Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Edinburgh, Scotland at festival time!

If you have not visited Edinburgh while the festival is on, you are missing something. The usual sleepy medieval city comes alive with natives, street hawkers, tourists, live play previews on the streets, stand-up comedians… get the idea! For the Indians who complain that they don’t get to see too many people in the UK, this will make them shut up.

Festival crowd at Royal Mile
Royal Mile, the street around which life revolved around in old Edinburgh, comes alive and happily takes you in. And trust me, it gets busier than Linking Road Mumbai at evenings. Put together the people, the medieval castles and streets and houses, parks and palaces, couple of dormant volcanoes, theatres and the festival mood – you can’t have too much of it!

Some of the places in and around Royal Mile that we got to visit were

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh castle and the soldier guarding the castle have to put up with the street lights and the double decker buses that have invaded their city.
The castle sits on top of a dormant volcano. You will be poorer by £14 per person if you visit the castle and rent an audio tour. If you’ve been to some of the mighty old forts back in India, there are chances that you might be terribly disappointed. But you do get a great view of the city from the castle which throws in some good photography opportunities. The Prisoners of War exhibition is also not to be missed if you have not seen one before. Another attraction down there is the One O’Clock gun.

The Scotch Whisky experience
When you walk down from the castle and into the Royal Mile, this building is hard to miss. If you are a Scotch Whisky enthusiast, maybe you should drop in here first before you explore the castle (£5.50 per person); it might lighten things up in the castle! For the others, you can visit this place to pick up some gifts that will be appreciated by your near and dear Scotch lovers.

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
If you have kids or if the kid inside you is still alive and kicking, this is not to be missed. It will set you back by £9 per person, but the pleasant surprises that are in store for you inside will more than compensate for this. The highlight being the Camera Obscura that is set up in the hexagonal tower, which lets you spy on all parts of the city sitting in the safe confines of the small room. If you loved science in school, you will love this. And the witty person demonstrating the camera only adds to the experience.

High Kirk of St Giles or St. Giles Cathedral
St. Giles Cathedral
The glass paintings in this church make the visit worthwhile. If you are lucky enough to be there during their service, do attend it. It drives some people to a place where they feel totally at peace with themselves and the world and it drives some other people, like my husband, into a state of deep slumber.

Mary King’s close
Mary King's Close is the best known close on the Royal Mile thanks to its 300 year old legends and ghost stories. If you are ready to shell out £9.50 per person, you will get to see how people lived in there underground alleyways from 16th up to the 19th century and how some of them succumbed to the plague during the 17th century. If you are from India or from any other developing country for that matter and have seen how people live in the slums sharing a one room tin house with 10 others, you won’t be impressed with Mary King’s close.
I’d suggest that you give this a miss and visit the Edinburgh Dungeon or one of the Edinburgh ghost tours.

Some other places you might want to drop in near Royal Mile are The Scottish Parliament Building - for those with an interest in architecture, Arthur’s seat – which is a reasonably good trek (822ft) up a dormant volcano which will reward you with a spectacular view of the city and even the beautiful meadows beyond, The Palace Of Holyrood House and Holyrood Abbey, The People's Story – an interesting museum which describes the life and work of the ordinary people of Edinburgh and, Museum of Childhood – which has a vast collection of toys, games and books most of which are extinct or are antiques now.

You can also spend some time walking around in the Princess street and keep an eye on the castle all the time, enjoy your takeaway lunch at Princess street gardens, watch a show by the street comedians, admire the Scott monument or just drop in at one of plays/films being screened at the festival. You will also get to see a lot of men in skirts……kilts; you can get one for yourself if you fancy those. But mind you, skirts sans stockings are not a great idea for the weather in Scotland.

Some dos and don’ts

  • Don’t drive down into Edinburgh city center at festival time. You might not be able to find a place to park your car or you might have to shell out exorbitant parking fees. You can buy unlimited travel in the local buses for £2.5 a day which is the best way of getting around in the city.
  • Book yourself early into a B&B or a hostel if you want to visit Edinburgh during the festival. Latecomers might have to pay double the usual rates or tent it out in one of the gardens!
  • Vegetarians beware. The city is not very kind to vegetarians. Your options are limited to Jacket potatoes or Subway sandwiches or a Veggie pizza or just desserts. Alternatively, if you search, you might be able to find an Indian restaurant offering to wipe your purse out for a dinner.
  • Visit the Information center at Princes Street for good deals on theater/film tickets.
  • Beware of ghosts or paranormal activity in the underground closes. I am not sure, but just be on the lookout!

More photos here.


Anonymous said...

I like it best when tour guides mention the admission price when they wax eloquent about the place. After all, the wallet factor cannot and should not be ignored. *whew, I sound almost like someone whos finally woken up to costly ol' UK*

Seems like you had a ball !! *sigh*

Just curious, how much in normal time would the all-inclusive cost for 2 ppl from London be to visit Edinburgh for a weekend... Of course, you know the answer !!

- J

Girl With Big Eyes said...

Yup I had a ball :)

We spent around £200 on the trip - this is inclusive of travel, accommodation, ticket prices and food. Does not include shopping expenses.

You have a great trip under £150. You will have to travel by bus instead of a train though.