Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thursday/Friday – June 7-8, 2012 – Edinburgh (Leith), Scotland – Drizzly – Low 50s

Invergordon, Scotland to Edinburgh, Scotland: 217 Nautical Miles

Day 1 - June 7, 2012

The Azamara Journey is docked in Leith, the port city of Edinburgh and about 10 minutes from the city center.  The ship will provide constantly running shuttle busses between Leith and the city.

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and its second largest city (behind Glasgow) – located on the end of the Firth of Forth;  Scotland occupies about one third of the Island of Great Britain.  Scotland also consists of 790 islands some of which we have visited on this cruise.  The city was built on the site of extinct volcanoes and today has a population of about 500,000 people.  It was an independent kingdom until 1707 when it was joined with England to become the United Kingdom.

I am escorting a tour this afternoon to the St. Andrews Royal and Ancient Golf Club but this morning, we are going to explore Edinburgh by foot.  The shuttle bus dropped us off at the start of Princes Street at the Old Calton Cemetery.  This was a great location to start our tour of the city.

Old Calton Cemetery Plaque (Small)

Before heading over to the city center, we took a quick look at the Old Calton Cemetery.

E at Calton Cemetery (Small)

Ellen at Calton Cemetery

 Calton Cemetery (Small)

The Varied Headstones at Calton Cemetery

Although we were in Scotland, we recognized a familiar figure among the monuments and statues.

Statue of Lincoln Calton Cemetery (Small)

Memorial to Scottish-American Soldiers

It was a statue of Abraham Lincoln and it was a memorial to Scottish American Soldiers.  The cemetery also had an impressive obelisk, that was in memory of five men who worked for parliamentary reform in 1844.

Obelisk at Calton Cemetery (Small)

Obelisk in Calton Cemetery 

To get to the city center and the famous Royal Mile, you have to cross over the Old North Bridge.  Old North Bridge was built in 1763 and widened in 1876; it was taken down 20 years later and eventually rebuilt.  The Bridge does not cross over any river today; instead a new shopping center or mall is being built under the bridge.

At the corner of the Bridge and Princes Street was an impressive building which turned out to be the Balmoral Hotel (below).

Balmoral Hotel  Corner Princes Street North Bridge (Small)

Facing the Bridge Road was an impressive building with a statue of Duke of Wellington in front.

Duke of Wellington Statue (Small)

Duke of Wellington Statue

Old North Bridge 1 (Small)

Looking back at Old North Bridge

From Old North Bridge you can get a great view of the Old Calton Cemetery and its towers.

Calton Cemetery from North Bridge 1 (Small)

Old Calton Cemetery from Old North Bridge

The Royal Mile (which I think is more than a mile) reaches from the Edinburgh Castle at one end to Holyrood House at the other.  Along the way, there are a number of key city sites.

The Royal Mile Edinburgh (Small)

Royal Mile looking toward the Edinburgh Castle

Royal Mile 3 (Small)

Royal Mile looking toward Holyrood House

The Edinburgh Hub (HQ for the Edinburgh Festival) was formerly the Tollbooth Kirk.  It has the tallest spire in Edinburgh. 

Old Church on Royal Mile (Small)

The Hub

The architecture along the Royal Mile was very interesting including the Woolen Mill Building (second below).

Architecture Royal Mile (Small)       The Woolen Mill (Small)

Architecture along Royal Mile

The Royal Mile also had a large number of “Closes” with names attached to them.  They were narrow alleyways – sometimes with businesses lining them - leading either to streets below the main street or into courtyards with restaurants and flats.  

There are two other major structures on the Royal Mile as we proceeded toward the Castle.

The first is St. Giles Cathedral

St Giles Cathedral 1 (Small)

St Giles Cathedral (Small)

Adam Smith St Giles Cathedral (Small)

St. Giles Cathedral and Statue of Adam Smith

The church was originally the Edinburgh Parish Church.  It became a cathedral in 1633 and its present structure dates from 1829.  The Spire is old and dates back to 1495.  A church has occupied the site of the cathedral since 854.

Parliament Square is also on the route to the castle. Can you find Ellen in the picture below?

Ellen in Parliament Square (Small)

Parliament Square 1 (Small)

Located across the street from Parliament Square is the Edinburgh City Council Chambers.  What made this building interesting is the statue of Alexander the Great and his Horse. 

Alexander and horse - Govt Building (Small)

Alexander the Great and his Horse

Edinburgh Castle is located on a hill that has been fortified since the 5th century.  The location on the hill makes three of its sides unreachable.  The artifacts of the Scottish Monarch (jewels, crowns) are on display in the Castle.  The castle sits on black volcanic rock and the hill between the castle and Holyrood House was carved from ice during the last ice age.  Along the entrance to the Castle are bleacher seats, which must be used for events such as concerts. 

Edinburgh Castle (Small) 

  Ellen at entrance to Edinburgh Castle 

We walked up as far as we could without paying to get in the Castle.  This still gave us a good feel for the age and structure of the Castle.

Knight at the Entrance of Edinburgh Castle (Small)

Knight guarding Castle Entrance

Walkway to the entrance of Castle (Small)

Behind the Castle Walls

Edinburgh from the Castle (Small)

 Edinburgh from Castle 1 (Small)

Views of Edinburgh from Castle

I have an afternoon tour so we headed back to ship for lunch.   On our way down the Royal Mile, I spotted this archway, which dates back to 1815.  It looked so much like a Roman or Greek ruin that I needed a picture (below).

Archway from 1815 (Small)

The bus ride back to Leith was very short.  In the center of town, there is a statue of Queen Victoria.

 Queen Victoria in Square in Leith (Small)

Leith is a pretty big town with lots of shops but it is just a little too far to walk from the pier.  

Besides the Journey, another ship is berthed in Leith – the Royal Yacht Britannia.  The yacht is now a museum/tourist attraction. 

Royal Yacht Brittania (Small)

The Britannia

After lunch, I met my tour group on the pier.  We are going to go the birthplace of golf – The Royal and Ancient St. Andrews Golf Club.  Our guide seems to know a bit about golf so that should be helpful.

Heading out from the city – through nasty traffic (it took more than 30 minutes to clear Leith and hit the highway) – we were able to see the Edinburgh Castle dominating the city skyline.

Edinburgh from Tour Bus (Small)

The ride to St. Andrews was about an hour and 40 minutes.  Most of the countryside on the way consisted of sloping hills covered by low clouds and fog (below).

  Fog obsures the hills (Small) 

We finally got to the quaint little town of St. Andrews (BTW St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland).  The town has a number of hotels (catering to the golfers who do the pilgrimage) and golf shops, some of which are locally famous such as Ouchterlonies Ladies Locker Room  (I am not sure that the R&A allows women on the course).  There are more golf shops than bars and coffee shops, at least by my estimation. 

Famed Golf Shop in St Andrews (Small)

Ouchterlonies Ladies Locker Room

The bus tried to turn down the street alongside the 18th green but construction blocked the way (“Oh, Fit”, exclaimed our guide).  The bus backed out of the street and took the side streets in an effort to get around the construction.  On the detour, we got a peak at the Bishops Castle (end of the street below).

Streets of St Andrews - Bishops Palace at end (Small)

Because of the detour, we visited the St. Andrews Cathedral.  The Cathedral, once imposing, was now reduced to ruins.  There were several buildings in varying states of ruin along with rock structures on the ground, which may have been either supports for building or monuments.

Entrance St Andrews Cathedral (Small)

Entrance to St. Andrews Cathedral

St Andrews Cathedral and Cemetery (Small) St Andrews Cathedral Ruins (Small) 

St. Andrews Cathedral and Cemetery (two above)

Cathedral and foundation stone (Small)

Cathedral Foundation Stones (Small)

 Stone Structures on Ground (what are they?)

Our alternate route was successful and we skirted the construction to arrive at the end of 18th hole at the Old Course.  There was a museum (with a pay loo) and golf shops up and down the street.  The right side of the fairway was a narrow street with traffic and line with hotels.  The left side of the fairway was a pedestrian path.  The fairway was also bisected by a cement walkway guarded by Marshalls at either end.  They probably kept an eye on crossing people as well as golfers hacking up the landscape.  My first goal was finding facilities.

One of the hotels along the 18th filled the bill but when I inquired about WiFi, I was told that they did not have any available.  I would try the coffee shops.  Until then, I rejoined our splintered group at the end of the 18th for our little walking tour of the final hole at St. Andrews.  I should mention that it was windy and drizzling at this point - “par for the course” at St. Andrews. 

I always thought that the course was a little like playing golf in a pasture but the course is in terrific condition – perfect fairways and well manicured greens.

Our first stop was the practice putting green

Putting Green St Andrews R&A (Small)

Practice Putting Green

The guide then led us down the path on the right side of the fairway and then across the path on the fairway.  From there, we could see the foursomes as they headed up the fairway.  To my surprise, the golfers were using pull carts (no caddies).  The guide told us that there are times in the day that you can use pull carts.  Otherwise, a day at St. Andrews can cost you about 180 Pounds (including a wise Scottish caddie).

R&A St. Andrews GC No 18 Green (Small) 

Golfers on No 18 (Small) 

Sizing up their putts on 18

Almost all of the golfers we saw wore black (requirement or coincidence?).  The guys we saw could also play – I did not see a duffed shot during the time I watched the foursomes play the hole.

    Fairway No 18 (Small)

The guide told us it would be OK to hop the fence and walk onto the fairway at 18 so we could have a photo op at the famous Swilcan bridge on 18.  This is the spot that Jack Nicklaus stood and waved at this last Open.  Although it seemed to be against the rules, our group took picture after picture while the guys waited on the tee (no doubt muttering).

 Bridge on 18 (Small) Standing on History (Small)  

The Swilcan bridge on 18 at the Old Course at St. Andrews 

The fairways are pretty wide and we had to duck one slice tee shot.

In the remaining time we had at St. Andrews, I searched high and low for WiFi with no success (password protected or places I would not purchase a coffee to use their WiFi).  As I turned to go down to meet the bus, I switch on my WiFi and picked up an open signal at the Dunvegan Hotel.  It was a tiny hotel with no lobby so I could not sit there so I sat outside on a bench in the drizzle (protecting my phone) and caught up on my e-mail.  I just made it to the bus and soon we were on our way back (I was not the last person to get to the bus).

The ride home was a bit shorter but I was still all wet and tired.  But I can say I visited the ultimate Golf Shrine. 

Showtime tonight consisted of songs from the movies (mostly the 60s and 70s).  We sat close again and got some nice pictures (below).

Showtime 3 (Small)

Pedometer: 12,067 steps; 5.72 miles; 591 calories

Day 2 – Edinburgh, Scotland

Our plan today is to go the other way on the Royal Mile and see Holyrood House.

Holyrood House is at the bottom of Royal Mile.  It is Scotland’s premier Royal Palace and the official residence of Queen Elisabeth II when she visits Scotland. The castle has been burned several times and was rebuilt in 1650 by Oliver Cromwell and rebuilt again in 1660 by Charles II (Louis XIV Style).

Our journey again started at the Old Calton Cemetery.  While the trip to the Edinburgh Castle was uphill then downhill, the trip to Holyrood was just the opposite.

My other goal of the day is to find a St. Andrews Golf Cap – the caps at Course were incredibly pricey so I going to check out the souvenir stores along the Royal Mile. 

There is much to see along the Royal Mile.

The Church below was given to Thomas Moodie by the King of Scotland as a church and tomb back in 1688.  I am not sure who Thomas Moodie was but he had pull with the Monarchy.

  Thomas Moodie Church and Tomb 1688 (Small)

Ellen and Friend on Royal Mile (Small)

Ellen and a inanimate local 

A very old structure, the Canongate Mercat Cross, dates back to 1128.  It is pretty good shape considering the weather conditions in Edinburgh.

Canongate Mercat Cross 1128 (Small)

Canongate Mercat Cross

We ducked into one of the “Closes” along the way.  In this case, it opened up into an apartment complex of quaint cottages.  Considering their location, I am betting they cost a bundle to buy or rent.

Complex of Flats off Royal Mile (Small)

At the bottom of the hill lies Holyrood House.  It is across the street from a Government Building so ugly that no photos were taken.  The Castle, however,is magnificent and, indeed, French in appearance.

Holyrood House end of Royal Mile (Small)

Holyrood House

We started our walk back up the hill toward Old North Bridge.  I did pick up a cap (complete with magnetic ball marker).  We also saw some terrific architecture including a building (below) with an unusual balcony.

Walking back up the Royal Mile Hill (Small)

Balcony tower from front (Small)

House with Balcony

Interesting tavern on Royal Mile (Small) 

Tollbooth Tavern (on Royal Mile)

After returning to the ship and refueling, we went to the nearby Ocean Terminal Mall in Leith (just a few minutes walk from the ship).  It was raining and windy so the walk was more miserable that it should have been.  Also, Ellen cancelled her St. Andrews excursion and we heard later that the people who went on it got drenched.

The mall is humongous and they have a Starbucks with open WiFi.  It worked well for Ellen yesterday but today, the connection was not stable.  We got some e-mails off but not much else.

Ellen at Ocean Terminal Mall in Leith (Small)

My talk tonight – made possible by passenger requests – is “Christopher Columbus: Man of Mystery”.  It was a new talk in that it was broken off from my “Mysteries of the Seas” talk.  It went fine with an audience of about 40.

In the evening, we attended Showtime with Cheryl Sinclair (Vocalist).  She was terrific.

Pedometer: 8865 steps; 4.2 miles; 434 calories

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