Tracing Bloody Mary

My mom enthused me about the beautiful city of Edinburgh in Scotland for a long time and I finally shared her enthusiasm. We decided to plan a city trip for vacation together. For a preparation we watched several documentaries on TV as well as the TV series “Reig” and “Outlander”. Since I am quite interested in history and the life of Mary Queen of Scots (Bloody Mary), I really asked myself why it wasn´t ME who had the idea! In May 2015 our journey started: one week in Edinburgh!

I didn´t intend to stay in the city for the entire time. Therefore I searched the internet for pieces of advice and suggestions. So I booked a day trip with Rabbie´s Tours, who offer several half day and day trips. I really recommend them! You travel in small groups (max. 16 people). We decided for the Da Vinci´ trip (based on the movie The DaVinci Code). The trip includes filming locations  and other historical marks on the way through the hills of the Scottish Borders. Our first stop was at Scotts View, the favorite place of Sir William Scott.

We proceeded towards the small town of Melrose and to “Melrose Abbey” where the heart of Robert the Bruce is said to be buried. He was a hero of the Scottish freedom fighters in the independence war of the 13th century.

After lunch we travelled on the windy roads to the town of Roslin and Rosslyn Chapel. My imagination of the chapel was a different one. I thought it would be bigger. The chapel was quite small but very fascinating! The variety of mysterious sandstone figures spread throughout the entire chapel was impressive!

I enjoyed the day even if I was suffering from car sickness. Scottish roads can be tough. Our driver Bob knew the roads very well and he was driving fast! I told him about my sickness and he allowed me to sit next to him in the front. But the price was enduring teasing. It was funny so I didn´t know whether to laugh or to cry. He was a great guy and he found a victim for the day, a helpless victim feeling too sick to strike back.
The next day Mom and I climbed up to “Carlton Hill”. From here we had a fantastic view over the entire city!

Another highlight was the visit of “Edinburgh Castle”. We waited for one hour to get our ticket and it wasn´t even tourist season! The former dungeon was very interesting, just like you know from TV. You need at least 2-3 hours to see everything, every museum.

Another Must See was the royal Palace Holyrood Palace. It is situated on the other end of the Royal Mile, opposite to Edinburgh Castle. Mary Stuart lived here. Her private secretary David Riccio was murdered in her bedroom, just where I stood. I recommend the audio tour through the palace. I skipped some parts because otherwise the explanations about architecture, furniture etc. would have lasted much longer. But I liked the stories about the kings and queens who lived here. I absolutely enjoyed this place.
Right next to the palace is “Holyrood Abbey”. This abbey was built in the 12th century. During the 15th century it was turned into a royal guest house. The ruins are overwhelmingly beautiful.

On our way to Holyrood Palace we passed the Scottish Parliament – a modern building right opposite the old, patriarchal palace.

Trip Advisor recommended Clarinda´s Tearoom”. We found it right away (almost at the end of the Royal Mile towards the Palace). The tiny café was filled with old teacups and photographs. This was a very nice little Café.  There was a countless number of Scottish pastries and a variety of hot meal. I decided for “Shepards Pie” (ground beef with mashed potato and peas) and peppermint tea. I was feeling silly and created an artistic tea leaves tower.

There are several possibilities to book city walks in different languages. They are led by students. We were interested in the darker side of Edinburgh´s life in the catacombs of South Bridge. We learned about former torture methods and about life in general in the 18th century. Today you can only see one of the vaults outside the bridge. All the other chambers are inside the bridge and underground. We entered the vaults in complete darkness. Only a few candles lit our way. It was very mystical. We heard scary stories about alleged ghosts living here and about the usage of the vaults.

Before we left the city we visited “Greyfriar´s Kirkyard” an old graveyard from the 16th century where famous people (poets etc.) were buried. The place became famous because of a different incident. John Gray lived in the 19th century, he was a night watch. He bought himself a dog so that he wouldn´t be on his own in the dark. The dog was a Skye Bobby. Together they were inseparable. When John died, the dog did not leave his grave and stayed by his side for 14 years until his own death. The dog has his own little grave, commemorating his loyalty. A bronze statute was built outside the graveyard, just opposite the entrance. It is said that the person rubbing the dog´s nose will be lucky.

Another interesting graveyard situated along the Royal Mile is called “Canongate Kirkyard”. David Riccio´s body is buried here, after he was removed from the Royal Palace. Other graves from poets like Robert Fergusson or Clarinda can be found here. Her real name was Agnes Maclehose. After she separated with her husband she was in close contact to her friend Robert Burns. To keep the story secret, she changed her name to Clarinda. Burns wrote several poems about her.

Well, 5 days in Edinburgh went by quickly. But what about the Scottish weather? It might not be obvious in the photographs but the weather changed almost hourly. Yet, it was not as bad as in Germany. In Germany we have rain and clouds the whole day. In Edinburgh (and Scotland in general) you get up and the sun shines. You step out of the shower and it´s raining cats and dogs. After breakfast the sun shines, blue skies. We experienced sudden showers out of nowhere that disappeared as quickly as they came. We didn´t even have time to dig out the umbrella. The rain lasted for 5 minutes. However, the umbrella wasn´t of use as the wind was very gusty during the rain. So I definitely recommend a rain jacket! The weather is nice by end of May. Temperatures range from 15 to 25°C. However, I was glad to have my Jack Wolfskin jacket and my scarf. Mom laughed but I really recommend a hat, gloves, scarf and a good jacket. It gets cold and wet, even in summer.

I must say I pretty much liked Scotland! I will definitely go again. I even found a website offering photography hiking tours in the Highlands on the Island Skye! For that I´ll be willing to take the chances (flights, wind, travel sickness, rain) plus I have a reason to go shopping – I need to buy a better jacket!

 

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