Only one destination today, it’s a big one so we’re up early! After calculating the different transport options we’ve decided to take the car to the Ingliston P+R and then the tram to the city centre. It’s advised to buy entry tickets for Edinburgh Castle up front since each ticket is for a specific timeslot, but due to our complex membership combinations (some have an Historic Scotland Explorer Pass for 5 days, but we already have an English Heritage membership for a year) we have to take a risk and buy our tickets at the castle itself.
It’s not too busy when we arrive at ten thirty and we have no trouble getting a ticket for immediate entrance. We enjoy the view from the Argyle Battery while waiting for a guided tour to start. We have an audio guide for the kids because they don’t speak English but unfortunately Dutch is not one of the 12 language options, so for them it’s not the most exciting tour, even though the guide is very entertaining. He takes us around the different courtyards to explain what’s where and at the same time a brief history of what has happened here. We’re starting to understand who the major players were (Robert the Bruce and William Walace, Mary Queen of Scots and her line, ..) and what they were up to (a lot of fighting and politics) so it’s not too hard to follow.
After the tour we first visit the crown jewels (a crown, scepter and a sword) first. There’s already a bit of a wait but they’ve turned the waiting line into an educational trail so it’s not boring. The jewels themselves are historically important, but I must admit I can’t get very excited at the sight of them, the history of politics doesn’t interest me as much as the history of logistics, engineering or science. We visit some of the other buildings in the castle complex, the hammerbeam ceiling in the great hall is really impressive – no nuts and bolts, only wooden pegs hold this thing up. However I’m most touched by the War Memorial. It’s the newest building, with a beautiful Art Nouveau facade and it contains books with all the names of soldiers attached to a Scottish regiment who died in the Great War or later, the last entry added in 2013. I’ve seen a lot of similar memorials in France and Belgium and they always make me sad.
We’re out of the castle by two thirty – by now the crowd makes it impossible to move easily – and make our way down the Royal Mile, admiring the grand buildings left and right. After a break for dessert (caramel shortbread again, I can’t get enough of it) there’s not even enough time to get down to Holyrood Castle, since we’re expected at Real Mary King’s Close at five thirty. This visit can only be done with a guided tour in small groups, so we bought our tickets beforehand. We put our things in a locker and follow the guide into the dark. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, since it includes people in costume dress, but I found it very interesting to hear the stories of the tenants and see the old houses, now buried under newer buildings. Unfortunately it is not allowed to take pictures, since the buildings on top are governement owned and apparently pictures would be some kind of security risk.
A pizzeria dinner and a long trek by tram and car back to Stirling, straight to bed.