Now anyone who's kept up with my blogging should by now have come to the conclusion that I don't have the best run of luck when it comes to British Rail! Overrunning engineering works, missed connections, cancelled trains ... it hasn't been all bad! My trip north at New Years didn't run to plan, however there was such a fuss that Virgin trains offered a free 1st Class return to anywhere in the UK. It would be unAustralian of me not to take advantage of a freebie, so I figured it was time to travel north again and visit another part of Scotland ... the beautiful city that is Edinburgh.
Naturally, given it was a freebie and compensation for being stuffed around once already, one would assume it was smooth training to Scotland - relaxed, no stress, a shining example of British Rail competence. The start was promising - big, comfy, seats, waiters serving breakfast (smoked salmon & eggs - nice), your paper maam - I was really enjoying the experience. Of course it was too good to last and the announcement eventually came that they were terribly sorry, but there were delays and while a number needed to change
at Crewe for the direct to Edinburgh, there was a possibility that we wouldn't make it. We arrived just in time ... well just in time to see our connecting train leave the platform. Needless to say there were quite a few unhappy people and the staff at Crewe did nothing to improve the situation. Rather than tell everyone it was a 2 hour wait for the next train (the honest thing) they kept directing people to catch the next train to stations further afield - anything to get people away from them. Now I've found many British Rail staff to be wonderfully helpful, but this mob did not fit that category - unhelpful and deliberately misleading - maybe they should invest in some customer service training. I know ... they all said I'd hate British Rail ... and it's true, I do!
Eventually made it to Edinburgh Waverley station about 2 hours behind schedule, which basically meant I was too late to really do much sightseeing in the afternoon so I wandered up the Royal Mile to my hostel, which is right outside the main entrance to the Castle (guess that's why it is called Castle Rock Hostel!).
I got all organised and then took some time out to have a cuppa before a look at the exterior of the Castle, before wandering back down the Royal Mile and over to the Scot Memorial on Princes St to catch up with Fiona (who I met in Oxford a couple of weeks ago) for dinner.
I had a few minutes to spare and was (surprise, surprise) taking some snaps when in the space of about 5 minutes the clouds blew away to bathe the city and Castle in the last (and probably first) sunshine of the day. It was obviously a precursor to what was to follow, which was a very enjoyable evening of drinks, dinner and conversation with Fiona before making it back to the Hostel about 1am.
Saturday I was on a mission to fit in as much as I possibly could, so up and off to the New Town to find a farmers market (about a dozen french stalls), then St Giles Cathedral and breakfast before joining in the free city walking tour which provided more of an insight into the history of Edinburgh and had us crisscrossing the Royal Mile, Castle, old city,
cemetaries and the like! A fun couple of hours. After that I took in an Ansel Adams photographic exibition which was showing at the City Gallery then some lunch and a visit to Edinburgh Castle, which is huge and made up of lots of seperate buildings on various levels of rock. My favourite was the War Memorial to those killed in WWI which is a lovely building full of fabulous stained glass, although I do prefer ours in Canberra (slight bias!).
By the time I finished with the castle I admit I was a little weary, so I went back to the Hostel for a nap before heading out again to do a ghost tour that night. It was also a lot of fun - those Scottish were a blood thirsty lot and really fond of burning witches - puts the Americans & Salem witch trials to shame! We finished up at a pub (naturally!) then a group of us went for dinner and more drinks before I got home ... about 1am!
Sunday I walked the length of the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament before deciding I couldn't actually be bothered going in.
Instead I decided to go for a walk in the Holyrood Park with the initial aim of seeing if I could make it up Arthur's Seat for the panoramic shots! Word of advice - from Holyrood Palace go left to access Arthur's Seat - I of course wen't right which led me eventually to the same place, just at the bottom of a the seat itself and facing a heap of steps (I hate steps). As I had a lunchtime train and therefore limited time I knew I couldn't get up and back in time to make the train so instead I climbed up the Salisbury Crags, from the top of which give you a wonderful view of the City and over Leith to the Sea. I'll have to go back and retackle Arthur's seat on another visit!
My time in Edinburgh over, I headed back to the train station to see what British Rail had in store for me and was not disappointed! I had a rather circuitous route back to London (the joys of the freebie!) and they had gone and cancelled the first let. With visions of delays, missed connections and the distinct possibility I wouldn't
even get there in the end I was not a happy camper. After various versions of the best way forward one lovely man indicated I should just jump the first Eastern Line train back to Kings Cross, which I then did. Saved me 3 hours + in detours / changes plus gave me a chance to enjoy the gorgeous scenery as the train line runs down the edge of the East Coast of Scotland and only heads inland in England. It was beautiful and at a perfectly reasonable hour I was home wondering if maybe I should be investigating a move to Edinburgh!
Love Jane xx
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