Castles, Distilleries & Pubs Cruise
Wednesday July 25 to Saturday July 28, 2012

Four days in the Scottish capital

With the cruise starting in Edinburgh, we wanted to spend some time in the Scottish capital before the cruise. Working backwards from our cruise departing on July 28 we decided that we’d leave Canada on July 24 so that we would arrive in Edinburgh on July 25 to spend 3 nights there before heading to the cruise. We were able to upgrade our flight to Executive First on Air Canada so it made the airport check in and wait in the lounge a relaxing experience ahead of the flight. Linda got her first experience in the current angled pod-like cubicle seats that Air Canada uses in Executive First. We toasted the start of the trip with a glass of sparking wine before the departure while other passengers continued to board the plane. It was a lovely feeling of expectation of what was ahead in the next few weeks. We flew to Edinburgh via London and the transfer turned out much better than we were expecting and we made it to Edinburgh before noon on the 25th.

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  • Wednesday July 25, 2012

    First day to explore Edinburgh

    We booked our stay in the city at Hotel Missoni located on Edinburgh’s famed Royal Mile. From our room we had a wonderful view of the Royal Mile from windows on one side and a lovely view of Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags from another side. Very nice indeed.

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      After a bit of freshening up at Hotel Missoni it was time to get out to explore some of the city. We ventured first to the National Gallery of Scotland then to the Scott Monument. Accessing the viewing levels of the monument was via narrow and steep circular stairs - and the traffic in the stairs mirrored the traffic on the roads...very congested. It was extremely difficult to pass people on the stairs, so it meant long waits if a procession of people were travelling in the opposite direction. The pedestrian traffic on the stairs was self-regulating - we thought some sort of system to alternate between going up or down would have helped considerably with the crowds that gathered on the various levels. The lovely views of Edinburgh, though, made up for the inconvenience of the ascent and descent. It gave us a great panoramic perspective of the city - well worth the visit.

      At times it looked as though it would for sure rain, followed by lovely sunshine and a blue sky, albeit with clouds. We were thinking this might be a theme on this trip. Leaving the Scott Monument, we walked further East to Calton Hill with more of Edinburgh’s monuments and good viewing points of this attractive city. From there we wandered around the area of the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament to round out the day’s touring.

  • Thursday July 26, 2012

    Edinburgh Castle and National Museum of Scotland

    Day two started with a tour of Edinburgh's biggest attraction of Edinburgh Castle - a massive fortification perched high on a volcanic rock formation that truly dominates the city's skyline. As we approached the castle we walked through the Esplanade set with grandstand seating all ready for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo scheduled for August.

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      The castle itself is impressive, with most of the current structure dating back to the 16th century. The oldest part of the castle is St Margaret's Chapel - a small 12th century building that survived the many castle sieges. It is recognized as the oldest standing structure in Edinburgh. We followed up the castle tour with a visit to the National Museum of Scotland. The highlight there for us would probably be getting to see 11 of the Lewis chessmen - a group of 12th-century Norwegian chess pieces carved from walrus ivory that were discovered on the Isle of Lewis in 1831. Gary might add that getting to see Sir Jackie Stewart's 1971 Formula 1 car was pretty cool, too. The museum was well worth the visits to be sure.

      We did a bit of shopping then went to St Giles’ Cathedral located quite close to our hotel. Inside the church we loved the small wooden and beautiful Thistle Chapel - the chapel of “The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle” founded by King James VII in 1687. It is Scotland’s foremost Order of Chivalry.

  • Friday July 27, 2012

    Scaling Arthur’s Seat

    For Day three we set off early to grab some breakfast at a small cafe on the Royal Mile and then made our way to conquer the peak of Arthur's Seat. The name of this extinct volcano is a bit of a mystery with some sources claiming it has something to do with the legendary King Arthur while others state it is a variation on a Gaelic name.

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      Whatever the origin of its name we made the 251.5 metre hike up the hill formation and were rewarded with a wonderful panoramic view of the city. Two things we will always remember from being at the top is how slippery the smooth volcanic rock was at the peak and how incredibly windy it was up there. After our descent we took a tour of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the official residence of the British monarch while in Scotland. More commonly known as Holyrood Palace, this 16th/17th century palace anchors one end of the Royal Mile with Edinburgh Castle at the other end. Leaving the palace we then toured the adjacent Queen’s Gallery.

      We continued our day's tour with a visit to the very unusual Scottish Parliament Building and timed the day so that we'd be walking along the Royal Mile for when the Royal Air Force Red Arrows were scheduled to fly over it in celebration of the start of the 2012 London Olympics. Our last event for the day what to go to The Scotch Whisky Experience to get a full sensory experience on the whisky making process. When in Rome, as they say.

  • Saturday July 28, 2012

    One last stroll on the Royal Mile before heading to Azamara Journey

    For our final morning in Edinburgh we did a casual walking tour back towards Calton Hill then a look in some of the shops on or near the Royal Mile.

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      Something we had seen throughout our time in Edinburgh was many re-purposed church buildings - wonderful old buildings that were now nightclubs or restaurants. It was a fairly relaxed morning timed to get back to Hotel Missoni to check out and then catch a taxi cab to the nearby port of Leith on the coast of the Firth of Forth. Our cruise ship Azamara Journey was berthed near the tourist attraction of Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia - the former royal yacht of the British monarch, so it was surprising to us that our taxi driver didn't know exactly how to get to the port once we arrived in the area.

      The process to board the ship was reasonably quick and easy so with out too much delay we were holding a glass of sparkling wine to toast our arrival on Azamara Journey. Not long after we were onboard it stared to rain, so we had timed things well with getting to the ship. As a fitting subtile to this trip we’d call it “a chance of showers” - a common phrase in the weather forecast. Anyway . . . being on the ship after our enjoyable days in Edinburgh we certainly had that wonderful feeling of anticipation as our cruise around the British Isles set off . . .

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About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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