Unbelievably, the skies today were cloudless…we’ve been so lucky. Even the locals are saying this is way beyond normal. After breakfast at the B&B, Monica and I caught the bus to Calton Hill. Only a 10 minute ride and we were there and climbed the steps to the summit of this hill with its sweeping 360 degree views all around Edinburgh. We saw the Dugald Stewart Monument (1800’s key influence on the Scottish Enlightenment), the observatory, the Lord Nelson Monument and the National Monument (looks like Greek pillars) which remains unfinished since the mid 1800’s due to lack of funds.
Descending from Calton Hill, we explored the residential neighborhood just north of the main city core admiring the architecture and occasional surprise such as the Sherlock Holmes statue. We also happened across the National Portrait Gallery with its free admission and just couldn’t say no. Nice to see these historically important works of art – for free! and the interior of the building itself is worth the visit. Our ultimate destination this morning was the National Gallery (different from the Portrait Gallery) on Princes Street also with free admission to the public. This gallery has a wonderful collection from many of the masters and we were allowed to take all the non-flash photos we wanted. Got to love that!
After the art gallery, we parted ways for the next couple of hours. Monica wanted to finish exploring the shops on the Royal Mile and I wanted to explore the west end cathedrals…so off we went in opposite directions with an agreed on meeting place later.
I discovered St. John’s Cathedral on the corner of the park with its beautiful ceiling and stained glass windows. However, it was St. Mary’s Cathedral further west that I really had in mind and I found it easily after a 15 minute walk from the city park. (it really doesn’t take long to get around Edinburgh on foot). On this bright and beautiful morning, St. Mary’s was fully flooded with multi-colored light streaming through the stained glass windows. What a thrill to see and since I was the only person in the church, I enjoyed taking my time and snapping photos. It is quite lovely but nothing yet has compared to St. Giles from yesterday…that cathedral is out of this world.
Monica and I met up as planned at 1:00 and slipped into the Black Bull Pub for lunch right under the castle. The food was good (not great) but the pub was quiet and cozy and that was grand. Back to the B&B for an afternoon rest and making plan for an evening of pub music.
It was dark when we set out to find a suitable restaurant. I thought I had the city routes memorized by now but one little mistake ended us up on a dark alley behind the castle with spooky characters wandering about and drunks passed out on benches. Yikes! Gladly, we soon came to more civilized quarters and found, by accident, The Elephant House restaurant where JK Rowling used to sit and write the chapters for her famous Harry Potter series. The food was excellent and reasonably priced. This restaurant is on top of the George IV Bridge and directly underneath the bridge is the Dropkick Murphy’s Pub (which we had discovered yesterday) so we popped down for a pint to celebrate our last night in Edinburgh. The Dropkick Murphys are an alternative Irish band from Boston and the pub here is a vibrant “late night”sports bar that doesn’t even open until 9:00 pm. We, of course, were the first and only ones there at 9:15. It was nice and quiet.
Tomorrow we’ll head to Glasgow for the final leg of our vacation.