After arriving in Edinburgh, we took the airport tram exiting at St. Andrew’s Square and wheeled our well-balanced luggage the half mile to our first hotel of the trip. We were not the only tourists in town. The revamped Iron Throne was also touring the UK to coincide with the release of House of the Dragon. Lucky for us, its last stop was Calton Hill a beautiful vista point in Edinburgh which was only a short, although entirely uphill, walk from our hotel.
We hiked up the winding path and after a brief wait, my husband got his turn on the Iron Throne. We also got to enjoy the beautiful views of the city from this elevated spot. Arriving during a garbage strike took a bit of the shine off the experience but it was still a wonderful view. I knew immediately we were going to love the city.
After working from our hotel lobby the rest of the day, we headed to Hoot the Redeemer for some pre-theatre drinks. Walking down into the basement level bar, you’re immediately met with an art deco speak-easy crossed with a carnival vibe. A repurposed arcade claw machine sits against one wall where a three breasted temptress beckons you under a Pinch‘n Sip sign to let fate pick your drink flavors for the evening.
As the waiter led us to our table, I pulled out a pound coin from my pocket. I keep a pewter cup on my bureau at home filled with all the random foreign coins I’ve accumulated from my travels over the years, and wisely had grabbed all of my sterling coins for my much anticipated return to the UK.
“Can I use this in the machine?” I asked while holding out the coin.
He took the coin in his hand and looked it over on both sides, “This is old money. They can’t take it at the bar, but the machine might still take it.” he responded casually handing it back to me. Old money? I know it had been a while since my last trip to the UK, but I didn’t think it had been that long.
Fortunately for me, the coin did work in the Pinch’n Sip. My guess is they were both minted in the same decade. I maneuvered the claw over one of the plastic balls and hit the down button. After a slow descent, the claw successfully, if precariously, picked up and then deposited my first flavor into the exit shoot. After a second go, I had my two flavors: pineapple and ginger. The talented bartended added some rum and I had a delicious cocktail. Yum!
We only stayed for one drink as I was anxious to get to our final destination of the night.
When my husband and I were first dating I was obsessed with the Proclaimers album “Sunshine on Leith” and played it loudly and constantly. Let’s just say, my husband is not a fan of the worlds favorite Scottish folk rock duo and their music but being newly in our relationship, he tolerated it begrudgingly.
As I explored the Fringe shows mapping out which ones we would attend during our visit, I was overjoyed to discover that the Rose Theatre was showing Sunshine on Leith. The album of my youth had been turned into a play completed with all the songs I obsessed over all those years ago. I bought tickets immediately for our first night in Edinburgh.
The performance was well acted and full of energy which was especially nice given we were fresh off our red eye and had only slept about three hours in the last twenty four. I even caught my husband smiling during the show. I’m expecting the DVD to be in my Christmas stocking this year and to obsessively play “I’m Gonna Be” on repeat for the next few months. My husband even admitted to listening to the Proclaimers latest CD while mowing the lawn recently. Maybe it’s not too late to make a convert of him.
After a late start the next morning, we bounced around different Fringe venues taking in various shows including one rather unique act that started with the comedian in a homemade, full-body spider costume. The costume did not distract from the lack of laughs and when the final audience participation reading of an edited version of Charlotte’s web was complete, I was happy to leave the theatre although her final song to end the show was quite good.
Fringe is about experimentation and pushing the envelope so anything goes. While it may not have been my thing, someone else may have loved it. I’m a big supporter of risk taking even if this one didn’t particularly connect with me. Art is personal.
For dinner we headed to Mums Great Comfort Food and some Bangers and Mash followed by the Cranachan dessert which was the special of the day. This Scottish dish is made with cream, whisky, oats, honey and raspberries. While you can find many recipes for this trifle like dessert online, apparently Scottish raspberries have a unique flavor due to their specific growing conditions so your homemade version might not be exactly the same although I’m guessing it would still be delicious.
“How do you pronounce the name of that dessert?” I asked our waiter pointing at the chalkboard above our table that listed the one and only special of the day.
“How do you think?” he replied playfully adding that he wouldn’t bring us our desserts until we had pronounced Cranachan correctly. Click HERE to learn how to pronounce it. I wouldn’t want anyone to be denied a delicious dessert because they couldn’t say the word correctly.
Our final show of Fringe was Andrew Maxwell at the Debating Hall at Gilded Balloon Teviot which was the largest of all the venues we had gone to during our day of comedy. He was extremely funny although between his accent and the regional humor, I’ll admit we didn’t get every joke. A lovely couple from Birmingham that we met while waiting in line, good naturedly nudged me during the show when Andrew was making fun of local dialects and how the Brummie accent was the worst, “that’s us” they proudly whispered in my direction.
The next day we went from Fringe to formal. We timed our trip so we could enjoy the last few days of Fringe as well as the final Military Tattoo performance at Edinburgh Castle. We splurged on the Jacobite package which included dinner in the castle before the performance.
The tour coordinators met us at the esplanade. After a quick inspection of our bags, they walked us past the scaffolding in front of the castle where the seats for the performance were setup and through the castle grounds to the Queen Anne Room where a bagpiper played as guests entered the formal dining room.
We sat down at one of the large round tables, introduced ourselves to our table companions for the meal, and enjoyed our welcome drink. The room itself was rather plain and not what I expected. I had envisioned something more medieval with stone walls, tapestries and draftiness. This was not that space.
After everyone was settled in, the bagpipes began to play again. The head chef entered the dining room bringing in a large, steaming haggis displayed proudly on a platter. He marched slowly towards a table setup in the center of the room. The air was formal as the bagpiper played the traditional “Piping in the Haggis” melody. The chef placed the platter onto the table and faced the dinner guests. We raised our glasses and toasted the haggis before the chef cut open the haggis for all to see. Dinner had begun.
I think the key to enjoying haggis, which we did enjoy, is to actually not think too much about the dish especially the sheep lung a key ingredient but one which specifically prevents it from being imported into the United States. But, “when in Rome (or Scotland)”.
After dessert and tea, we gathered in groups to head to our seats for the performance. The castle was now closed and the grounds were empty except for our departing group. Our guides who were dressed in black making them easily identifiable, led us down the castle path and as we turned the final bend before the exit, the pipe bands were gathered on either side of us playing us out of the castle. It was my single most favorite moment of the evening.
Our seats were at the far end facing the castle providing a great vantage point to see everything. Before settling in, we headed over to the Innis & Gunn drink pre-order collection point to get our drinks. Yes, we ordered our drinks before we even arrived in Scotland. It was well organized and it wasn’t long before we were seated and ready for the show.
Sometimes your expectations don’t align to the actual event and an event can be even more wonderful than you thought. That was my experience at the Military Tattoo. I knew it would be good since it is recognized around the world as a premier event but I also assumed it would be more formal and rigid. It was not. It was fully of vibrancy and life with each new performance as engaging as the last.
As the final bagpiper played from the top of the castle and fireworks announced the end of the show, I was so happy that we got to experience such a magical event. Watching the performance with Edinburgh Castle as the backdrop was truly unique and a wonderful way to end our first stop on our long awaited journey to Scotland.
Next up: Picking up the rental car and heading to the Highlands.
2 thoughts on “Our Scottish Adventure Part 1 | Edinburgh”
Such fun! Thanks for the wonderful vicarious journey. I hope someday to make such an experience real. You’ve certainly inspired me to continue to save my pennies (or sterling coins, perhaps?) Cheers!
It was am amazing trip. I highly recommend it!
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