Various stops along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. The People's Library! Adam Smith! St. Giles! The Witchery! Parliament Square! Can y'all spot M somewhere in there? I can! This was our first time out in daylight exploring. We caught up on sleep and lingered over a traditional Scottish breakfast in bed, and then hit up a Starbucks (I know, I know) for sorely needed coffees. After all the scotch we'd had the night prior, tea wasn't going to cut it.
Can you see that fancy girl playing the small harp there? We first saw her when we stepped out of our hotel. She was headed up the hill, carrying this giant case, all flushed and skirts rustling! We wondered where on earth she was off to, and then a little over an hour later we spied her here. Isn't she darling? Once when we passed her, she playing a Beirut song at Parliament Square - I can't for the life of me remember which one - but we stood there entranced until she finished, and then we gave her some money. It started to rain just after that. A lovely moment.
Whisky! Tartan! Whistan! Tarsky!
The Scotch Whisky Experience is worth the price of admission, and I'll tell you why. First, they put you on a whisky barrel ride. It's completely ridiculous, and there's a whisky "spirit" who guides you through the process of making proper Scottish whiskies, but it's still a WHISKY RIDE. Plus, it's a great little primer for anyone unfamiliar with the process. As a bonus, it's the sort of thing that'd never happen in the US, because guess what?! KIDS ARE TOTES ALLOWED! Scottish whisky babies for everyone!
Of course, we wanted to take a switch to the Italian brats who ended up in our tasting room, but that's just bad luck. The next part of the tour walks you through a proper whisky tasting, you get acquainted with Scotland's sundry regions for different sorts of whiskys, a bit of history, etc. The crown jewel I've posted here before, but it's worth a command performance: the Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch Whisky Collection, which contains nearly 3,500 bottles, many of which no amount of money can buy. It's stunning. I still dream of it.
The tartan museum was lots of fun, if you ignore the fact that it's an obvious tourist trap. It's so wonderful to see all of the textiles and look at how they're made, and of course they didn't have any of the Watson tartan there in bolts, but we certainly tried.
After all of that we were naturally parched, so we popped into Whiski's super modern (by comparison) sister spot, Whiski Rooms, just around the corner from the castle. (Everything is so absurdly close together and walking distance, it was great!) We each had a very well-done whisky cocktail and some bar snacks, and just enjoyed the people-watching on a pleasantly overcast day. Then I dragged M to St. Giles' Cathedral, and she was pissed. We are neither of us church people, and she is particularly horrified by them, but I was interested in seeing it from a purely architectural and historical perspective, and I insisted.
She warned me that if I felt suddenly moved, religiously, or had some kind of spiritual experience, that she would walk out and wait for me outside. We're atheists and she knows better, so I just had to roll my eyes and she reluctantly joined me inside. Whatever its purpose, it's seen 900 turbulent years of humankind, and that's kind of incredible.
The Thistle Chapel.
"The Order of the Thistle is Scotland's great order of chivalry, and membership is considered to be one of the country's highest honours. The Order is traditionally given to Scots or people of Scots ancestry, who have given distinguished service. Appointments are entirely in the personal gift of the Sovereign. The Thistle Chapel was designed by Robert Lorimer and finished in 1911. It contains stalls for the 16 knights, the Sovereign's stall and two Royal stalls. The chapel contains a wealth of detail, both religious and heraldic, and much of it peculiarly Scottish, including angels playing bagpipes."
I'M A GHOST!
Just kidding. Thistle was my favorite part. It was glorious and somber in there. So much handsome, glowing wood and pops of color in the stained glass and the crests and whatnot! I wished I could kick everybody out and lay reading and drinking tea and eating Millionaire's shortbread on a spattering of thick velvet pillows with tassels for hours and hours, pausing occasionally to look at it all. It was beautiful.
Stained glass is always better in person, but I'll post some anyway. The light in the cathedral was so lovely, somehow full of very soft, diffused light but very dark and mysterious as well. There were so many small doors and wings closed off to the public, and for a curious person like myself, those were the most tempting places, wondering what those walls have seen for so long, alas.
That's the end of today's tour, kids! Come back soon, because we'll have spooky haunted walking tour shenanigans and lots and lots of Edinburgh Castle to take in.