Colin and I were thinking the same thing as we saw Edinburgh from the plane: green! We sat apart again (damn your lack of assigned seating Ryanair!) but before we knew it we were out of the desert (Malta) and into the land of kilts and year-round drizzle. I believe it was raining lightly. We found our hostel Argyle Backpackers, a half hour stroll from downtown on the other side of Meadows Park. Very nice location and a charming old building, we really enjoyed our stay except when the roof started leaking!
We jumped into the museums right away. Scotland has an amazing number of very good galleries and museums which are free of charge. Of these we saw the National Gallery, a Modern Art Gallery, the Royal Botanic Garden, the Museum on the Mound, and the National Museum of Scotland. Not all on the first day of course; we did have a week after all. Highlights for me were the ancient buried treasure troves in the National Museum and the giant lilies in the Botanic glasshouses. We really couldn’t believe how much there was to see in Edinburgh, all free of charge.
Colin put the word out on the indie game developer network, and that weekend we were visited by the extremely prolific Stephen Lavelle (increpare). Stephen’s games are so brief, bizarre and experimental that I was half expecting him to show up with green hair and a handful of acid tabs, but he was just a regular nice guy. We explored the city and talked about games all day. It was a blast, really great hanging out with someone on our own wavelength after a month alone in Malta. Definitely the highlight of our time in Edinburgh.
And of course we also visited the Edinburgh Castle, although it was hard paying $45 for it after all the by-donation museums. We were lucky to visit on the start of the Queen’s stay in Edinburgh, which they celebrated with a 21 (or some number, I lost count) gun salute from the castle walls. There is still a strong military feel to the castle, what with all the war museums and memorials. To be honest I got sick of the unending galleries of medals and military awards, and I was disturbed by the image of Scotland as a country whose pride and national identity are defined by military service. But the old buildings and crown jewels were cool.
We spent a few days just wandering and exploring the streets. As seen from the sky, Edinburgh is a lush green city with numerous paths along streams and through parks that we could easily reach from our hostel. We hiked up to Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood park one day then down to Holyroodhouse where the Queen was preparing to greet her smartly dressed public. We peeked through the fence but didn’t stay, as we were off to the Halfway House down Fleshmarket Close, purveyors of fine real ales and traditional dishes like Stovies and Cullen Skink. We found this pub on our first day and returned half a dozen times, greeted at each by a new selection of cask ales and great food. We made it a habit to visit at least one pub (usually two) every day. It wasn’t hard as there seems to be a good one around every corner in Edinburgh.
Have I mentioned we loved this city?