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While in Scotland, my sister Debbie and I spent five wonderful days connecting with new family members from Clan Maitland. The other meaningful connection that we deepened was with the city itself.
Edinburgh captured our hearts on previous visits. This trip, with Edinburgh as our home base, we set out to get to know the city better and strengthen the bond.
Wandering through Edinburgh became a daily, intentional adventure.
Fun Facts About Edinburgh
- capital of Scotland and second largest city, with Glasgow the biggest
- population of 512,000 (as of 2016)
- Scottish Gaelic name – Dun Eideann, meaning “hill of Eidyn”
- nickname – Auld Reekie, so called because the smoke from chimneys hung over the city in ancient times
- earliest known habitation, a Mesolithic Camp on Castle Rock about 8500 BC
- documented evidence of royal burgh in early 1100s with a charter signed by King David I
- divided into Old Town and New Town, with “new” being a relative term – building began in the 1770s
- Edinburgh was surrounded by a high stone wall until the 1700s – the limited space birthed 10 and 11 story dwellings, the first “high rise apartments”
- 27 year old architect James Craig won the 1766 competition to design New Town
- Edinburgh is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh Castle both rest atop extinct volcanoes
- Edinburgh Castle houses the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny
- Leith is the port of Edinburgh – last shipyard closed in 1983 – now used for cruise ships and to dock the Royal Yacht Britannia, the queen’s former floating palace
- Temperatures average 72 degrees in the summer – the hottest temperature ever recorded was 88.9 degrees on July 25, 2019 (Debbie and I experienced that record breaking heat!)
Getting to Know Edinburgh
Those facts about the city offer important information, just as personal details about a new acquaintance does. Green eyes, dark hair, shy smile. Capital city, located in Lothian, hosts the largest performing arts festival in the world. However it takes going beyond the facts to create a relationship. And how do we get to know someone better? We spend time with her, listen to her stories and walk alongside her for a while. We look for strengths to appreciate and choose to accept differences.
To get to know Edinburgh better, Debbie and I did the same. We spent time with her, explored her lanes and listened to her stories.
We began with the bigger picture….riding the hop on/hop off buses around the city to get an overview. Then we tugged on our walking shoes and hiking boots and hit the streets.
Our apartment on Thistle Street, located in New Town, provided an excellent base of operations. We found it easy to explore both Old Town and New Town from that strategic place.
New Town offers such lovelies as Dean Village, Charlotte Square and Princes Street Gardens, which actually serves as the dividing line between the old and new parts of Edinburgh. Shops and cafés are plentiful in this district.
Inside the Museum Context on Victoria Street, home to Harry Potter merchandise.
Old Town features the Royal Mile. Edinburgh Castle sits at the top of the cobblestone street, which slopes down to Holyrood Palace at its base. Other favorites in Old Town are the Elephant House that J.K. Rowling frequented as she wrote the Harry Potter stories, Greyfriars Kirkyard and charming Victoria Street with its colorful storefronts. Museums of all kinds reside in Old Town, along with a vast variety of shops, cafés and attractions.
Farther out, requiring a bus ride, lies the Royal Botanic Garden, Leith Port and enchanting residential neighborhoods with their Georgian style buildings.
Wandering Through Edinburgh
As we wandered, we got to know the city by listening to her stories. The knowledgeable tour guides on the buses entertained us with tales from the ancient past and the recent past. Every guide shared different parts of Edinburgh’s story, so the more buses we rode, the more we learned.
Occasionally we used a taxi to reach our destination. During those short rides the drivers kept us laughing and inspired questions, which they happily answered.
Every person, every city has its dark side. Edinburgh does as well. The Dark Edinburgh Walking Tour shared stories about witch trials, mythical creatures, public executions (marked on the street by small gold plaques) and the daring escapades of body snatchers Burke and Hare. Those two enterprising men killed people and sold their bodies to the medical institutes! They eventually paid the price for their crimes, with their lives.
Mostly, though, we learned by following curiosity. If we wondered about something, we checked it out. Interesting shops drew us inside. Wandering through Edinburgh, led by curiosity and the desire to know more, created amazing days of exploration that most certainly deepened our knowledge and our love for the city.
Saying “Until Next Time” to Edinburgh
Debbie and I said our goodbyes on a Saturday evening to members of Clan Maitland. And we said our goodbyes to the grand old city the next day. Wandering through Edinburgh on Sunday, we shopped a bit, took photos, gathered memories. (Watch for a post later this week on art created from memories.) We occasionally sighed.
Connection is all about developing a relationship. We did that with our kinsmen. We did that with Edinburgh as well. The best relationships, the ones that endure, grow through gratitude, exploration and discovering fresh ways to love and appreciate each other.
My relationship, Debbie’s relationship, with Edinburgh continues to grow. I look forward to discovering more about this city and seeing it with ever wondering eyes. I’m open to every opportunity to visit again and wander the streets and closes and lanes. I love Edinburgh. I think the feeling is mutual. So it’s not goodbye. It’s until next time….
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