On our second day in Edinburgh, our first stop was the Edinburgh Castle. We got there close to opening time so we could avoid the potential crowds (There were stanchions and other signs of long queues in the square outside). They had free tours all day so we found ourselves a tour that gave a little overview of the castle for 45 minutes. We learned that the castle was never taken outright, only by surrender or trickery. We did learn that when Robert the Bruce recaptured it, he had it burned to prevent it from being taken by the Brits again. Apparently, this was a common theme with castles captured by Robert the Bruce in Scotland.
After the tour, we wandered into the magnificent hall that was covered in swords and other paraphernalia of war. The woodworking is magnificent. They did have docents who talked to us about some of the swords and other weapons in the hall. We got to lift a claymore! (So heavy). Then we wandered into the beautiful war memorial that records all the deaths over the centuries in various conflicts. In this church-like hall, there are many books with the names of the deceased listed by rank and regiment. A secular holy place.
We also got to see the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny. My husband was very disappointed that he couldn’t make off with the Stone of Destiny for the British Museum. That would have been awkward to say the least. There were several museums dedicated to various military regiments since the Castle is still used for military purposes including a barracks (I think). What a wonderful place!
After the castle, we decided to wander the Royal Mile and get some lunch. Afterwards, we decided to check out a free Harry Potter walking tour of the area. The first third of it had us wandering around the cemetery that we had wandered in the day before. We got to see where J.K. Rowling got many of her character’s names. We saw McGonagall’s resting place; apparently, he was a notoriously bad poet! Even more thrilling was the tomb of Tom Riddell! Very cool. We also got to see the street that allegedly inspired Diagon Alley. It’s a curvy road with brightly colored buildings on it. Very picturesque.
After the tour, we ran over to the National Museum of Scotland before it closed. It’s a lovely building with a nice open atrium in the middle. We did a whirlwind tour of the place, checking out the T-rex bones and the Lewis Chess pieces. The chess pieces were a real treat for me since they are my favorite at the British Museum. I didn’t even know there were more pieces (though it seems obvious now!). It was neat to see that some parts of the museum collection were paired with thematically similar items rather than separating things by time or geography. I like seeing the connections between ideas in objects.
After our whirlwind tour, we decided to check out Lovecrumbs, a place our friend in Edinburgh recommended, for tea and cake. It’s a little cafe below from the castle and off the Grassmarket. On the way there, we passed a cat cafe and lots of used bookshops. Edinburgh is my kind of place. This cafe was amazing. The place has all sorts of tables including piano where you can sip your tea and work. I had violet tea and a tasty cake with neat flavor pairings. Sadly I don’t remember what cake I had but it was among the best cakes I’ve had in a long time.
For dinner that evening, we decided on a little place off the Royal Mile. I had goat cheese stuffed butternut squash, which was tasty. My husband’s dish included fried haggis balls that were simply out of this world.
Then it was time for another ghost tour. We had opted for the 10:20 tour because it was the latest tour…and we would check out the vaults. There are buildings coming off the hill that is the Royal Mile. We learned that these vaults were accidentally created when they built structures around them. The vaults were used for several businesses including a tannery and a tavern. But also all sorts of crime flourished here. And there are lots of reports of ghostly sightings and even possessions by tour guides and others.
The vaults are delightfully creepy. You have to descend several flights of stairs to get to them so you definitely feel cut off from the rest of the world. The lighting is fairly low and dark in some places. You can believe anything is possible here. But the best part of the tour? We were the last group so we got to blow out the candles. Whee! So thrilling!
That’s all for now!