A Day in Edinburgh

September 27, 2012 - 5:36 pm No Comments

After a full night’s sleep, I woke up feeling like a million quid. Unfortunately, it seems I missed some good karaoke last night.

For this morning, I booked a free walking tour through the cobblestone roads and alleys of historic Edinburgh. Fiona, our loud and articulate guide, showed us a historic close (Scottish for alley), St. Giles Cathedral, Greyfriars Cemetery, and explained where the expressions “shitfaced” and “graveyard shift” come from.

SANDEMANs Walking Tour of Edinburgh

The Royal Mile

St. Giles' Cathedral

Busking Bagpiper

Victoria Street

Back in the days when Edinburgh was a stinky town of sewage and excrement, residents would throw their poop out the window and onto the streets below. Those who would walk the streets drunk would often look up to see what the ruckus was and find their faces covered with shit.

Back in the days when graverobbers would dig up bodies and sell them for medical research, relatives of the deceased and paid clergymen would stand guard over their buried loved ones through the night, working the “graveyard shift”.

Greyfriars Kirk

Mortsafe at Greyfriars Kirkyard

Greyfriars Bobby

Our guide also told us about Irn-Bru, a Scottish beverage and supposed hangover cure. Doug got one, and I had a sip. It’s a radioactive orange color, carbonated, and tastes like a mix of Fanta and Red Bull.

Doug Drinks Irn-Bru

All the Edinburgh guides have a lot of Harry Potter material. J. K. Rowling wrote the first few books of the series in an Edinburgh coffee shop, and many of the characters and places are inspired by various gravestones and buildings around the city.

The tour ended at Edinburgh Castle, regally positioned on top of volcanic outcropping overlooking the city. Our guide told us a great story about how the Stone of Destiny, Scotland’s most sacred and cherished artifact, was captured by the English in 1296 and then stolen back by a Scottish student named Ian Hamilton in 1950. After some negotiations, England has agreed to let Scotland keep the Stone of Destiny, and it now rests in Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle

Gatehouse at Edinburgh Castle

We went in for a quick look around.

Argyle Battery in Edinburgh Castle

Road to Foog's Gate

Foog's Gate

Edinburgh Castle houses the very old Scottish crown jewels. Their age is impressive, but the relics themselves are rather dull. I was disappointed to see that the Stone of Destiny looks like a misshapen block of concrete. Andy believes that the one on display is a copy, and that the real Stone of Destiny was buried by monks in the hills of Scotland centuries ago. Rumors abound.

Great Hall

Scotland Flag at Edinburgh Castle

Cemetery for Soldiers' Dogs

After the tour, Conrad and Jerry returned to our apartment to crash. Doug and I powered on and poked our head into St. Giles Cathedral.

Inside St. Giles' Cathedral

Inside St. Giles' Cathedral

Thistle Chapel

Then we headed to the National Museum of Scotland. Doug and I did our best to pack 2,000 years of Scottish history into 20 minutes. We were unsuccessful, though we did get to see some pretty cool Viking swords and the stuffed remains of Dolly, the world’s first cloned sheep.


My afternoon was complete after taking a piss in the Elephant House Cafe, the place where Rowling wrote her Harry Potter books.

I’m now back at the apartment, where Conrad is fast asleep and Jerry is standing awkwardly in the living room like a Sims character. We’re desperately trying to find accommodation for our last few days in London, as torrential rains have apparently flooded the place we had booked. We’re hitting airbnb.com and hotel search engines hard, but we have nothing yet.

Tonight, a pub crawl in Edinburgh. Tomorrow morning, if properly motivated, I’ll try to catch sunrise on Arthur’s Seat, a rocky outcropping overlooking the city.

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