Edinburgh - A magical city with a scary past

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June 3rd 2010
Published: June 11th 2010
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Day 3

After another unscheduled sleep in (my sleep in’s and Michelle’s differ!) we finished off our drive up the coast of Loch Ness. The clouds had decided to cast their unwanted attention over the area so we decided to head straight to Inverness, a small city/town in the north of Scotland. We had a quick look around the town and then had breakfast (including Haggis which I now love), before hitting the road to make it to Edinburgh. On the way we had to pass through the Cairngorm mountains and a few picturesque towns, which unfortunately we hadn’t got time to stop in. I hate rushing when you are travelling but the clock was ticking and the car needed to be returned. Sheila (our trusty GPS) guided us perfectly there and we dropped our bags off in the hotel before leaving the car back. Edinburgh at first didn’t seem that big and as time went by we were right. Every thing was in walking distance so finding our way back on foot was easy. I let Michelle do the guiding though!

The first thing you want to do when you get to any city is get out and explore. The feeling if you don’t is that you could be missing out on something. So that’s what we did. We got out and about. The clouds had passed and it made for a pleasant evening strolling around. We ventured down to Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile where we got a bite to eat and took in our surroundings. First impressions were how much the place was like an old movie from a Dickens novel. If they place was dark and smoggy we would have thought we had just gone back in time. A big thing to do in Edinburgh is a Ghost or Torture tour. This is where they take you down in the under street vaults, where you hear about the poor people who lived in these slum’s. Each vault has its own story, each more shocking than the previous one. I wont go into to much detail and ruin it for anyone who wants to do it, but needless to say it was a hair raising experience. There was an on street tour at the beginning which tells you all about the dark, scary and very frightening past that Edinburgh has. I couldn’t think of anywhere else worse to live in the 1700’s and have never heard as many sickening stories since we visited Auswitz in 2007 or even the Killing Fields in Cambodia on our world trip. If you were anyway different to everyone else you were tortured beyond belief. These different people would have had red hair (me fecked), green eyes, odd looking faces, long nose’s etc etc. Anyone who was thought to be a witch was tortured then burned alive. One story about a family of two girls and a mother were tortured because their father and brothers died in farming accidnets. The mother was tied up and gagged and made to watch for three days, as her daughters were slowly tortured. One part was where a finger was bent backwards until the bone broke. They would be left until the pain subsided and then the next finger was slowly broken. Another part of the torture was where they place a heavy door on top the child on the ground, then heavy blocks were placed on top every couple of hours until the child was crushed to death. This could last for up to three days! One torturer, lets call him the king of torturers, was bored of breaking fingers and bones. He came up with one of the most in humane methods I had ever heard. First he broke the persons jaw, then he pulled each tooth out one by one, then broke each finger one by one. Next he had an iron mask which he heated on hot coals and placed it on the face of the victim, oh, and not before he had cut their tongue off as well. The mask would boil the skin of the victim. The mask had holes at the eyes and mouth, not so they could see what was going to happen to them but because the ‘King’ wanted to push a hot poker into their eyes and mouth. How sick could you be to think up such torture never mind actually carry it out. The problem also was that the torturer actually thought that their victims were evil or possessed. Madness I’ll tell you. That evening we did a mini pub crawl (3 pubs) and retreated to our hotel at 12am after a long and adventurous day.

The simply stunning Edinburgh castle was to be the main point of our sightseeing the next day. After another unscheduled sleep-in (I’m convinced now as I write this that Michelle was spiking my drink with sleeping tablets) we were on our way to the castle, which just happened to be across the road! Signposts are few and far between pointing to the direction of entry but we soon figured it out. The rock alone would be are major attraction for tourists never mind that they built a huge stunning castle on top of it. The queues for tickets were long and then we had to wait longer to get in as there was some royalty in town apparently and they were making their way out the main entrance. Didn’t they ever hear of the back door?! It took us an hour or so to take in the main sights at the castle before we descended down the Royal Mile that leads up to the castle.

We caught lunch, sat outside and made use of the free coke re-fills on offer. Mind you it was £2.35 for a glass so you would want value for money. The sun was beating down and this was the start of my colour that I returned with from Scotland. We watched the masses pass by for an hour or so and were entertain by the street performers nearby. We then walked the Royal Mile passing many historical buildings before arriving at another castle. Somebody approached us and asked us did we just see Charles and Camilla pass by and enter the castle. We hadn’t but we were pleasantly happy to be in the company of royalty! That evening we took a stroll down Rose St, home to some of the most popular Edinburgh bars (for tourists anyway) and ended up in the Kenilworth. I had Haggis again, this time stuffed in a chicken breast and I was again very happy with it. While having a drink afterwards, a local guy came over and sat with us. His name was Archie and he was 74 years of age. He explained the whole history of the pub to us (apparently it’s the second oldest in Edinburgh) and then proceed to fill us in on his life. He was an interesting character and you could listen to him all night. Which we did. We ended up doing a pub crawl with him and he told us all the history of each place and how he has seen it change down through the years. We didn’t leave him until 1:30am when we were more worse for wear than he was. He had served in the army, being divorced in 1974, and more recently had won a few hundred pounds in the bookies and was about to enjoy a bumper weekend! I’ve tried to find an email address of the pub (which was his local) but so far it’s to no avail. So if anyone reads this and knows Archie or the pub’s email, tell him we said thanks for the tour and for all the great stories!

We spent our final day enjoying the sunshine, lounging around Princes street gardens and picked up some lunch in Marks & Spencer’s to eat in the gardens. There are many things to see in Edinburgh but it all can be seen a couple of days. We got an open top bus tour to kill an hour on the last day and it provided lots of useful information on the buildings we passed. There was a live guide on the bus who entertained us all the way and reinforced what we all ready knew, that Edinburgh has a very dark past, that not many people know about. We had Mexican for our last meal before going to bed early, as this time any unscheduled sleep-in would mean a missed flight to Ireland.

For anyone planning a trip to Scotland, a trip outside Edinburgh or Glasgow is a definite must. The highlands are breathtaking and the welcome is typically Celtic. Haggis is very good, even if it’s contents are suspect, the castles are spectacular, the history dazzling & everywhere offers up one of the best Cead Mile Failte you can find in the world. The roads are empty and the scenery can be yours without disturbance. Some of the towns are idyllic and there are more Loch’s than people can make names for. We will definitely return again but the next time I will bringing my own car and get the boat over from Belfast. The money we spent in five days would have lasted us a month in South East Asia. A frightening thought. With a little planning a nice tent we could conquer the country in no time. My next trip is booked already. We are going on a Mediterranean cruise. Starting in Turkey we will cruise for 3 days to the coast of Gaza where we will then spend two days in Israel before taking advantage of a free flight home!

In a bit. DH

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12th June 2010

good place for travel
That's an interesting city with ancient castles! But i don't see a mention of its history-"scary past"? & specialties, too. But anyway, pictures are very beautiful. Thanks your nice post.
12th June 2010

When I described the scary past the level of torture was akin to what was used in Auschwitz and Cambodia. In fact it was just as bad. Maybe not on the same amount of people but my point was that each action was horrific.

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