Thanks to contributors on this forum, we had a great time on our recent trip to Scotland. We arrived in Edinburgh the evening of May 21st by train from London (after taking the Eurostar from Paris earlier in the day). The trip report for the French part of the trip is on the France forum.
We took the train on the East Coast Line using tickets we bought from Scot Rail. This was a suggestion made by bobelinks. I had been having trouble buying tickets online from East Coast, but had no trouble with Scot Rail. Our two tickets cost only 57 GBP ($92) for the both of us and we picked them up at Kings Cross with no trouble. There was no time spent with customs in St. Pancras. All of the checking was done at the Gare du Nord in Paris. What was funny was that my husband and I somehow got our passports switched, and we got separated by one person at the passport control point at Gare du Nord. I didn't realize they had been switched until I got to the British officer. He looked at me and down at the passport, and looked at me again, and asked rather indignantly, "Did the French officer see this?' and then he told me I had my husband's passport and called my husband up to the booth. We switched around the passports and went through. I didn't know there had been anything wrong when I went through the French control. The French officer looked up at me rather bored, stamped the passport and waved me on. There's a line from "My Fair Lady" that somehow applies to this. It goes, "The French don't care what you do actually, as long as you pronounce it correctly."
We arrived that evening at our lodging (Edinburgh House Hotel) on Pilrig St rather tired. Pilrig St. is right off Leith Walk. I liked the neighborhood and it was an easy bus ride to the center of Edinburgh, so the location was great. The room was plain but clean. We had to schlepp our bags up three flights of stairs, but that was alright. We were staying there 3 nights, so one time in 3 days isn't bad. The hotel rate was $118/night which included breakfast and taxes. The annoying thing was they kept trying to collect for breakfast, until I showed them my reservation confirmation with the special offer that included breakfast. They were nice people though.
So that evening we went out on Leith Walk looking for a place to eat. There was this pub on the corner and we were trying to see if there was any menu. There wasn't, when at that moment a rather intoxicated old lady came out. I asked her if they served any food in there, like fish and chips. She looked at me rather concerned, and told us there was a very nice fish and chips place just a little ways down the road. So we walked about two blocks and came to what was described as a "high-end Fish and Chips Restaurant." We took our tired bodies into there and had a very nice dinner of fish and chips with Isle of Arran beer for about $45. The wait staff were a group of very friendly and helpful young ladies. They answered some questions we had about buses and gave us plenty of change. (You need exact change for the buses.)
The next morning we did the tourist thing. We got off the bus close to the Walter Scott Monument. Then walked up to the Royal Mile and were on our way to Edinburgh Castle, when we were distracted by the sound of a large group of bagpipes. We followed the sound of the bagpipes until we got to their source, which was out in front of St. Giles Cathedral. It seems it was the opening of a week- long meeting of the Church of Scotland. There was a gray-haired guy reviewing the band and a large group of young men dressed in blue shirts. I asked who the gray haired man was, and was told he was the Lord High Commissioner. It was great fun watching this ceremony. The down-side was that later in the day we could not tour Holy Rood Palace because he was in residence.
Anyway when the ceremony was over we proceeded to Edinburgh Castle. They sure have dressed it up for tourists since I last visited it in 1966. I like that it is so tourist friendly. We spent probably about 2 hours there and had lunch (sandwiches and haggis flavored crisps and drinks for $18.85) at the Redcoat Cafe which was Ok. It was adequate in that it did the job and took away our hunger. We went back to St. Giles, which is beautiful inside. I paid the 2 pounds to take pictures. We also hit the gift shop on the side of the cathedral. I got pulled in by those clan books which are obviously put out there for American tourists. They are overpriced and repititive, but what the heck, I thought it was the easiest way to get some basic knowledge about some of my family names, so I bought the books for Ryan, McManus, Stevenson, and Stewart. We finished the day by walking up to Carlton Hill. Our dinner that evening was back on Leith Walk at Victoria on the Walk, an Italian Restaurant that was very popular and crowded. We had a nice, relaxing dinner.
Our last day in Edinburgh we took a bus the opposite way on Leith Walk to Ocean Terminal to see the Royal Yacht Brittania. They did a nice job with the tour also, and the staff was very friendly. I liked that you could take pictures anywhere you wanted, and sit on any chair as long as it was not roped off. It was very blustery that day, as it had been the previous day, but it cleared later in the day. We had our lunch in Her Majesty's Tea Room for a grand total of $46.69 which included tea, soup and sandwiches for both of us and we split a desert. Not bad and we really enjoyed it.
That evening, because we had splurged for lunch, we decided to have dinner at the local pub just around the corner from Pilrig St. because they were advertising "monkey pizza" at 4 pounds apiece. Monkey pizza is like pizza topping on a flour tortilla. We had beer with this, so it was a fine dinner. But the best part of the evening was that Dr. Paul (I think that was his name) was running a quiz.. We participated in this and had a great time. There were two problems with the quiz for us. First for these quizzes you have to be up on pop culture, which tends to favor younger participants, and secondly, of course, it was about British culture. We only scored 22, not really a high score, but Dr. Paul said it was the highest score he had for any Yanks, to great applause from the crowd.
So we ended our stay in Edinburgh on a high note and got ready for the next day when we would start the next part of the adventure-"Driving on the wrong side of the road."