Dubai Detour: Scotland, Edinburgh Castle

Rain, cold, greenery.  Three things I haven’t experienced in awhile (really, since we moved to Dubai) and which I am eager to embrace during our small sojourn to Scotland.  We are heading to the Isle of Mull for a good friend’s wedding and along the way will visit Edinburgh and Glasgow.  I am excited to see Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile, the architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow, and the beautiful scenery in Tobermory.    Over the next few days I will share our experiences and recommendations as we detour from our Dubai adventure for a rainy, cold, green week!

In fact, AUGUST is an awesome month to take a vacation away from Dubai – it is the hottest month of the year here, and after sweating through June and July we were ready for some cold, wet weather.  We found that in spades in SCOTLAND.  It is amazing how wonderful cold and wet weather feels when you haven’t felt either in a while!

While August is the hottest month in Dubai, it is the “hottest” month in another way for Edinburgh (pronounced “Edinboro” – the “g” is silent)… August is the month of the Edinburgh International Festival (which is the world’s largest arts festival), AND the associated “Fringe” Festival, which means Edinburgh is PACKED with performers and tourists everywhere.  We lucked into finding a room at the Edinburgh City Hotel, which was walking distance to the heart of the city and a very comfortable and friendly place.  We flew overnight from Dubai, landing at 8am.  Edinburgh Airport Taxis can be difficult to find.  You must go outside and then into a parking deck, and sign up at a desk which takes your information and assigns you to a numbered cab.  Once found, the cab and driver (named Dougie) are quite nice and give an informal tour as they drive (we found that universally here cabbies are knowledgeable and eager to share what they know).  We landed at the Edinburgh City Hotel at 8am to drop off our bags and to hoof it up to Edinburgh Castle.  We were jetlagged, but had little time in Edinburgh and wanted to make the best of it.

Everyone says that you “must” see the Edinburgh Castle and that is true – but heed the best advice we got about the Castle, which was two fold: (1) get your tickets in advance, online and bring the print outs with you; and (2) get there when the Castle first opens before the huge crowds arrive.  The Castle is always busy – in August, exceptionally so.  We walked around the Castle admiring the amazing views and taking in the Military Museum.  Even though we arrived early the lines to see the crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny (where kings were crowned) were quite long.   I was most taken by the oldest building, St. Margaret’s Chapel, built in the 12th century (and believed to be Edinburgh’s oldest building, period).  There is also a tower that we chanced upon where an unfortunate prisoner spent his last night on earth, which proved to be fascinating to me.  There’s a lot to discover at the Castle – you can spend as much (or as little) time as you want to allot to it!  We kept our visit to a short two and a half hours, to give plenty of time to see “other” things.  The Redcoat Cafe just inside the entrance is a great place to grab a quick bite and to enjoy views unjostled by other visitors.  Then we were off down the Royal Mile…. lots to see and do there.

Along the way, past dozens of street performers, we walked down several “closes” which are the close alleyways between buildings.  Down one of those closes we found the Writer’s Museum celebrating three Scottish writers, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson in a charming abode with a bright winding staircase.   I rubbed the toe of the statue of David Hume, the Scottish philosopher who believes that man is ruled by passion rather than reason.  The toe was already worn by the many visitors who believe it brings luck.

The Royal Mile is the ridge that runs from Edinburgh Castle (which is on “Castle Rock” down to Holyrood Castle and flatter land.  It has become quite the tourist area, with plenty of kitsch but plenty of history also along the way.  Near the end of the royal mile is the new Parliament Building, which to me looks like a celebration of tomahawks (with a shout out to our hometown Atlanta Braves).

Quite a bit for one day – it wasn’t the end of our day, but I will stop here to share more later!  Thanks for coming along.

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