Monday, May 1, 2017


After Mull it was on to Edinburgh for a couple of nights avoiding hen and stag parties. There are things I love about Edinburgh, and things I really don't. Mostly I dislike the amount of tartan tat aimed at tourists that proliferates around the city centre. It's hard to move for overpriced whisky, fudge, shortbread, tea towels with Nessie on, stuffed highland cows, ginger wigs, and things made badly out of tartan or tweed. Which is all depressing.

It maybe didn't help that we went to the castle. The entrance fee is £17 per adult (an extra £3.59 for an audio guide), it's a lot to stumble around in the wake of hundreds of other tourists to look at some cobble stones and a collection of regimental museums and war memorials, but I console myself with the thought that the revenue the castle generates must prop up quite a few of historic scotlands less popular properties. We went because D had never been before, and it is interesting. It's also a beautiful (in a grand and rugged sense) collection of buildings with more than a dash of romance about it.

As a Georgette Heyer fan I was delighted to see the Eagle that ensign Ewart captured at Waterloo. I tried to explain the climax of A Civil Contract' to D, where Adam is waiting in London for news of the battle to come through, but he didn't seem impressed. The fictional Adam wasn't the point, but thanks to her descriptions I knew the symbolic importance of the object.

Generally though I find Edinburgh looks best from street level, looking up everything is a bit more impressive, and the uglier bits of contemporary architecture less obvious. From the castle you see how much of a mixed bag it is. Nothing dents romance like a multi story car park. Much better to find yourself walking past a Novotel and suddenly catching sight of the castle instead.

We made time to go to the portrait gallery which is an excellent place to see some of the faces that made Scottish history. It definitely gives a more nuanced view on the Jacobites than is to be found at Culloden (I remember being bitterly disappointed as a child in the portrait gallery, learning that bonnie prince Charlie was not quite the hero I'd thought). It's a grand Victorian building with impressive arts and crafts era murals, a good cafe, and a lot to think about. Going there always makes me want to learn more and think harder about what's on display - which I count as a success.

Otherwise the Edinburgh I want to find again remains elusive. I know it's there, but there's never quite enough time, or energy, to go exploring far enough to find the heart of the place away from the obvious attractions. Maybe next time.


  1. That is a lot of money to enter the Castle but I take your point about the money being used to finance other properties. I haven't been to Edinburgh and your description of the tourist tat hasn't endeared me to it though I know there is a damn fine Botanic Garden there that I should love to visit. I shall 'Mull' it over...

  2. It's a beautiful and atmospheric city, with a lot to offer once you break away from princes street and the Royal mile. The art galleries are excellent, and even full of tourists you still feel the history around the Royal mile. For me it's just been bad luck that every time I've been there in the last few years I've not had the time to go further than the fairly obvious bits. It's got much more to offer than that, so next time I need a better plan.