July 17, 2012

Take the road less traveled, take the long way round


The room we stayed in backed onto the service area and courtyard of other hotels. It was quite noisy at different times through the night but as soon as it hit 7am the staff were bringing out the trolleys for washing and started emptying bottles from the previous night. It took them about an hour to finish so I didn't need to have set the alarm.

Once we were organised we headed around the corner and got breakfast from Greggs. I was shocked at how rude the two women in the shop were. Neither of us was rude to them but they certainly had a chip on their shoulders. I know Greggs isn't going to be too many peoples dream job but its not an excuse to be nasty.

From looking at the map last night, I knew we had to go down to the corner and turn left. This would put us in the right street street to head down towards Arthur's Seat. What I hadn't learnt from the map was that the street we were on was a bridge over the top of the street we wanted. It wasn't hard to reach the right street though.

After walking for about 10-15 minutes we came to one of the footpaths that take you around the park. Arthur's Seat is one section of Holyrood Park. Also known as Queen or King's Park, depending on the monarch. It is rather intimidating to look up. It gave me a feeling of reverse vertigo. We ended up on the Queen's Road and passed underneath the Salisbury Crags. The Crags are 46m cliffs in the middle of the park. The cliffs are made of dolerite and columnar basalt and is popular with rock climbers.

View towards Arthur's Seat from Holyrood Palace (L) and the Scottish Parliament (R) 
© Glaciations of the World
The going was fairly slow even though it wasn't overly steep in the initial stage. Neither of us were as fit as we thought though.

The walk and the surroundings were really green and the further we went the more you could see. 

© Glaciations of the World

© Glaciations of the World
The view out over the North Sea was a little hazy, as was the view back over the city but the grey didn't detract.

© Glaciations of the World
Today was the first day I got to really try out my new toy - a Pentax film SLR. The film in it is out of date so I'm backing everything up with the digital or the phone. I look like a complete tourist. It's exciting to work with something where you don't get instant gratification of a shot. I've taken a couple of shots of the scenery and birds so hopefully they'll come out.

Walking around the road you feel really small - you look up and down and its crazy the feelings. It also seems a really popular place for walkers and runners. We passed mums with strollers, "professional" walkers with their poles and old couples making a good pace. There were a lot of cars and taxis also doing the loop but this is cheating. There is no way you can see everything from behind that little square of glass.

At about the half way mark, or just past it, is Dunsapie Loch. Near the carpark here is an Iron Age Fort from about 2000 years ago. The loch is man made and was the idea of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Dunsapie Lock
©Glaciations of the World
St Anthony's Chapel
©Glaciations of the World.

In all, the walk took us about two hours and I found out later it is roughly about 7 miles the way we went.

As we came back towards the palace, we were both starting to feel it. We stopped at the Palace cafe for a cuppa.

We were trying to work out what to do next so we started walking up the Royal Mile towards the castle. It was a little bit blustery but not to bad. We decided to head towards Greyfriars Kirk.

Before we got to the Kirk we stopped at the Museum of Scotland to have a look. Angie, quite rightly called it a Tardis museum, as every time you turned around it felt like another room was appearing.

Gardy Loo! What you would hear as the day's bodily waste was tipped out windows.
©Glaciations of the World

Museum of Scotland
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Museum of Scotland
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One of the famous inhabitants and stories of Greyfriars Kirk is of Greyfriars Bobby.

©Glaciations of the World
He was a Skye Terrier, who, when his master died, waited at the grave site until he himself died. He spent 14 years doing this. The locals would feed him and look after him. There is some contention as to whether this story is true, or if it was a publicity stunt. Jan Bondeson from Cardiff University alleges it was two different dogs, trained to stay in the graveyard. Bondelson has found documentation alleging the tourist trade increased 100 fold. Bondeson also points towards the images of Bobby - pointing out that one is clearly a scruffy stray and in the second, a more spirited, younger terrier that is now the dominant image.

The romantic in me wants to believe the original story but the more skeptical, analytic side of me believes the revised idea.

Greyfriars Kirk is also one of the most haunted graveyards in, I think, the UK. Burials have been taking place on the site, next to George Heriot's School, since the 16th century. It takes its name from a Franciscan friary on the site, dissolved in 1559.

Tombstone of James Borthwick, Surgeon. Died 1676
©Glaciations of the World

Tomb of Sir George Mackenzie
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Interior of Sir George Mackenzie's tomb (and possible tattoo idea).
©Glaciations of the World

There wasn't enough sun to cause this lense flare in the location of this headstone.
©Glaciations of the World

Urn on the inside of another tomb
©Glaciations of the World

I find it sad that this is the only reference to a persons life.
©Glaciations of the World

Wild Daisy's covering quite a large area
©Glaciations of the World
The area of the Kirk I would have liked to have seen more of is the locked of space called the Covenanters Prison. It is a section of tombs with a nasty history. The Covenanters were a Scottish Presbyterian movement. The prison held, at one point, about 1200 men. "For over four months these men were held without any shelter, each man being allowed 4 ounces of bread a day".

Covenanters Prison - Image Source

Plaque on the wall beside the entrance
As for the Kirk being haunted, I couldn't say one way or the other, but it didn't feel as creepy as Cannongate.

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