Edinburgh-Auld Reekie

Arrival in Edinburgh was pretty smooth. I think we were in the air for forty-five minutes. The stewards had just enough time to run down the aisle attempting to sell overpriced drinks and stale packaged food before they raced back with the bags to collect rubbish. I don’t know why they bothered. 

Anyway, we arrived all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with loads of daylight hours in front of us. We located the bus, negotiated a return ticket and made our way to St Andrews Square, the final stop and the centre of the city. Our apartment was just a ten-minute walk away.  

I had done a bit of a Google Earth tour and was not really confident. My main reason for choosing the location was its proximity to General Register House on Prince’s Street which was where we were booked to go and do some Family History research. The streets look a bit similar and so too do the houses. I was not sure how salubrious the area might be.

Turns out, Hart Street is rather desirable. Five minutes from Prince’s Street, a stone’s throw from Multrees Walk and St James Quarter, we were at the heart of the new face of Edinburgh. In fact, the RIBA’s 2016 House of the Year -The Murphy House- was right across the road. And despite having to walk up 45 steps on a spiral staircase, our apartment was just lovely.

Of course, one must eat and although Conan Doyle’s was booked out, seriously a pub, booked out, we were encouraged to patronise the one up the road, the Theatre Royal, where a delightful Australian woman, whose heat had been broken by a Scotsman and was now bound for home entertained and attended to our culinary needs. 

It was daylight when we went in to the pub to eat so we were so surprised when we ventured back on to the street heading for home and a fog had descended and made the place so dark and eerie. We popped into Tesco and gathered some survival food for the next couple of days -wine, coffee and chocolate.

The following day we cancelled our Sandeman tour because when we first got up it was raining and cold. Then we changed our minds. It’s Scotland. It will be wet and cold. We would have tough it out. The meeting Point was in the middle of the Royal Mile at 11am. Google said 15minutes. The thing is Google gives a 2D map and never suggests or even hints that the 1287m is ALL uphill. We arrived, met Calum, struggled to regulate our body temperature after the egregious struggle up hill. The rain had stopped and the temperature had risen. This place is impossible to dress for!!!

Calum with the Mercat Monument behind him.

It was a substantial group of people. Our guide, Calum, was a local whose father had been a Presbyterian Minister, had some extraordinary stories to tell. We began at the Mercat or Market Square where he told gruesome tales of how misdemeanours were punished during the Middle Ages – tongue nailed to the wooden structure for bad mouthing men or other forms of authority, hands nailed for theft and even smaller male appendages for carnal knowledge. You need to remember how cold it is in Scotland. We got to know why the Scots spit on the heart of Edinburgh (it was the front of a tax office and jail) how the Grassmarket was the seat of executions, particularly witches -around two thousand of them. He told the tale of one woman who escaped death Maggie Dickson who was hanged but woke up in her coffin during her wake. She was dragged back to be hanged again but a lawyer presented her death certificate and the judge agreed she couldn’t be tried so she went on to have a long life. The tales of women were most interesting. Jenny Geddes for instance who threw a stool at the dean in St Giles. Great stories and wonderful locations, including the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the story of Greyfrier’s Dog. All in all, a wonderful tour. 

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