Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 29: Exploring Edinburgh

Our day began with a ride into the heart of the city. After this we decided to simply walk about. So off we went exploring Princes Street - the main shopping street in Edinburgh.

We decided to explore the Princes Street Gardens, situated just next to Waverly railway station. The gardens are beautiful, with perfectly manicured lawns, oak trees, wooden benches and roses as huge as one's face. All I wanted to do was sit on the lawns and soak up the sun. From the gardens below you also get a glimpse of the Edinburgh Castle. The gardens also houses the famous Scott Monument. It is a Victorian Gothic monument dedicated to Scottish novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott. The tower rises almost 200 feet high and has a series of viewing decks. 

From the gardens we decided to wait for the bus to take us up the hill to Edinburgh Castle. However after a futile wait we trekked up and were exhausted by the time we got there. Queues to enter the castle were humongous, so be prepared for them. The Castle is a  must see for every person who visits. There's a lot you can see here - from the crown jewels, hammerbeam roofs in the Great Hall to the Chambers that housed the prisioners of war. At one o'clock there's the master gun fire, which recreates scenes of yesteryears. While you are here don't miss St. Margeret's Chapel and the Dog Cemetery. 

After the gun fire, we said goodbye to the Castle and walked down the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is a beautiful cobbled street leading from the castle to Holyrood abbey down the hill. The Royal Mile is Edinburgh Old Town's busiest tourist street. 

Taking in everything along this street, our eyes fell on a board that read 'The Whisky Heritage Centre'. So... we are in Scotland, from where you get the best whiskey's and we don't enjoy the moment? Ha! With a little coaxing from Tan we went in and decided to indulge in a Scotish Whisky Experience. We took the Adult Silver Tour which amounted to 9.50 pounds. At precisely 13:15 began a sensational journey with a whiskey glass in hand. Note: you cannot have a shot at it, till the end of the tour. The tour is a ride through a replica distillery. It's here you learn the whisky making process and the stories behind this magical craft 

After that we were back on the street. And guess what we get to see. A Jaguar! Not the animal, but the car. Whoa baby, what a machine. And it was booked for a Scottish wedding. The entire entourage was pretty. The bride, the bridesmaids and the men in the quilts. There were bagpipers too lending to a true Scottish experience. We just stood there and looked. Oh so pretty! Now all this was happening just outside St Giles Cathedral. The Cathedral has been a place of worship for the Scottish people for nearly 900 years.  

Back on our path, we did a lot of window shopping, before we came to the end of the street and face to face with the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the monarch in Scotland. Holyrood Palace is the setting for state ceremonies and official entertaining. It's said that the British Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II spends one week in residence at Holyrood Palace at the beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official engagements and ceremonies.The palace is open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence. No photography is allowed inside in the Palace. The Palace however is extremely rich in decor. The State Apartments are renowned for their magnificent plasterwork ceilings and collection of tapestries. Frankly, the palace did not impress me. I found it overtly rich, but on the other hand it gave us a glimpse into the royal life. 

The Palace grounds also holds the ruins of the 12th century Abbey. It is said that the abbey was built in 1128 at the order of King David I of Scotland, at the very spot where he had a vision of a stag with a cross between its antlers. The Abbey is also the burial place of several Scottish kings and it was here that Charles I was coronated king. The ruins are a result of the roof giving way in 1768. Today the Abbey has an almost eerie feeling to it. But I loved this place. It was so tranquil. Making my way through the ruins, feeling the stone, you can't help but marvel at the architecture and effort gone into building such a place. 

It was almost five in the evening. Tan and I were drained and hungry. However before we call it a day, there was one last place we had to visit. The Scottish Parliament. The architecture of this place contradicts the Palace opposite. This place reeks of modern architecture. We sat here for a while admiring the contrast of the place and enjoying the sprinkle from the fountains. 

From here we waited for the local bus to take us to Princes Street where we hoped off at KFC and feasted on some chicken. 

What a day it was. Back at our hotel, and after a warm bath relaxing our tired muscles we sat to watch a documentary playing on TV. It was Queen Elizabeth love story and marriage to Prince Philip. What a perfect way to end our day in Edinburgh! 

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