Trip 42 Day 1-2
April 26-27, 2023
Today we started our journey to Edinburgh, which takes us from DFW to Chicago to London, where we transit to Edinburgh. It’s always a bit worrying when you have connections, anything can go wrong to bork up the whole journey. Today’s adventure was an airport ground stop in Dallas due to severe weather. We had plenty of connection time in Chicago as long as the flight getting us there wasn’t cancelled; it was an hour+ late leaving.
We arrived in London’s Heathrow airport at 6:30 am after about a ~7 hour flight. E-Gate passport control is so much easier than those long lines, even if the B&W photos aren’t complimentary. Just about an hour to wait at one of the airport lounges for breakfast while we wait for the gate to be posted (about 45 minutes before scheduled departure).
We’ve never flown into Edinburgh; the last time we visited we took the train from London to Waverly station . But to spend the time and money to transit into London and then spend 4 hours on the train vs. using the same airline miles to get there, was a better option.
We took the tram into town for £18 (two people), buying tickets on the tram platform. Well before the city, we pass by a number of low-rise (4 story) office parks and some retail parks (outlets?). It’s still early spring here, but many trees are leafed out, including some cherry trees and dogwood. 49° this morning.
Entering the city, we’re flanked on both sides by mostly older four-five story flats with retail on the ground floor. We exited the tram at Princes Street, which is a main thoroughfare, with gardens down below street level. We’ll visit the gardens later I’m sure, but the cherry trees are in full bloom and we see tulips down below.
We crossed over Princes street to head towards our hotel and walked down Rose Street, full of pubs, bistros and bars.
Princes Garden apparently wasn’t always a scenic garden and was a “Loch” called the Nor’ Loch, forming the Northern boundary of Edinburgh. Already useful for defence, it was made more impassable in the fifteenth century by the damning of a nearby stream, which flooded the valley. With the building of the New Town in the late eighteenth century, the Nor’ Loch was drained so Edinburgh’s two halves could be connected and it eventually became Princes Street Gardens. The Scots and the English have really never gotten on; some say they still do not.
Since our room was not ready, we ventured out to explore Prince’s street garden and a tea room near Holyrood Palace, along the royal Mile. Prince’s garden separates “new” from “old “ Edinburgh, if not actually, certainly visually. Old Edinburgh (and the Castle), built up on the mountain across the way is clearly Victorian in building design. With buildings that aren’t more than 4-5 stories, they look more imposing looking down from a higher elevation. Many of the buildings are built next to one another to present a solid “front” as you look up at them, but walking down the Royal Mile, you discover a number of “Closes” interspersed between buildings. “Closes” look like alleys, but sometimes lead up/down to parallel streets, sometimes to gardens or courtyards hidden from view, and some are just an alley. Usually named after a memorable occupant of one of the apartments reached by the common entrance, or a trade plied by one or more residents. A close is private property, hence gated and closed to the public, whereas a wynd is an open thoroughfare, usually wide enough for a horse and cart (definitely not the case for a”close” which is only about 4-5’ wide). Closes developed by the need for security within its town walls against English attacks in past wars, Edinburgh experienced a pronounced density in housing. Closes tend to be narrow with tall buildings on both sides, giving them a canyon-like appearance and atmosphere. The buildings in “old” Edinburgh mostly use a grey sandstone, though there are several buildings that have the characteristic red sandstone I remember seeing more of in Glasgow.
We walked through some of the gardens, enjoying the flowering trees and plants.
Princes Street seems like it has always been the “High Street “ for shopping, but the decline in brick & mortar retail, generally, has taken its toll, with a number of the large big name retailers leaving Princes entirely, or moving to more modern locations, like St James Quarter , which was under construction when we were last here.
The Royal Mile leads us to our last destination today, a small (8 tables) tea room called Clarinda’s Tea Room. It’s quite a walk down the Royal Mile. Cutting up into the “Mile” from below , to the right would lead us to Edinburgh Castle, and at the other end is Holyrood Palace.
For 2:30 in the afternoon, we were told there was a 20 minute wait for a table (there are only eight), but we were lucky and it was a bit less. Cream tea & scones.
There are plenty of stores specializing in tartan wear and Scottish ancestry along the Royal Mile and all sorts of tchotchke. This one (YouTube) caught our attention.