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Day 5 - Day 3 in Edinburgh

Royal Botanic Gardens

semi-overcast 15 °C
View A maiden holiday in Scotland on SteveJD's travel map.

While waiting for our first bus, we were delighted to watch a small flock of Goldfinches devouring Dandelion seeds.

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Today we really tested our knowledge of Lothian buses. We took a 10, as usual, from close to our flat towards Ocean Terminal (where we had disembarked to visit the RY Britannia). We than took a 16 through rather less salubrious areas heading westwards and changed to an 8 which dropped us by the east gate of the gardens. This gate has a rather blind entrance so we missed this and walked around the gardens about 800 metres to the west gate. This was opportune as, by now we were hungry and the east gate does not have a restaurant! We had a very tasty lunch before exploring the gardens.

Compared with, say Kew Gardens, these are quite small. Kew is about 300 acres and Edinburgh about 72. Nonetheless, this small package delivered. We walked up to the highest point from which we could see various parts of the city skyline, including the "folly" monument to the Napoleonic War dead, apparently unfinished due to lack of funds and providing a view which suggested to some that Edinburgh is the Athens of the North. The castle was also, of course, very visible.

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We roamed through other interesting areas to the Azalea Garden where the colours were quite eye-popping.

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Judith was very envious to see a woman sitting on the grass creating a beautiful water colour image of one of the coral-coloured Azalea blooms, very talented.

We worked our way through Chinese and Nepalese plantings which were fascinating and colourful.

Across the park on a hillside was a very interesting area which had so many beautiful flower species that is hard to recall them all, although the Trillium I find fascinating. The blue Meconopsis were just coming into bloom and we could see the attraction of growing these if you have the right conditions. One of the areas that really impressed was where they had a few species of the orchid Cypripedium growing and flowering. An information board nearby assured us that these can be grown in UK gardens - what a challenge!

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As we neared the east gate and exit, we loved the large rockery area, planted with flowers from all over the world but ones which enjoy rocky slopes.

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On our journey back, we managed the trip on two buses, the 36 to the road where we could pick up the 10 back to the flat, in plenty of time to get packed ready for our departure the next day.

Posted by SteveJD 21:04 Archived in Scotland Tagged gardens scotland edinburgh orchids buses azaleas Comments (1)

Day 4 - Day 2 in Edinburgh

A trip to the city

semi-overcast 14 °C
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We again made good use of public transport. Thank goodness buses are good and reasonably priced as parking is the joint most costly in the UK and driving into Edinburgh at the moment is a nightmare with all of the roadworks. Mainly these work are extensions of the tramline which will no doubt be great once they are finished. In the interim they are a pain.

Both of us were rather surprised at how grubby Edinburgh is. We were dropped on Princes Street which is a fine wide street with wide pavements but despite this we found it, overall, rather underwhelming and disappointing. From this main street, we trudged up through the streets to get to the Museum of Scotland, as recommended by friends (thanks Steve & Liz). Just opposite the museum is a small statue of Greyfriars Bobby. There are various stories about Bobby but the generally accepted view is that he was a Skye Terrier who guarded his master's grave for 14 years until he eventually died. I do wonder how he survived for 14 years through Edinburgh's winters but let's not spoil a good story.

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The exterior of the museum was very modern, with clean angular lines which I quite liked. However, inside it was clearly much older with a very graceful arched structure giving great open areas.

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We explored a few areas, all of which we enjoyed although we felt that some exhibition areas (like other museums etc., that we have visited) lacked any logical flow and we found ourselves dodging to and fro and thus missing some aspects. We did enjoy finding, eventually, the Book of Hours, a small beautifully illustrated little book which had been inscribed by Mary, Queen of Scots.

Lunch was OK and we ate this on the balcony which was incredibly noisy. The eating area looked out over the large internal space and at the ground level, all manner of activities had been provided to keep children entertained (it was a Saturday) and the din was quite incredible. What a pity children can't enjoy the museum for what it offers without dumbing things down to very noisy and rather silly activities. I know I am being intolerant but I feel my years allow me a little grumble!

In one of the exhibition halls was a special display of paintings by John James Audubon. The story of how he got Scots to help him to get his paintings published was fascinating in itself but the paintings were superb with so much attention to detail. Judith has recently taken up painting as a hobby and she was greatly taken by the detail in the pictures with evidence of extremely fine brushwork. I hadn't realised that he painted other creatures as shown in the following examples of some of the paintings on display.

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My grumbles aside, we really enjoyed this exhibition and the museum as a whole. After absorbing as much history and culture as we could, we walked across the road, past Greyfriars Bobby into Greyfriars churchyard where we found a gravestone erected in Bobby's memory and also a granite replica posed in a flower bed in front of the church.

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The streets in this area are very interesting but also very steep and windy, quite taxing on our aging legs! We walked up the Royal Mile with the castle looming over the shops, pubs and other buildings.

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We continued up Castle Hill, to the skirl of bagpipes from a solo, uniformed, piper to the entrance to the castle. Unfortunately, by now, it was too late for an entrance so we satisfied ourselves with a photograph - into the lowering sun! We had to enjoy the sun as it had been in scarce supply although it was at least dry.

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On our way back down, we had a good view of the massive memorial to Sir Walter Scott. This is the second largest memorial to a writer in the world, the largest being in Havana.

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This monument we felt typified the general grubbiness of the city - the "Athens of the North" (having been to Athens, I can't help feeling the comparison is valid insofar as appearance is concerned! However, it seems that in the 1990s test were carried out and it was decided that the sandstone should not be cleaned as this would cause damage to the stone. They did however replace some damaged parts, resulting in a slightly mottled appearance from some angles.

Posted by SteveJD 20:33 Archived in Scotland Tagged paintings edinburgh dog museum castle terrier audubon greyfriars_bobby walter_scott Comments (1)

Day 2

We cross the border

semi-overcast 14 °C
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After an excellent breakfast at The Kestrel, we went off the main roads to detour through the Niddersdale AONB. It truly is a beautiful area of the Yorkshire Dales, although like many pretty country areas there are few places to pull over to take photos. You will just have to take my word for it that it is an area worth visiting.

We finally reached the Scottish border, shrouded in mist - what a welcome!

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I spend a fair amount of time looking into our family histories and in the process I found that a distant relative of Judith's (1st cousin 6x removed!) had been Sheriff in Jedburgh. Not only this but he had also hosted Sir Walter Scott and escorted him around the Borders collecting songs, poems, folk tales and other ephemera which would otherwise have been lost. Naturally, we had to make a slight detour to Jedburgh.

We found this an attractive and friendly town although currently marred by various building works which should see town bright and perky by summer. As we started walking from the FREE car park along towards the High Street, I spotted a plaque commemorating the fact that Rabbie Burns had been to the town.

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We walked down the High Street and there, at the end was Bank House, the former home of Judith's relative, Robert Shortreed. Outside Bank House is a large lump of stone known as the Loupin on Stane and, apparently, Sir Walter Scott would step up onto this in order to mount his horse.

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We enjoyed lunch at The Carter's Rest and then visited Jedburgh Abbey. Robert Shortreed was buried in the abbey grounds and his gravestone is still there. However, the abbey ruins currently are not safe so we could only walk around the outside and look at some of the ruins which were at ground level. It is probably worth mentioning that the abbey is in ruins due, at least in part, to raids by English Border Reivers. Equally, Scottish Border Reivers wrought havoc in England - not a lot changes! We first heard of the Reivers when we holidayed in Northumberland and I find that part of our history fascinating, if rather violent.

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So far so good. This pleasurable interlude could not last of course. Four days before we left, the owner of the flat we were due to stay in let us know that, due to road works we would not be able to use the secure parking, this being one the main reasons for the booking. She assured us that we would be able to double park to unload and then park in the streets nearby. Hard as we tried, we could not get to the double parking area from the direction that she had suggested but had to wend our way through Edinburgh streets to eventually get near the flat from the other side. Double parking was totally impractical and there was nowhere anywhere near where we could leave the car, even if we had been able to unload. We drove around for a while and eventually, quite a long way away, we found a temporary parking where we could try to sort things out. I managed to contact the owner and said we would have to make other arrangements and started discussions on refunds. The owner has offered a partial refund but since the road works have been in place at least since January, I feel that she accepted our booking under false pretences - not impressed. By the way, we had made the booking through TripAdvisor and the entire process has been such a pain that I cannot recommend anyone to use them, or their subsidiary Holiday Lettings. Judith meanwhile was looking for other accommodation and luckily was able to find a flat albeit further out of the city and a bit more expensive. Beggars can't be choosers, so we opted for that. As it happens this is a lovely flat and is close to the Firth of Forth on the north side and just across the water to the south is the Royal Yacht Britannia. So endeth an eventful and tiring day.

Posted by SteveJD 20:30 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland edinburgh jedburgh Comments (0)

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