|Edinburgh Castle – atop volcanic Castle Rock|
We had never truly visited Edinburgh as tourists before this recent trip. As the place of Dougie’s birth and schooling, his relationship with the city is a very personal one. He may not have lived there for 30 years but he feels comfortable in the city, instinctively knowing how to get about and where to park, skills that were patently lacking as we navigated round Glasgow.
Past visits to the city have involved visits to friends and relatives, an eventful school reunion and a matinee performance of Starlight Express at the Edinburgh Playhouse, made all the more interesting by the presence of a man signing for the deaf on stage. Since then I have been unable to sing the title number without appropriate actions.
Edinburgh certainly put on a show for us this Easter. It welcomed Dougie back with open arms and bathed us all in sunshine when, for the first time, we saw this glorious city as others do. Oh my goodness, it’s a handsome beast: no wonder it’s a magnet for visitors.
On our first afternoon one of the first things we spied was the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, a faithful Skye terrier who became famous in Edinburgh in the 19th century for staying with his master’s grave for 14 years after he had died. In the churchyard you can see headstones for both Bobby and his master, Auld Jock.
Later that day we had a date with some woolly mammoths, at a special exhibition in the National Museum of Scotland. The museum itself is a joy for families, not least because it’s free. Meet a life-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, peer at Bonnie Prince Charlie’s silver travelling canteen or marvel at Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal. ‘Mammoths of the Ice Age’, although requiring an entry fee, gave us the chance to meet an exact replica of Lyuba, a baby mammoth that was perfectly preserved in the mud in which she had died nearly 42,000 years ago. Incredible.
|Sunshine on Leith where The Royal Yacht, Britannia, is moored.|
There was so much more we could have seen in Edinburgh: Holyrood Palace, the zoo, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Georgian House… In the short time we were there we tried to keep a balance between being a tourist and just soaking up the atmosphere. On one afternoon we chose Harvey Nichols over Edinburgh Castle (sacrilege!) then, after a satisfying browse, sat watching the world go by in St Andrew’s Square, which was carpeted in thousands of small light-bulbs, an installation created by Bruce Munro for the Edinburgh Science Festival.
As we sat, we watched the smart new trams gliding past:
“It’s a travesty!” announced my shocked husband, “All that money spent on the new trams and no-one is using them!”
We later discovered that the trams are currently being tested without paying customers: they aren’t being officially launched until May. Oops. Another reason to come back soon to Dougie’s home town, to try out the new transport system. Oh and I’m also coming back to see the Rosslyn Chapel. Plus, I’ve never been to the Festival.
All of which makes me wonder, why did my husband ever leave?
Our trip was arranged by VisitScotland. We were given passes for all the attractions requiring an entry fee. For more information on holidaying in Scotland go to: www.visitscotland.com
National Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street, Edinburgh +44 (0)131 225 7534
Trish’s Top Tip: If you’re visiting this summer, look out for the UK’s only showing of the special exhibition, Ming: The Golden Empire, from 27 June to 29 October 2014.
Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
Castlehill, The Royal Mile. Edinburgh +44 (0)131 226 3709
Adults £12.95, children 5-15 £9.90
Trish’s Top Tip: Take time to use the free telescopes in the rooftop to look at the views of Edinburgh. If you want to stagger your visit, you can always get your hand stamped and return later in the day.
The Real Mary King’s Close
2 Warriston’s Close, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, 0845 070 6244
Adults £12.95, children 5-15 £7.45 . Children under 5 not admitted.
Trish’s Top Tip: Make sure you book your timed tour in advance. Wear sensible shoes as the ground is uneven.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Ocean Terminal, Leith, Edinburgh +44 (0)131 555 5566
Adults £12.75, Children 5-17 £7.75.
Trish’s Top Tip: Pauline, the resident confectioner, runs the NAAFI, which you will see half way round the tour. The fresh fudge she makes is heavenly. Try the chocolate orange swirl variety.