Edinburgh, Scotland – As I mentioned earlier, I’m staying in an Airbnb rental in the heart of the old town area.
As you can see it’s a large flat (windows outlined above) in an old building; areas like the kitchen have been nicely updated but other rooms are bland and musty. The shower is new but in a tiny stall and dreadful to operate. It’s still an old building with peeling wallpaper, creaking floors, and noisy neighbors. Like so many places in the U.K. there’s no air-con and no window screens, and forget fans. So it’s a choice of stuffiness or flies. On the other hand, the mattress is great and it’s at least $100 cheaper per night than the cheapest hotel. It’s clean and it does the job.
After cappuccino and a bagel for breakfast at the delightful Deacon’s House Cafe across the street, I set out for the National Museum of Scotland.
On the way, I passed The Elephant House coffee shop, where J.K. Rowling wrote much of her early Harry Potter novels. It’s also frequented by other well-known writers, such as Ian Rankin.
Going through The National Museum of Scotland is a fine experience and a nice way to spend half a day.
The building has galleries off a large and open atrium, with convenient stairs and lifts for getting to different levels. Exhibits I enjoyed included the historical Kingdom of the Scots, Explore/Making It (many hands-on opportunities for kids of all ages), Technology by Design, and Animal World. The staff members I spoke with were friendly and pleasant. It’s a nice place to visit and it’s free.
Here’s something you don’t often see in museums: a rack of folding seats that you can use if you want to sit for a bit.
After lunch, I took myself off to the “Scotch Whiskey Experience”, a whiskey superstore that included an hour-long “tour” that explains how it’s made (though there’s no actual distillery on site). I came away with a new-found understanding of just how many scotch types there are and some miniature treats.
I spent the evening in my flat, reading the London Times and watching TV. It’s weird to watch my favorite BBC shows, like “Lewis”, while actually in the U.K. They’re now local TV, not some fancy-schmancy import.
This morning, Tuesday, I had the same breakfast again and headed for The Castle. I arrived soon after it opened and there were already huge crowds ahead of me. I spent 15 minutes in the sun in line for a 15 GBP ticket (because their online ticket system had a bug in it that prevent me from getting a ticket. Yes, me, personally, but maybe you’ll be luckier). Get your ticket online in advance!
They set up temporary stadium seating for 8,000 each July right in front of the castle gates for August’s “Royal Military Tattoo”, a huge nightly spectacle of marching, bagpipes, dramatic lighting, and fireworks.
The castle is huge, and has a moat, and the street winds around and up to the palace at the top (more of the famous Edinburgh “uphill”). I presume no one dared to attack because they’d be exhausted after walking uphill that far with their arms and armor.
Here’s a rare selfie about midway up the interior of the castle. You can see part of Edinburgh way down below in the background. At the top, in the palace you can see the Crown Jewels (I passed – line too long), the Great Hall (massive, lined with wall-to-wall swords), and the more modern War Memorial.
Though I hesitate to criticize my hosts, and perhaps it’s a Scottish thing, I must say that I noticed the quotation above in the memorial, which is similar to Exodus 19:4. As a certified Grammar Grouch, I thought it should be “bear” not “bare”. What say you?
After having my fill of stone, pageantry, and inconsiderate tourists and their cell phones, I bade the castle’s many cannons and far too many swarming, overly-large tour groups goodbye and headed down, down, downhill to find a Scottish icon of another sort.
The “punk rockers” of the U.K. brewing scene, Brew Dog, is famous for tasty beer. The fresh Jet Black Heart milk stout shown above, served on a nitrogen tap, did not disappoint. Brew Dog is famous for brewing Tactical Nuclear Penguin, which has a 32% ABV rating! Later they got into a contest with a German brewery and eventually brewed up the winning End of History, the “World’s Strongest and Most Expensive Beer”, which came in at 54% ABV. Only 12 bottles were brewed and it was more a collector’s item (seen at 1,000 GBP for a bottle on eBay) than something you’d actually drink. Google it – you’ll be amazed/shocked at the “packaging” for the bottles.
I’m dining tonight at Howies, a nice upscale place, then tomorrow I’m packing up and taking the train south, back to London, then west to Reading, where I lived 10 years ago. Anniversary highjinks are bound to occur. Cheers.