Tag Archives: Exploring Edinburgh

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Exploring Edinburgh – Hiking Arthur’s Seat

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Exploring Edinburgh – Hiking Arthur’s Seat

Exploring Edinburgh – Hiking Arthur’s Seat, and walking through portraits.

Thursday, 29-Dec-2016

We’d spent a lot of time with the family… so Sarah and I took this chance to split off from the group and do a bit of exploring and hiking on our own. Serious hiking. Or at least as serious as Edinburgh had to offer.

And what was on offer was a hike up Arthur’s Seat – a cliff near the center of the city. From the distance, it looked massive; a huge mountain surrounded by cliffs. The map, however, showed a much different story – a walk barely 3 miles from the apartment.

The best way to rectify this difference was to walk up. So, we did.

We walked in via the Wojtek statue and Holyrood palace, two seriously cool places to see. But this is Edinburgh, so we were a little oversaturated with seriously cool places at this point, and so we went through them pretty quick. The neat details of the hike, however, were definitely memorable…

    • A small ruined abbey for skin conditions – turns out, they knew about skin conditions back around 1150, which was the first record of the abbey. A record detailing repairs, so… who knows how old it actually is?
    • The hiking was really fun, and even had some mini bouldering sections! Sort of… not full bouldering problems, but still enough to keep us busy.
    • Sarah took the pack… awww… I wanted more training weight… but that meant I got to run around and scramble a bit extra, which is always good.
    • The summit is packed with random people, because it’s super pretty! Amazing views of everything, though the intense wind keeps us from staying too long.
    • Take pictures and enjoy said intense wind, before heading down and enjoying some more intense wind! It’s amazingly pretty. Also windy. Intensely windy, in fact.
    • Hike down via another mini-summit, saying hi to some people in a sumo suit and a lemur costume. Because that’s normal, right? You see people in inflatable sumo suits and lemur onesies all the time in Scotland, right?
    • Find a cool ancient well body, which is cool. And by ancient, I mean it was moved there in the tenth century sometime. As in, it had already existed for who knows how long before then.

After our hike, we linked up with the rest of the family for a relaxed lunch of bangers and mash. Or at least, a relaxed lunch at a fancy bangers and mash place. I had beef ribs. Relaxingly. Extremely so, we learned, because while the food was amazing, the service… well, it was super relaxing. Barely any intrusions by the staff at all, in fact.

Then the national portrait gallery!

Again, more awesome galleries and views and things to look at. So many. Ohh my lord I couldn’t even anymore.

  • We saw an amazing portrait competition, where the winner was clearly chosen because of their social connections instead of their talent. Though the rest of the portraits in the gallery were amazing to look at, especially one called “Three oncologists”.
  • I learned about a young king, who looked kind of like a jerk in his painting. Turns out, he wasn’t all that bright in real life, either. In battle (The one the painting was about) he accidentally rode into the enemy lines, trying to find his generals. He then had to be rescued.
  • Scotland has super cool historic rock climbers! Ladies from so long ago that they climbed (technical, vertical rock climbing) in heavy dresses and pettycoats, using hemp rope and fancy boots. Holy… badass!
  • There was a cool library. It had medallion portraits (small ivory carvings), but I enjoyed the feel of the old area, full of many leather bound books.

The rest of the night… meh, it was fun. But nothing too special after the hiking and paintings. We ate at an Italian place that doesn’t hold a candle to Boston’s North End, though it was really nice to have after a whole day of exploring and walking.

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Exploring Edinburgh – First day, and Edinburgh Castle

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Exploring Edinburgh – First day, and Edinburgh Castle

Exploring Edinburgh – First day, and Edinburgh Castle


Wednesday, 28-Dec-2016

After the train had dropped us off, we’d walked to the apartment, and we’d dropped off our luggage, we all hit the town, heading straight toward the Royal Mile, and Edinburgh Castle itself.

You can see the castle from almost any point in the city… at least any point that we visited. It’s huge, up on one of the highest points in the area, and built directly into the cliffs that it’s built around. Honestly, that’s what was most impressive to me – the fact that the castle seems to grow out of the cliff sides… the designers basically just took the natural formations, and expanded them into a fortification.

On the way up to it we had a few adventures, but nothing too exceptional. The architecture was uniformly amazing, though there were some rather jarring contrasts where a new building had been built right next to an old block. We also learned that alleys are called “close”, and that there’s one called Fleshmarket Close… which is super creepy when it’s this small dark alleyway. Pies were also consumed… probably way too many of them for our health, in retrospect. Bill, Greta, Henry and Leah all got one each, whereas Sarah and I got four, and split them between the two of us. I mean… clearly that’s the best way to try them all, right?

The castle itself was exactly what you’d expect an ancient Scottish Castle to be. Large, and full of tourists. I enjoyed it a lot, but it honestly wasn’t quite what I was expecting… the exhibits that we saw were more about the history of Scotland, and the units that served at the Castle, than I’d expected. I kind of wanted to see specifics about the castle itself – the architecture, the history, and the mechanics of what battles had been fought there. Everything was still interesting, but… a little bit less so than I’d hoped for.

A major highlight though; we got to see the Scottish Honors! Basically the equivalent of the English crown jewels, the Scottish Honors include a scepter, the crown, and a rather massive sword. None of which would be worn or used, from what I could tell… they’d basically just be presented at various state functions. You know… before England took over and did that England thing where they claim everything.

Exploring the castle gave us some awesome views and cool information, but it did start to get quite cold after a while… so we retreated from the ramparts, and headed back to the apartment to warm up and prepare for a fancy dinner that Sarah and I had planned for everyone.

And when I say “A fancy dinner that Sarah and I had planned”, I mean a really cool Indian restaurant called the Mumbai Mansion. And by “Planned”, I mean “the place we’d originally wanted to go didn’t have any room for reservations, and Henry and Greta helped us find a way to get reservations at Mumbai”. It was a bit of a cluster, honestly, but thankfully the three of us were able to pull it off, and soon enough we’d walked the mile or so to the restaurant, and were crowding in out of the cold.

Food? Food was amazing. I still have the whole list of food we ordered… we literally made a list on my phone, so we’d know what to order when the waiter came by. And we ordered nearly everything… half a dozen appetizers, five main dishes, eight sides, tons of drinks… Basically, we made our own tasting menu, and it was amazing.

After dinner, we tried to check out a small statue that we’d seen on the map… but the wind was kind of intense, and we definitely weren’t all dressed for an arctic adventure. So instead, back to the apartment we went, for warmth and relaxation.