Though I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, I also wanted to explore Edinburgh – I was not expecting to fall in love with this city, but I have. In the end, I decided to stay behind with Jessica.
One of Jessica’s cousins, Michelle, has been traveling around Europe while we’ve been here, and she came to Edinburgh last night. So Jessica and I met up with her this morning.Though I have to say, I was concerned today would be disastrous – I have a heart condition called Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia (PSVT for short). I’ve had it my entire life, and was officially diagnosed when I was 7. Though my episodes are not particularly dangerous or life-threatening by any means, they are temporary debilitating and episodes can last a matter of minutes or over 24 hours. As Forrest Gump would say, “Ya never know what you’re gonna get.” So when I woke up early this morning having an episode, I was fearful that my day of fun had been ruined. Luckily, the episode was a short one, and I was soon up and ready to go!
Jessica, Michelle, and I headed into town and walked straight up to Edinburgh Castle. The castle sits atop a rock that was formed
from an ancient volcano, similar to the origins of Arthur’s Seat. The rock has been occupied since the 2nd century AD, and there has been a castle there since the 12th century. In the 1600’s, the castle, due to its excellent natural defenses, became heavily used as a military fortress, and many of its buildings were destroyed, though later rebuilt.
One notable exception from the castle’s destruction is St. Margaret’s Chapel, which is still standing from the 12th century, and is the oldest building in Edinburgh. Though the chapel is small, it is still used for weddings and ceremonies today.
We toured the castle grounds for several hours, and saw all of its main attractions – the One O’Clock Gun was a bit startling! Every day at 1:00pm the master gunner fires off the cannon, and the girls and I wanted to see this. So right before 1, we went to the area and found a bench… all of a sudden, right in the middle of our conversation, BOOM!! I think all 3 of us jumped a foot – guess we should have paid more attention to the time! We also toured the various museums in the compound, including the National War Museum and the Dragoon Guards Regimental Museum, which were excellently done. The military prisons where POWs were housed were both fascinating but also a bit spooky to set foot in. But the crown jewel of the day (no pun intended) had to be seeing the Crown Jewels of Scotland, also called the Honours of Scotland. I highly encourage you to click on the link and read more about their interesting history – they are the oldest regalia from the British Isles, and the crown, sword, and sceptre date back to the 1400 and 1500’s.
I hated to say goodbye to the castle, but we soon walked back down the Royal Mile and began to shop, shop, shop! Obviously the most popular selling items are tartans and other clan-related regalia. I treated myself to a (
very expensive!) Harris Tweed bag. (Ignore what’s in the parentheses, Mom). Harris Tweed items are handwoven in Scotland from pure wool, and their trademark is the oldest registered trademark in the UK. Fun Fact: Harris Tweed is actually protected by an Act of Parliament – the Harris Tweed Act from 1993,which provides strict outlines for the conditions in which the cloth is made. See? I wasn’t just buying a satchel – but also supporting these true Scottish artisans. At least that’s what I’ll tell myself when my bank account is mysteriously empty once I return home…
The girls and I decided to stop for lunch at Deacon Brodies Tavern, which is named after William Brodie, who was one of the inspirations behind Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. By day, Brodie was an upstanding citizen who even served on the town council, but by night he turned to drinking and gambling; this escalated until Brodie turned towards burglary to settle his debts, and eventually he was caught and hanged. I’m happy to say that there was no mischief about in the
tavern, and we all had a lovely lunch. AND, you all would be so proud of me – I, Taylor Christine Atkinson, quite possibly one of the pickier eaters on the planet, tried HAGGIS! And… brace yourselves… I actually LIKED IT! We ordered a dish called “Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties,” which turned out to be haggis, turnips, and potatoes, and all very tasty.
Refueled from lunch, we decided to keep shopping. One store actually makes some of their items in the lower level of the building, and you can go down there to see the process yourself. The machines were busy, busy, busy whirring away making two different clan’s regalia.
Before we knew it, it was pouring rain down on the Royal Mile, so we ducked into an ice cream shop for a break and a treat! Then Jessica and I introduced Michelle to Primark, which is pretty much the British version of our Forever 21 stores, aka cheap clothing (both in price and in quality!) It wasn’t long until it was dinnertime and we decided to eat downtown before heading back to the dorms. By this time we had walked down the Mile a bit, and I just happened to look up and see that we were standing in front of The World’s End pub. Who cares, right? It’s just another pub. WRONG!
See, I have a favorite book series – it’s called Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. (It’s actually being turned into a TV series and will debut on Starz on August 9th). Though impossible to summarize, I’ll try: It’s a bit of a mix of historical fiction, romance, and sci-fi, and follows the British nurse Claire, who served in World War II, with her husband Frank. After the war, while on a second honeymoon in Inverness, Scotland, Claire visits the standing stones at Craigh na Dun, where she time travels through the stones and winds up back in 18th century Scotland. There she meets a man named Jamie, they fall in love, yada yada yada, you can see where this is going… At any rate, the series is phenomenal – GO READ IT!
Sorry for the diversion- The World’s End pub is mentioned several times in the Outlander books, so I was thrilled to be there. The
pub is small on the inside, but their cider on tap was delicious, as was the food! My favorite part was the Rules of the Tavern conveniently posted above my head, reading “No urchins, vagabonds, thieves, or sellers of seditious tracts… All claymores, battleaxes, swords, and flintlock pistols to be left at the door.” Good thing I left my sword back at the dorms!
Despite the rocky start, today turned out to be a truly awesome day! Though I would have loved to have seen Dunfermline, I knew I would have regretted spending more time in Edinburgh and experiencing everything it has to offer. I’m unbelievably excited that Jessica, Laura Douglass, and I are flying out in the morning for Ireland, but I’m also sad to be leaving Edinburgh behind; I’ve always thought that London was the only city for me, but Edinburgh has changed that sentiment! It is the best of both worlds, providing all the history and benefits of a large city, but with a bit slower pace and beautiful scenery as an added bonus.
I will miss it.
Off to re-pack for Dublin – I must say, I’m getting a bit tired of living out of suitcases.
Until next time,