On Saturday morning we woke much refreshed to breakfast up on the third floor (lots of stairs in this place), porridge and coffee and poached eggs. It was a beautiful day despite the prediction of rain, so we decided to walk up Calton Hill. Sun, breezes, and lots of gorgeous clouds accompanied us along Princes Street, past the Scott monument and then up the steps to the top of the hill. An unfinished replica of the Parthenon graces the top. Known as Edinburgh’s Disgrace, it is just one of a number of structures on the hill. Monuments to Nelson, Burns and other worthies are there, too, but you really climb up here for the views. On one side, great views of Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags, sun and shadow. Then looking counterclockwise, the Firth of Forth with views across the water, looking down on the Georgian buildings of the New Town, where we’re staying, and eventually the skyline of Edinburgh’s Old Town from the Castle down to Holyrood.
Back down the hill we took a detour to the Old Calton Burying Ground. David Hume is here in an impressive little temple, but we were also struck by the monument honoring Scottish-American soldiers in our Civil War.
We stopped by Waverly Station to pick up our pre-booked tickets to Aberdeen, enjoying this Scott quote posted on a wall, then walked up and up the stairs to the High Street, aiming for St. Giles Cathedral. We had been here on our last trip, but now I was armed with the Dunnett Society guide, showing exactly where that climactic scene involving Lymond and Jerrott took place. No matter that the altar has since been moved and that the entrances are changed, it was still fascinating to envision the scene. (So much so that I apparently took no pictures.)
We revisited the Thistle Chapel with its charming wood carvings. See the angel playing the bagpipes?
We also noted the chapel donated by the Confraternity of the Holy Blood in Bruges. We of course have SEEN the holy blood there. But there was no vial in Edinburgh, so we asked the guide for information. Well! She told us with great animation about St. Giles, a Greek who ended up in a monastery in Provence where he spent much of his time in the forest with his companion, a deer. One day hunters came after the deer and St. Giles took the arrow instead (making him the patron saint of “cripples,” says Wikipedia). That’s where the Scottish crusaders found him (or found out about him) and brought the knowledge back to Edinburgh. His arm with a diamond finger ring was donated to the cathedral in the 15th century but was presumably destroyed during the Reformation. (How the holy blood figured in all this we never did find out.) Humbled, we walked over to the stained glass window of Scottish saints and paid homage to St. Giles and his deer.
After a bit of mild shopping, we continued down the Royal Mile to the John Knox House, the oldest house in the city with some bits dating to the fifteenth century. Interesting because he and Mary, Queen of Scots, were at odds about religion, but not terribly interesting really. (Though we did see a painted ceiling and little did we know that it would become a recurring theme.) Thanks to someone else for this image, showing the original ceiling and a colorful copy on display.
From here, on the advice of the JK staff, we walked to Blackwell’s to find something to read. For me, two from my TBR list: Juliet Nicolson’s “A House full of Daughters” and Joanne Harris’s “Different Class.” A restorative cup of tea (amazing how restorative it is in the UK when I rarely drink tea at home) and a ginger biscuit before heading home.
We were weary enough to get a taxi back and, after a rest, we went to Bon Vivant on Thistle Street for dinner. VERY noisy but delicious food, not too much. I had cod with chorizo, red pepper, potato and kale, after a light pea soup topped with creme fraiche, marjoram and crab, and AO had lamb, I think. Followed by a glass of Prosecco and lemon curd (not as good as the rest). Yum.