Scotland in 10 Days
Story and Photography by Sharon Martin
Day one – Arrival at the Airport
“Sittin’ in or carryin’ out?”
What? How cute is that. We’re sittin’ in. I picked up my order, Cheers…(warm smile)…I love Scotland, and I haven’t left the airport yet.
Upon our arrival to the tiny, quaint, and very friendly airport, we were welcomed with open arms to the country…by security no less. They asked about our plans, and seem genuinely interested and delighted with everything we said.
On our first impression, Edinburgh was the color gray. The buildings were gray. The sky was gray—which cast an ambience of mystery and romance over the city.
Our Bed and Breakfast
After 36 hours of traveling, we arrived at our B&B guest house: an 1870’s three-story Victorian structure. Our cottage sat at the back of the house with a separate entrance, kitchen, sitting room, and a bedroom with two soft, enticing beds…
We awoke famished.
And so our hunt (with sword-and-dagger) for Scottish food began. After wandering around Prince street for half an hour, we finally accepted defeat and had Bar-B-Q and fries.
Back at our cottage, I reflected in a cozy green armchair that overlooked a quiet courtyard. I gazed out the window as the sunny day lapsed into a chilly, misty scene. Sigh. In Scotland, there truly are four seasons in a day…
A Traditional Scottish Breakfast
In the morning we headed down our little path to breakfast in the main house. We were asked for our choices of everything.
Like the English breakfast, the Scottish breakfast was very hardy: eggs cooked to order, sausage and ham, marmalades, toast, scones, and porridge (oatmeal) with hot coffee and tea. I had my own pot of coffee; how do they keep it so hot? And—oh!—that marmalade in those small white bowls with tiny spoons is so classy. Where are the scones? How can I get my hands on one? They keep offering me toast…
Day two – Exploring on my Own
Ready to take on the day, I walked a few blocks to catch the bus. I could pay 1.50£ for a round trip ticket or 3.50£ for the whole day. I decided to pay for a round trip. This was far easier than trying to park my car in town…I had a hard enough time just trying to park it in front of the B&B!
I got off at North Bridge, which was just one street over from the famous Royal Mile. This was a good location for the main sights I wanted to see. To come back, I simply took the bus directly across the street from where this one dropped me off. Simple enough.
I soaked it all in as I strolled down the Royal Mile—the shops, the Woolen Mill, the bagpipe player, the people, the ancient buildings, the Starbucks. The Starbucks? Never on an ancient street in an ancient city would I stop in a Starbucks and get a souvenir cup.
(That Starbucks mug looks great in my bookcase.)
St. Giles Cathedral
On the way to the Castle at the end of the Royal Mile, I stopped at Giles Cathedral. The outside of the cathedral was plain and stoic, but the inside was…plain and stoic with stone arches. I found out later that John Knox had preached there.
Finally I made it to the Castle and purchased tickets. Wow, that was expensive. Maybe I should have purchased a Heritage Pass. The clerk remarked on my southern accent.
A little research on the history of this place beforehand would have made my visit more interesting. Also, his Scottish accent made the tour a little hard to understand. He must be a Southern Scott.
The Great Hall
However, I did enjoy the sword demonstration. I was handed a sword so I could see how heavy they were. Just wielding it would have required great strength. Every part of the medieval sword was effective in combat. The handle was used for head bashing—yeah.The chainmail used for protection was even more amazing; I could barely lift it. Makes me think of Gimli in Lord of the Rings. He had issues with it too.
View From Edinburgh Castle
Housed within the Castle was the Stone of Scone (yes, scone) or Stone of Destiny. And yes, we are talking about a rock…a very old rock. The story of this stone began in 594 with St. Columba, a catholic missionary, who carried it around as an altar; for centuries Scottish Kings were crowned on it.
This way to the Stone of Scone
In 1296, it was stolen from Scone Abbey and placed in Westminster Abbey. In 1950 on Christmas Day, four Glasgow University students stole it from Westminster Abbey. It was returned to Westminster Abbey, then eventually to Scotland on loan, and is currently on display at the Castle.
I recalled this was not the first time in history that rocks held such significance for a nation. The Israelites would set up a rock as a memorial and altar to God.
St. Margaret’s Chapel
All in all my favorite part of the Castle was the tiny St. Margaret’s Chapel, after Princess Margaret. The romanesque structure dates back to the 12th century. Robert the Bruce spared this building when he destroyed the Castle in 1314. It is the oldest surviving building, and the most charming. Only a few people can fit in at one time.
At the end of the second day exploring, I walked back to the B&B guest house and passed a small family-run antique store. I was compelled to go in…
The Royalest of Miles
The treasure hunt was on as I fumbled through half-tarnished silver tea pots, old Edinburgh Prints, and spoons featuring the national flower. The older gentleman, filling in for his son, was great fun and joined me in my search. I found a silver coffee pot; he found a creamer. Together we found a couple of thistle spoons (one said Edinburgh). A bit of easy going negotiation followed.
I spent a little under $50—not bad for such gems. A little polish (don’t tell my husband I took his saxophone cleaner), and my treasures looked better than new…or is that better than old?
Our second day came to a close as we went for Mexican food. Hmmm…