With only two days in Edinburgh (EH-din-bur-uh for those from Pittsburgh), we were going to be sightseeing on our first day, no matter what. The weather would seriously challenge our resolve.
Out of our hotel, Ten Hill Place, we headed first to a guidebook recommended Elephant House for coffee and a simple breakfast. The coffee drinks came, but the microwaved food never did. We left, still hungry, after an hour wait.
There was an upside to our day’s disastrous start—we stayed warm. Outside, the temperatures were near freezing. With a driving, sideways rain it was glimpse into the harsh medieval reality of living in Scotland in the winter. We could have skipped this part and read the Cliff’s Notes version later. Some say that we pack too much stuff. There might just be a small sliver of truth to that, but, on this day, we wore nearly every piece of clothing we brought.
From our aborted breakfast, we headed to the Royal Mile and waddled Michelin Man style in our thick layers of clothes up the hill to Edinburgh Castle. Little did we know, but November the 30th is St. Andrew’s Day. It is a bank holiday in Scotland. For us that meant the entrance to the castle was free. The downside was that tourists had stormed the castle. The peasants were everywhere.
With fierce weather outside, the picture of medieval life in the castle was not one of comfort. Though it might be good to be king, I’d take central heating any day. Aside from the royal chambers, martial exhibits dominated the displays. The Scots take their war craft seriously. In fact, both Edinburgh Castle and, later, the Holyrood Palace, make a case for the Scots being the military wing of the British Empire.
Out of the castle, it was dark. This time of year the sun set at 3:45 pm. We headed back along the Royal Mile towards the room. Every opportunity to get our thin California blood inside we took. Along the way, some unlikely words cruised off our tongues.
“Hey, it’s the Scottish Tartans Museum,” I said, pointing to an ultra touristy store/museum/tourist trap on the Royal Mile.
“Let’s go in,” Becky shivered a reply.
This is the type of thing that we’d normally avoid. We’d pretend we didn’t even see it. But, a full quarter mile down from the castle, the warmth inside had an irresistible appeal. At least for me, that is. Becky might just have wanted to know what Scotsmen wear under their kilts. Thank God I only saw her checking under the kilts on the mannequins this time.
Eventually we made it back to the room. Mercifully, the pubs were frequent along the way and they all served hot toddies. We’d need the drinks, as the heating in our room was minimally functional. Is this a good time to mention that late November is not the ideal time to visit Scotland?