Getting into our last port, Edinburgh, Scotland was not so easy. Our boat fit in the lock at Leith harbor with only two feet to spare. We went up in the Lookinglass Lounge to see the pilot take us in. It was a late afternoon arrival and we had a planned party that night, so we decided not to go into town but rather walk over to the Ocean Terminal to see one of the premier sights, the Britannia, the Queen’s decommissioned royal yacht.
Unfortunately, the Britannia Visitors’ Center quit taking visitors 1 1/2 hours before closing time so we were too late to see it that day. I am embarrassed to say, we went to a movie in the Ocean Terminal. Rocky and I are both movie addicts; he is a graduating with a degree in Film and this is his graduation trip, so that was our rationalization. The movie wasn’t good, but I did learn a few things from the experience.
When Rocky was young, we took him to one of the wonderful old London theaters (stage production). What we were most stuck by was the fact that theater popcorn is favored sweet as opposed to salty (and that they sold ice cream right inside the theater during the intermission). When we went to the movie theater on this trip, I asked if the popcorn was sweet or salty. The answer: they offered both. You could have one or the other or a combination of both. We did the combo.
Another interesting offering, the theater had special showings for autistic audience members. I don’t know how it is done or what is different, but I was fascinated by the concept. Would love to hear from anyone who knows more about that experience.
The next morning, our first full day in Scotland’s capital, we caught the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus right at the passenger terminal for our ship. There is also a pick up at the Ocean Terminal. The buses run four distinct routes, some with a multi-language recorded commentary, others with live guides in English. The Majestic route (recorded guide on blue and gold buses) is the one that comes out to Leith. I suspect at some point these were competing services, but today you can buy a t ticket for a single route, or one that allows you to hop on any of the four. (14 pounds for single; 22 for multiple routes).
Having decided what we wanted to see, we actually took the extra step of buying the Royal Edinburgh Ticket which lets us use all four routes for 48 hours and give us fast track entry to Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Yacht Britannia, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The cost is currently 49.5 pounds with discounts for seniors, students, and children. We took advantage of Rocky’s student status (he graduates August 8) and bought one adult and one student ticket.
We rode to the originating point of the Majestic Route and got off at the intersection of all four routes on the bridge at Waverley Station. We took the Edinburgh Tour bus route (live guide on green buses) to see more of the city. We spent about three days in Edinburgh when Rocky was small, but we enjoyed today’s refresher tour. Near the end of this route after riding up the Royal Mile was the stop for Edinburgh Castle. We decided to get off there and take our tour.
The high end of the royal mile (actually a little more than a mile) is the Castle; the Palace of Holyroodhouse is at the other (lower) end. If you want to walk the mile, start at the top-the castle which is older in time-and walk down to the Palace, later in time. You will also save your legs a bit. There was stadium seating set up outside the castle, which takes away from the facade. However, this is necessary seating for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. These are new temporary stands that can be erected in a month for the August event. It is also being used for concerts and festivals now that it is up. It will be removed in September.
I have never seen the Tattoo, but a close friend has and said it is amazing. It always sells out, so plan early if you want to attend. International military regiments are the primary performers at the Tattoo.
There is quite a lot to see at the castle-the royal jewels, military museums, the memorial to fallen solders (which looks like a chapel), the royal apartments, the great hall with the well-positioned displays of armor, etc. We arrived just before the 1 0’clock gun so we stayed in that area for a while before moving inside to see more of the castle. The gun is shot from a platform. From the platform you have a wonderful view of the city, perhaps the most impressive part of the castle.
We were very happy to fast track and not stand in the long ticket line to gain entrance to the castle. All the various exhibits were part of our ticket and although there were large crowds at the exhibits, but most of the lines moved smoothly.
After the castle, we realized that there was no way to make it back for a late lunch on the boat and then to get over to the Britannia before it closed. We decided to look for a place for lunch. You can guess what Natasha was looking for-fish and chips. We wandered around a bit but everything was crowded even though it was well into the afternoon.
We ended up back on the Royal Mile at Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. The “tavern is named after William Brodie, one of the inspirations for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde” and Jekyll and Hyde memorabilia covers the walls. Like most pubs we ran across on this trip, there is also an upstairs area for food service. We headed upstairs and were the first in line, but they waited until the place was half empty before they seated us. We were pretty frustrated. It ended up being worth the wait when we got a wonderful table at the window overlooking the Royal Mile.
We shared a sampler platter of appetizers and a single order of fish and chips-still too much food. Rocky tried a Tennent’s beer, their most popular. Big thumbs up. I tried a Mortimer’s Cider; it was wonderful, cold and refreshing. Then we had another one. Uh, cider has alcohol. After two, I was toast.
It was headed into evening when we finished and the last bus in our route out to the ship was at 5, so we finished out the green route and switched back to the blue majestic route. The other routes include the red bus City Sightseeing Tour with a recorded guide, the most popular if you look at the amount of people that were riding that route. The last option is Mac Tours which operates in vintage buses. All routes operate buses that have two levels and many of the upper levels have partial covers. You are not allowed to use umbrellas on the upper level.
The blue bus took us out to Leith passing the botanical gardens. This route goes to the more remote locations. There were some sprinkles on the way back, but we never had to move inside due to rain.
After a night on the ship, we are back touring Edinburgh tomorrow.