The ferry ride across to Cairnryan was easy, even though we were warned of high winds. There may have been more crew than passengers, but what a nice ferry! There is a cafe and small casino as well as a small arcade, regular seating areas and a movie theater room. They also provide a special cafe area just for the truck drivers!
We had to get on a shuttle at the ferry terminal to get out to the boat, and to our surprise, the shuttle boarded the ferry and then took us to the terminal when we landed! Imagine that’s your job all day; riding the ferry back and forth!
Unfortunately, I made an assumption about being able to get food at the terminal before getting on a bus for 4-1/2 hours. We made do with what we had and the trip was no big deal. We got into Edinburgh and caught a cab out to our apartment, which is smack-dab in a university area. Loads of students and many parties going on Saturday night. We got settled in and walked out to find food. Managed a place a couple of blocks away, which was loud and busy and had awful food, but it was something.
Sunday we did wander about just a little bit and found a very good Thai place for lunch. We’ve been back for dinner once and they were quite pleased to see us again! We also found an American ex-pat running a pet store a few doors down and he gave us some good info on places to see and things to do.
Edinburgh is huge, and very chic and young. People are nice if you slow them down and talk to them, but will run you right over in the street if you get in their way. Much different pace than even Dublin or Belfast.
Monday we went to breakfast and then caught a bus down to the old part of town and then walked up the hill to the castle. The castle is full of interesting history, of course, and houses the crown jewels of Scotland, which have their own story. They have been buried and hidden almost as many years as they have been in existence, in order to keep them safe from warring countries. We were able to see the prison areas, both ancient and modern, along with the chambers Mary, Queen of Scots lived in and where she birthed James. After the castle, we walked down the Royal Mile to Deacon Brodie’s Pub and had lunch. If you don’t know the story of Deacon Brodie, do look at it: He was the inspiration for Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! Here is some info at this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Brodie
Tuesday we took a train north to Aberdeen. We were able to cross the Firth of Forth, something Neal wanted to do while here, on the way. The train route follows the coast most of the way, so it was a very pretty 2+ hours going up. Aberdeen is near granite quarries, so while most of Edinburgh is a brick red/brown color, Aberdeen is nearly all grey or silver. We walked through the campus of Kings College and down to Old Aberdeen for lunch and then back on the train for the trip home in the dark.
One thing we have found in most of the train stations we have been in both here and in Ireland is they have upright pianos in them and there is always someone playing. And they play really well! In fact, when we went into the Waverly station to get tickets for Aberdeen, people were standing in line to play!
Today we had a little easier day, visiting The Georgian House Museum, which may have been the best thing we have done all trip so far. The house belonged to the Lamont family in the late 18th and early 19th century, until they went broke with their lavish lifestyle. What is really nice is there are period costumes that kids and adults can put on and explore the house and the docents are great! They are genuinely excited to share the house and all the great information about the family and the items in the home. There are several things you are allowed to touch, along with many you absolutely may not, as Neal found out when he touched a 200 year old quilt! The family were not aristocrats, but were of the gentleman class. Unfortunately it was quite expensive to keep up appearances and they eventually had to sell. They later moved to Australia and made another fortune and there is currently a 25th Lord Lamont in Australia.
We had lunch at a nice cafe down the street and then put the girls into a taxi for a surprise for Keira and Samara: They got to go horseback riding! We had looked all over for a place they could ride Scottish ponies, which are adorable, but being off season, we couldn’t find any place offering rides. We did find a horse stable just over 3 miles away that was doing a ride today at 3, so off the three of them went. We haven’t seen them yet, but I’m sure they all had a great time and we will get more good pictures of them doing that.
I am going to post several photos below, and will have more to post once I get them from Erin, but before I do, let’s talk toilets…
Well, to be fair, let’s talk “efficient” advancements in the UK (and I’m sure plenty of other places in Europe) While there are some amazing square toilets that I absolutely wish I could take home, the flushing system is frankly the most wasteful thing I can imagine. If you use paper at all, you must flush twice or three times or six times…well, however many you need until you get a “full flush”. Newer models will do better than older ones and public ones are the worst. When you get a full flush, it is SO much water! I cannot imagine how that is efficient. Then you have the washer/dryer combos. Good lord, where to begin! If you do anything close to what we would consider a small load of laundry, you will be a week getting it all dry! You are literally supposed to do a 1-2 pound load of wash and then preferably hang it all up to dry, even after you’ve had it on the wash and dry cycle for the full 4-1/2 hours that takes! We have learned that if we do tiny loads we can get them mostly dry and then put them on radiators to finish, and once in awhile we get it just right and it all dries, but honestly; how is 4-1/2 hours and 6-9 loads of wash a week efficient??? We could do the same amount of laundry in one load that takes an hour and 40 minutes start to finish!
One thing we have noticed and enjoyed is that the cars here all seem to have a no-idle deal where when you are stopped, the engine cuts off. The car has sensors and when the car in front of you begins to move, the engine comes back on so you can proceed. It works great, except in stop-and-go traffic, then it gets pretty hacky and rough starting each time. We only had that happen in Belfast when we were trying to return our rental car and there was a wreck or something that stopped traffic for an hour.
Okay, that off my chest, on with the photos! The first batch are of our Bruntsfield neighborhood in Edinburgh. The architecture is all the same, so if you don’t know where you live, you could be lost for days looking…
Then there is downtown, the castle and the skyline of all of Edinburgh:
Walking to Deacon Brodie’s Pub, we saw this bus and cracked up when Erin sang: Who you gonna call? Ghost Bus Tours!
Heading out to Aberdeen from the Waverly train station and walking around the city
Lastly, just a few photos from The Georgian House. More to come when I get them