Since I never got a chance to blog about my trip to Scotland:
We went Easter week in April because the husband was presenting at the Labour Process Conference again. We stayed mostly in Edinburgh, but we did take a day trip outside of the city.
The city of Edinburgh is very cool. The central part of the city, the Royal Mile, part of Old Town, is formed on a ridge or spine that runs from the Edinburgh Castle to the Holyrood Palace. Each of these buildings is fascinating. I spent most of my time on and around the Royal Mile. The Edinburgh Castle is built on volcanic rock with sheer cliffs. Walking up the steps on the side of that cliff was a pain in the ass. My picture of the sheer rock didn’t come out too well, but here’s one I found online that shows what I mean. Holyrood is the Queen’s residence when she stays in Edinburgh.
On and around the Royal Mile there are all sorts of interesting buildings that have been turned into little museums that display all sorts of artifacts. These are my favorites:
Gladstone’s Land — an old tenament building that has been restored to show 17th century life for the merchant and wealthier people in Edinburgh.
John Knox House — John Knox was a Calvinist reformer.
Canongate Tolbooth — Built in 1591. Served as a toll gate and later as a prison. It houses the People’s Story Museum. This museum was fabulous. It even had a small exhibit on punk rock with a mannequin dressed as a punk rocker.
Mary Queen’s Close — This was probably the most fascinating part of the trip for me. A close refers to both the tiny alleys in between tenement buildings (called “lands”) in Edinburgh and the underground warrens of those buildings. Old tenement buildings in Edinburgh were sort of medieval highrises, some of them actually 14 or so stories high, with many of the stories located underground. Supposedly the underground levels were blocked off during the plague. When the city modernized, they just built on top of the closes. A commercial tourist company has excavated Mary Queen’s Close and turned it into a tourist attraction. They investigated historical records to learn about the history of the people who lived in the close. The close is also supposed to be haunted. The tour was awesome.
Grayfriars Kirk — This is a beautiful old church right off the Royal Mile. It was built in 1602. From the kirk grounds and graveyard you can see the Edinburgh Castle in the background. Also right outside of the church is the statue of Grayfriar’s Bobby. Grayfriar’s Bobby was is a wonderful and sad story about a dog’s loyalty to his owner. You can learn the story at the official website or at this website about dogs.
Georgian House — This is located in New Town, not Old Town in Edinburgh. New Town was built in the 18th century by filling in the Nor Lock. New Town was built as a place for the rich people to escape the filth and overcrowding of Old Town. It’s lovely Georgian architecture. Georgian House is a lovely restored building that shows the life of the wealthy in the 18th and 19th centuries.
On our last full day in Scotland, we took a day tour outside the city. The tour was great fun. The countryside in Scotland is beautiful. There’s no trash and no billboards, unlike here. Since it was Easter week, there were little lambs everywhere. The tour took us to Rosslyn Chapel, which has become famous because it’s featured prominently in the DaVinci Code. The website is definitely worth a visit. It’s got an amazing history. Then we went to Melrose Abbey, which was built around 660 AD. This is supposedly where Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried. The last place on our day tour was in Northumberland, England. First we stopped at the border between England and Scotland, which was a curious place because for some reason a treeline divides the two countries. Then we visited Hadrian’s Wall, where we saw the ruins of an old Roman “milecastle,” which is a sort of gatehouse and garrison. The wall follows the rolling hills of the countryside with /steep/ ups and downs.
Last, we stayed at a great little bed and breakfast in the suburbs of Edinburgh called Craiglockhart. It was a fifteen minute bus ride to the Royal Mile. The owners, Lisa and Michael, were very nice and accommodating.
So that’s my trip!