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This was pretty ambitious, planning to post daily for this trip.  This is my post for our jaunt to Fife, and I’ll have to add to it later.  Suffice it to say, this part of Scotland is beautiful and historic, and if there is ever a next time, I’m not going with someone who is obsessed with golf.

More later.  


[Some events in my other life aren’t helping either.  But then that’s why my virtual self left home.]

So after lunch, we walked down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace.  There are a lot of interesting places along that short stretch.  Any travel book can tell you about them.  Instead of pictures, I’m just going to put up some links and say a few things.

I would have been happy to have spent much much longer in many of these places.

St Giles Cathedral is amazing.  It’s huge, it’s beautiful.  There’s all this carved stone and elegant proportions and dazzling detail.  At the very top of the building is an ornate crown spire.  It looks like a crown and has gold ornamentation, gilded balls on spikes, and at the very very tippy top is a weathercock.  I  only know that from a picture in a brochure.  A weathercock is a weathervane in the shape of a rooster.

Here’s a link:


St Giles was a cathedral for only a small part of its history.  Its formal name is the High Kirk of Edinburgh. We had a lot of talk about what a real name is, and about “secret names” and nicknames and who is allowed to call you what.  And then we started things like “What?”  “Don’t call me What; my name is Chris.”

The Hub, which is the headquarters for the Edinburgh Festival, is in a former church building.  The church was called Highland Tolbooth St John’s Church, and they used to have services in Gaelic. Wouldn’t it be cool to hear Bible readings in Gaelic?  We had readings at our church once in a multitude of languages, including Russian, Italian, Spanish, Lithuanian, French, and several African tribal languages.  Everyone read the same passage, one at a time, and it was indescribable… But there was no Gaelic and now I wish there had been.

The Hub looks like a church, and has this magnificent spire that they say is the tallest point in central Edinburgh.  From near the building,  you can see it goes up to a point.   The farther away you are, the taller the spire looks in relation to the building.

This is its website: http://www.thehub-edinburgh.com/

Near Holyrood is the Kirk of the Canongate.  It’s web site is: http://www.canongatekirk.org.uk/

When the minister retired a few years ago, an article about him in the Scotsman said “Kirk’s captain goes boldly after 27 years.”  Several of us had been resisting Kirk jokes but after hearing that, some of us (naming no names!) couldn’t help ourselves.  And then “Captain Kirk, I presume?”  So we decided to get a drink somewhere and settle ourselves down.

Then we went to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which everyone calls Holyrood Palace or just Holyrood.

What can I say about Holyrood?  I went into way too much detail about Edinburgh Castle,  and even that didn’t do justice to it.  Holyrood is even more like that.

Okay, so I’ll just say this:  Mary Queen of Scots bedroom.  Reconstructed to look like it did when she lived there.  The bed is so small!  Unlike other beds in other palaces in Europe from the same era, hers was not on a platform to raise it above the drafts on the floor.  And the supper room where she was having a small dinner party when some lords burst in and dragged Rizzio out into the bedroom and killed him…. It was really small.  I think about eight people were in there.  I don’t see how there was room for that many people to sit at a table.

So then I went back to the B&B and soaked my feet, and fell asleep without any dinner.  I woke up later, and Chris was gone.  She’d gone out to Mary King’s Close, the rat!

This is the web address:  http://www.realmarykingsclose.com/

A couple of things from yesterday:

I learned the correct pronunciation of Edinburgh.  Not Ed-in-burg.  Not Edin-BRO.  It’s more like Edn-BRRA, except that the “A” sound is not quite like in “bra”.

We saw a few men wearing kilts, just as part of their regular way of dressing:  henleys, work boots, and kilts.  The only people who seemed to notice were obvious tourists (identifiable by their wheeled suitcases or backpacks).

Second Day in Edinburgh

So today, we all got together for breakfast and went off to Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and Holyrood Palace.

The official website for the Castle is:  http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/

We got there a little after it opened at nine-thirty.  It wasn’t at all crowded then, but by the time we left, there were a lot of people.  They say it is the most popular tourist sight in Scotland.

File:Castle from Johnston Terrace - geograph.org.uk - 1347939.jpg

Edinburgh Castle is built on a volcanic plug called Castle Rock.  It is looks enormous from Princes Street Gardens.  When you get to the Castle, it looks even more impressive.  It is divided into three sections called wards.  The ticket office is in the Lower Ward; you enter by a gatehouse that was built in 1888, which seems old-ish to us but is quite new compared to most of the Castle, including the road which was built in 1464 by James III for the transport of cannon.  There are statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace.  (“King Robert, I presume?”)

You enter the Castle from the Esplanade on the east, and move sort of counter-clockwise through the Lower Ward and the immense Middle Ward, into the Upper Ward in the center of the Castle precincts.  Nearly everything is made of rock.  Not dressed stone, just rock.  On a gray day like today, it feels forbidding.

File:Entry to Edinburgh Castle.jpg

We went through the Portcullis Gate into the Middle Ward.  It was built in the 16th century to replace a tower that was destroyed in a siege, and had to be rebuilt a couple of times.

File:Edinburgh Castle Portcullis Gate.jpg

The Middle Ward is the largest section of the Castle.  The Middle Ward contains some large buildings that you can’t go into unless you have business there, including the Governor’s House, which used to be a residence, and is now used as the office of the Governor of the Castle, and an officers mess.  By the Governor’s House is the New Barrack Block, which houses the headquarters of the 52nd Infantry Brigade, the Regimental HQ of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, and the Regimental HQ of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys).

There’s a hospital and a military prison.  There are a couple of museums.  The site map shows some unidentified buildings that Chris wouldn’t let me investigate.  Party pooper.

There are several “batteries” which are artillery placements, heavy guns.  Charles said he had been hoping to to get one of those batteries for his camera but they were all too big.  (His girlfriend put her hand over his mouth.)   One of the batteries, called Mills Mount Battery, is where they fire the One O’Clock Gun.

This is cool.  It’s been fired nearly every day for 150 years, as a time signal for shipping in the Firth of Forth and the Port of Leith.  We decided to use it as a time signal for our group, to meet up in the Lower Ward.  The original gun was a cannon.

Some 18th century cart sheds in the Middle Ward are now used as tea rooms.  Some of us had lunch there, a bit early, to rest our feet.  (Naming no names, here. But.)

File:Edinburgh 1130049 nevit.jpg

The Upper Ward

The highest part of Castle Rock is the Upper Ward.  To get into it, you go through an arched opening in the stone wall.  The opening is called Foog’s Gate.  It used to be called the Foggy Gate.  It was gray and cold but not foggy this morning, but I could see where fog would make an impression.

The Upper Ward has some interesting stuff, including an enormous cannon, called a siege gun.  It is one of two that were given to King James II.  The other gun exploded in battle in 1460, killing the king.   This gun is named Mons Meg and is always referred to as “she”.  She was fired to celebrate the wedding of Mary Queen of Scots to the French dauphin in 1558.  The cannonball was found later about two miles away.  Mons Meg is now “defunct” but still impressive.

Downslope from Mons Meg is a pet cemetery where soldiers’ dogs are buried.

File:Dog cemetary.jpg

Another interesting sight is St. Margaret’s Chapel.  It is very old and quite small.  They say that it was used as a gunpowder store from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century.  It was built during the reign of David I as a private chapel for the royal family, and was dedicated to his mother, Saint Margaret of Scotland.  There is a legend that St. Margaret herself worshipped here.

The chapel has been restored to resemble the way it was when first built.

File:Inside St. Margaret's Chapel.jpg

You can go into the chapel but it’s small and a lot of people want to look in.  It feels like a museum piece, probably because it’s mostly not used, only looked at.  They do use it sometimes for small weddings and baptisms and other ceremonies.

There’s a large building housing another museum, and beyond that is the Palace Yard, which is also called Crown Square.  Three large buildings connect in a U shape:  the Royal Palace, the Great Hall, and the Queen Anne Building.

The Queen Anne building houses an education center for schools.  It was swarming with kids and re-enactors in costumes from various eras of Scottish history. They use “period weapons”, mostly swords and daggers, but also pikes and halberds and some replicas of early pistols.  They showed us how, after a sword fight, their blades were nicked.  The same people that run this center have set up educational displays around the Castle.

We spent the afternoon at Holyrood Palace.  Here is a link to a web page about the palace:


I’m going to write about that on a separate post because this is getting long.


Photo Credits:

Unless otherwise noted, photos are from Wikimedia and are used under a  Creative Commons license.

Edinburgh Castle:

kim traynor [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Entry to Edinburgh Castle 

By Chris Sherlock (Ta bu shi da yu) (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Man on Bench: 

By Nevit Dilmen (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Dog Cemetery

This photo is in the Public Domain.  The file link for Wikimedia is:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dog_cemetary.jpg

St Margaret’s Chapel:

Permission is given by the author (owner of the photograph) Chris Sherlock to use under the GFDL.  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Arrival in Edinburgh!

It was wonderful!  The sun was out!  It was cool but not cold, dampish but not wet.  The fresh air felt so good after the stale recycled air on the plane.

When we landed, there was a wheelchair waiting for one of the guys.  Poor guy.  He looked pale and tired.  I hope he’s going to be alright on the rest of the trip.  We all followed the wheelchair through the maze – it’s actually pretty well sign-posted and not really a maze – but when you’re short and there’s a crowd, it’s hard to see the signs.  However, it was easy to keep an eye on my companions who were keeping an eye on the wheelchair pusher.

We had the usual thing of going through Customs and Immigration, which took a long time.  I was glad that my suitcase was rigid plastic because I sat on it.  Chris was very excited about being in Scotland and thrilled with everything.

We stopped at a restaurant in the airport, because Some of Us decided that we can’t do anymore traveling with Low Blood Sugar.  Chris and the Other Chris went off looking for deep fried Mars Bars while I sat here with a cold drink – probably the last time I’ll have ice in my drink!  I was so tired it was all I could do not to put my head down on the table.

Some of us took the local bus into town.  There’s an Airlink bus that costs more and has more room for luggage.  It also goes faster because it makes fewer stops.

We found our hotel — Chris and I are staying at a B&B.  We couldn’t check in yet, but we left our luggage and went out and walked around and looked at stuff and got oriented and acclimated.  Then we met the others at their hotel and went out for dinner.   We talked about going out, because there’s a lot to do in the evening in Edinburgh, but most of us voted for an early night.

The First Day’s Sight-Seeing

Our B&B is near Princes’ Street Gardens, so that is mostly what we looked at.  It is beautiful.

File:Princes Street Gardens.jpg

The amazing thing that looks like a Victorian gothic rocket ship is the Scott Monument.  It was built in memory of Sir Walter Scott, the writer.  There is a statue of him in the open space in the center.

File:Scott Monument 09.jpg

Below is a photo that can be seen on Flickr:

The Scott Monument Edinburgh

Also interesting was the Ross Fountain.  It can also be found on Flickr:

Ross Fountain - Princes Street Gardens - Edinburgh Scotland

There are mermaids!  There are four women representing science, arts, poetry and industry.  There’s a woman at the very top.  I don’t know what she represents but she looks cold.

Looming over everything is Edinburgh Castle!

That is the Ross Fountain in the foregoround.

There are statues in the Gardens, including David Livingstone.  That Livingstone.  So we said to the statue:  “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” and that made us laugh so hard that we kept saying , “I presume?”  The Ross Fountain, I presume?  Sir Walter, I presume?

Okay, it was silly.  We were pretty tired.

Especially cool, I think, is that there is a statue to Sir James Young Simpson, the obstetric pioneer.  It seems that he was the first to use anesthesia for childbirth.

Unexpectedly moving was the Scottish-American War Memorial, in honor of men who served in World War I.


Photo Credits:

The photos that are from Flickr were taken by John Gilchrist, a photographer in Edinburgh, and are used by permission.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos were found on Wikimedia and are licensed under Creative Commons.

Princes Street Gardens:  

Source: Jaakko Sakari Reinikainen (ulayiti)


Scott Monument:

Ad Meskens

The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that a mention to “Foto Ad Meskens” be included.

Edinburgh Castle:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edinburgh_Castle_From_Princes_Street_Garden_001.jpg

Scottish-American War Memorial

Attribution: Eileen Henderson

Taking off!

Today’s the day!  We begin our adventure this afternoon.  My sister and I will drive to Chicago today and take off at 6:00 pm.

I had planned to develop the itinerary more and post it but other things came up.  Actually, this is the way I usually travel:  I have a destination and a list of things to do but I wait until I’m there to decide what to do.

It’s 2:00 am and I’m packing.   I checked the weather in Edinburgh.  It’s cool and damp.  Just like here.  Sun is expected later in the week.  I’m debating about taking my coat versus my raincoat.  And my rubber boots.  Yes? No?  I’d wear them on the plane, no way I’d pack them, they’re bulky.

My husband offered me his very nice digital SLR camera with some incredible lenses, and I had to say no.  It weighs a lot.  Besides, everytime I’ve tried to use it, my pictures turn out a blur.  I just want to point and shoot.  My pocket camera takes pretty nice pictures.

My sister Chris has one too, and she takes pictures constantly.  I have demanded the right to screen the photos before she shows them to anyone else so I can delete or edit any that I hate.

I got a new suitcase.  Carry-on size, it has wheels and a handle, and is made of sturdy brightly colored plastic.  I can sit on it if I’m careful.  If I end up checking it, it will be easy to spot on the luggage carousel.

Looking forward!


This is the itinerary I promised to post.  I’ll flesh it out and post a note when I do. 



May 4: in Edinburgh

Arriving in Edinburgh about midday (even if the flight arrives on time, we’ll still have to go through Customs and Immigration, and get from the airport to the hotel), we’ll leave our luggage at the hotel – check-in is later in the day but we don’t have to drag our bags with us.  We’ll explore the city – the hotel and the B&B are near Princes Street, and it is not far to the Castle and the Royal Mile. 

We need to check out the public transportation system too, just to be sure we know how it works and that we can get where we want to go.  Mostly though, we’ll just go off on our own and see what’s there and what interests us. 

A pub lunch, a nice dinner.  My sister Chris is looking forward to trying deep-fried Mars Bars!  We both want to go to Mary King’s Close, though that will probably have to wait till another night.  I don’t want to plan anything late or strenuous the day we arrive! 

May 5: in Edinburgh

This is a day for serious sight-seeing.  Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood, some museums. 

May 6: Out of Edinburgh

I plan a trip into the Fife, sightseeing castles and other historic stuff. 

May 7:  In Edinburgh

More serious sight-seeing because I love a good museum and I can spend all day in one. But there’s a lot more to see besides the historic stuff and the art museums.  There’s the Botanical Garden and the Zoo, and other stuff.  So…!

There’s also shopping, of course. 

May 8: On the road

Sightseeing across Scotland’s Central Belt, ending up in Glasgow.

May 9:  Glasgow

The hop-on-hop-off bus, which I’m going to call the HoHo, will get us around the city.  I plan to take all day for this.

May 10: Out of Glasgow

I want to go down the Clyde, to at least one of the islands.  There’s also Loch Lomond, Stirling, and the Trossachs. 

May 11: Last full day

If you’re returning via Edinburgh, this is the day to return to that city and catch up on whatever sights you missed or want to see more of. 

If you’re flying back from Glasgow, there’s plenty to see and do in the area.

May 12: Return flight.

Flight information:

This is based on flight info I found on Expedia.  Their website is http://www.expedia.com/

I looked for economy fares and the best rates I got are the basis for this information.  The fares to Scotland gave a direct flight from Chicago to Edinburgh.  The return flights all involved changing planes one time. 

All the flights I found leave Chicago at 6:00 pm and arrive in Edinburgh at 10:00 am.  The flight takes 10 hours and 0 minutes. 

Return flights leave Edinburgh at 12:10 pm and arrive in Chicago at 6:27 pm, or leave at 9:25 am and arrive at 3:26 pm.  I’m for the later flight! 

On this flight, you change planes in Newark, I think. 

The 12:10 takes 12 hours and 17 min; there is another flight that leaves at the same time but you have longer layover when you change planes, and you arrive at 7:23 pm.

The 9:25 takes 12 hours and 1 min.

Return Flights from Glasgow:

A British Air flight leaves Glasgow at 12:45 pm and arrives at Heathrow at 2:10 pm.

The plane on Brithish Air to Chicago leaves at 3:25 pm and arrives in Chicago at 6:00 pm.  The flight takes about eight and a half hours.

Another option:

Chris and I are thinking about taking a train to London and flying out from there.  That adds at least a day to the trip – maybe longer, because she’s never been to London and there’s such a lot to see!


I’ve looked at a bunch of possibilities in Edinburgh and I like these two. 

The first is a Bed and Breakfast, with three bedrooms.  It is on the upper two floors of a Georgian townhouse in New Town, and quite beautiful in the pictures.  It is the place I would choose if I were going on my own or with an able-bodied companion. 


The link below, for Edinburgh Flats is for “self-catering” – that is, you get a kitchen.  I like that because I get tired of eating out all the time.  If you’re dealing with dietary restrictions, it is especially helpful.  Since this is a reality-based fantasy and my husband is going with me, I am going to have to consider his diet.


I’m still working on accommodations in Glasgow; I will post that information as soon as I can.

When and where?

I’m working on the itinerary.  I’ll have it up in a few days.  Here are some links I’m using.

Gazeteer for Scotland – interactive with maps and history and other info, very useful.


National Trust for Scotland:


Rampant Scotland:


A selection of over 160 places to visit in Scotland. Many of them are within a few hours drive of Edinburgh or Glasgow. All the selected locations have a description and at least one illustration – often a lot more than that!

When to Go:

I’m thinking early May would be good.

The royal wedding at the end of April means that there will be lots of people in the British Isles for the weeks before the wedding, and they will be all over, getting local color and history, before the big day.

By the beginning of June, the travel season will be in full swing, which means higher prices for airfare and hotels.  Yeah, I know this is Virtual Travel and therefore we don’t really have to worry about those things.  There’s always room at the Virtual Inn, so to speak.  Nevertheless, this is a reality–based fantasy and that means we are going to worry about prices.  And the weather.

There is always the weather to consider.  It’s likely  to be cold there in May.  On the other hand, the weather does sometimes surprise.  I’m looking into weather cams and that kind of thing.

Where to Go

I’m thinking about basing the trip in Edinburgh, or maybe part of the time in Edinburgh and part of the time in Glasgow, rather than spending only one or two nights in different hotels in different places.  That way we can unpack, and get familiar with the city, and feel a bit more connected with the place.

My sister Chris wants to go to the Edinburgh Festival in August.  I think it would be a pity to go in August and miss the Festival, but I also think it would be a pity to be in Scotland and not see the historic sights (or sites).

So what I propose is that we go early May and then do a return trip in August.

In the Planning Stages

Just like “Real Life”, planning a virtual trip requires doing research.  For me, anyway.  Unless you go to the travel agency and say  “I want to go somewhere, tell me where”, and leave everything up to them, you do research.  

You look at the tours.  You look at airfare and accommodations.  And how to get from the airport to the hotel.  “Transfers” can be a big deal, a big problem, a big expense.  So you do research.  And what you want to do at your destination and, if you’re not with a tour group, how to get there.  

This weekend, I’m surrounding myself with travel books.  One book has a suggested itinerary that focuses on Castles and Whisky.  Chris and I are going “oooh!’  because it is mostly castles and we love castles.  

Then we read about Glasgow and Clydebuilt and the Tall Ship, and we’re going “oooh!” again.

Some photos of highland scenery, and we’re going “oooh!”  again.  Reading about the islands — the Orkneys, the Shetlands, the islands in the Firth and the Islands in the Clyde, and again, “oooh!”  Ancient remains, lots of history, beautiful scenery.  Oooh!

And realizing that we can’t do the borders and the highlands, the castles and the islands, the ancient history, the medieval history, the modern history.  We have to focus.  Just like in Real Life.  

If we’re going to do justice to the trip, we have to set limits. 

So, we’re working on the itinerary.   And, just like Real Life, it isn’t getting any easier to narrow things down.  Just like in Real Life, though, the planning stages are exciting.  

What you can do:  start reading  up on Scotland and let me know what you’d like to do.  If there is information on the web that would contribute to our trip, pass it along in the comments.  

Blog Note:  this is my first blog, and I’m still learning how to do things.  I plan to add a resource page,  an About page, links to relevant web sites, and so on.  

Where do you want to go?

I said I’d post the itinerary in mid-April. Until then, I’m taking suggestions.  Where in Scotland would you like to visit?

Edinburgh is a given.  But where in Edinburgh?   There’s a lot of stuff in Edinburgh besides the Castle and Holyroodhouse.  

My sister Chris has mentioned Mary King’s Close.  

There is a lovely botanical garden and nice parks but in late April or early May, it may be too cold to enjoy the outdoors.  

I’ll post links to relevant websites when the itinerary is set.

I’ll post an itinerary in mid-April, with some links and ideas for activities.  

Then you do your bit:  do some reading and research, just as you would if you were taking a real trip.

Each day of the trip, I’ll post something about where we went that day and what happened.  

Then you do your bit:  post your contributions to the ongoing story.  Write about the kinds of things you’d experience.   Doing research really helps with this.    (Like on our cruise, Chris and I were surprised by the elaborate marionettes  for sale on one of the Greek islands.  We never expected something like that, the guidebooks didn’t mention puppets, but there they were in the photos!  So we had to find out if there was a reason why, and make up a story about them.)

You don’t have to follow the itinerary exactly. 

If I plan a day trip somewhere, you don’t have to go.  You can stay in Edinburg and shop!  

Once I’ve posted about a particular day, you can go to that post anytime and add to the story.  I’ll be posting in April but if you want to add something in September, you can.  If you come in on Day 3 of the trip, you can go back to Day 1.  

Interact with each other.

On a real trip, you meet people.  If it’s a group thing, you interact with the other tour members.  Chris turns her ankle and Darlene gives her an ace bandage.  I develop a cough and someone tells me an old family recipe to treat it.  We change our money and George tells us about what it was like before they decimalized the currency.  

So write posts like that.  

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