Having taken an early flight from Gatwick to Edinburgh, and finding our hostel at the second attempt, we made the most of the typical British weather (rain) on our first day to head up the Mile to the grand Castle. The Castle is set up on a hill at the far end of the main road through Edinburgh's centre and it proudly looks over the city.
Joining a long queue, in the constant drizzle, we waited to enter the castle. When we finally got inside we just wandered around, getting some great views over the city, visiting the old prison cells and viewing the Scottish Crown Jewels which were, quite honestly, a bit disappointing - they were not as stunning as those at the Tower of London and the venue (a small side room) was dark and cramped. Hardly a great viewing area!
Walking back down the hill we popped into St. Giles Cathedral and then back to the hostel to check in. The room was drab and bland, but thankfully clean although the en-suite shower did not work too well. The shared showers of the dorm rooms were next door so we used those!
From there, we decided to head out to Leith to see the Royal Yacht Britannia, which has been retired to Edinburgh. It was great to see the inside of the impressive vessel, including the Queen's study and bedroom as well as the quite impressive crew areas, with fully stocked bars and all!
In the evening, I treated Elizabeth to the new Harry Potter film - an opportunity for both of us to see a film at a proper cinema after the horrible Little Theatre we were used to in Hamilton, Bermuda!
The next day, we headed out to Roslin to see the Rosslyn Chapel. The detail in the stonework, both inside and out, was amazing. The roof is currently covered as they are doing repair work but the scaffolding provides an eye level view point of the roof and the stone columns. Inside, the stone carvings continued, including one ornate column which was made by the stonemason's assistant. In a fit of jealous rage, the stonemason killed his assistant and was hung for his crime. The face of both the stonemason and his assistant are also carved into the stone a certain places around the chapel. Down in the crypt, there was a stone dedicated to the Knight's Templar and it was interesting to see the mixture of Christian and Pagan symbols so obvious around the chapel.
By the time we got back into Edinburgh, it was raining some more so we quickly headed into Hard Rock for lunch (and the obligatory magnet!). However, after lunch, the rain had got even heavier and we made a quick dart for the National Gallery which had a nice little collection of art works, including some van Gogh's.
From there, we headed to the Writer's Museum, a stop for Elizabeth! The museum was dedicated to Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns. Outside of the Stevenson stuff, I wasn't overly interested in the other two but the Stevenson stuff caught my imagination due to the travelling he did and the fact he lived and is buried in Samoa, one of the stops on our trip!
As the rain tailed off, we headed right down the Mile to Holyrood Palace and Abbey. The Palace is still the Queen's official residence when visiting the Scottish capital and it was interesting to see some of the ceremonial dress items that are still in use. Elizabeth enjoyed walking around the downstairs rooms which were full of many historical items, including many of the belongings of Mary Queen of Scots.
By Thursday, my birthday, the sun finally came out for a while! In the morning, we headed early to the zoo. The initial exhibits seemed to be pretty empty and it didn't look too hopeful but the excellent chimpanzee house gave us plenty to view and as we went around we saw plenty of animals - hopefully a warm up to our African safari!
In the afternoon, we headed up to Arthur's Seat. In fact, the weather turned a bit crappy and we didn't quite make it all the way. Elizabeth said we made it to his crotch, and not his seat! Still, there were some great views of the city and the castle.
On our way down and back to the hostel, we stopped at the Scottish Parliament building for a look around. Whilst not fitting with the historic centre of Edinburgh, the building was interesting nonetheless.
In the evening, we ate at Monster Mash - a home style restaurant serving bangers and mash! The food was great and it was nice to eat some normal food for a change! Afterwards, we headed to a couple of bars including the bar by Greyfriar's Bobby (which I'd never heard of but my sister told me to find it - apparently Bobby was the greyfriar's dog and spent every day by his side. When the greyfriar died, Bobby sat at his garveside every day too. A true man's best friend!). On the way back to the hotel, we bypassed the Heart of Midlothian, on which you are supposed to spit for luck. Elizabeth eventually managed it with her second "shot" after over-shooting the target with her first attempt!
We finished the evening in a bar called the Mitre watching a hen party make fools of themselves and chatting with some crazy Finnish blokes who insisted on telling people I was English!
On the Friday morning, with hangovers, we caught the bus to the airport and waited for our delayed flight. I bet that won't be the only one of those we have...