Sunday, 24 July 2011


After 11 months, Alex finally finished his 2010-2011 school year last Wednesday.  We took the opportunity for a quick 3-night trip to Edinburgh, Scotland.  The shot above is looking down the Royal Mile in Old Town.  The Royal Mile is actually about 1.2 miles and stretches from the Edinburgh Castle down to the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse.  This part of the of the city is compact and walkable and we found it to be very enjoyable.  As usual, I'll try to tell the story via the photos.

We set off Thursday morning via train (our first).  We took the 9:44 to Edinburgh (platform 1).  The trip was 4.5 hours with numerous stops but without any changes.  The nice thing is that the Derby train station is about 5 minutes from our house and the Edinburgh train station is right in the middle of the city.  It would take about that long to drive and then I'd be stuck with a car in the city.  Flying would be quicker in terms of transit time, but not total travel time (early check in, driving to/from airports that aren't in city center, etc.).  We enjoyed it.

We took taxis to/from both train stations (still a novelty).  Despite Alex's dour look, both kids enjoyed it.  The Edinburgh taxis had a large area where we all 4 could fit (we are facing the kids here).

We decided to walk around after checking into our hotel.  This is St. Giles Cathedral along the Royal Mile.

Some stained glass in St. Giles

more stained glass

Lot's of Scottish Terriers (naturally) running about.  This one was hanging out in the front window display.

We continued on down the Mile and set off to climb Arthur's Seat.  It wasn't the clearest of days, but you never know what the next day might bring.

View of another hill (Calton) from the side of Arthur's Seat.  A few monuments are in view.

The Parliament Building (newly re-done I believe).  Scotland is a separate country but not a separate nation state.  However, their parliament self-governs except for defense, foreign policy, and taxation (since 1999).

 Palace of Holyroodhouse (water, the Firth of Forth, in the distance)

The Edinburgh Castle (under cloudy skies)

 near the top of Arthur's Seat (this is as far as we decided to go)
many interesting street performers along the Royal Mile . . . (not sure what's up with the goat hooves/stilts)

 a view up a close near our hotel looking back at the castle

Next day, we went to the castle (high ground).  Here we are looking north to "New Town".  They drained a lake/swamp to expand the overcrowded city back in the 1700's.

 Scottish National War Memorial inside the Castle grounds

 a reminder of how close we were to the sea

 had to get the bagpipe statue shot

Perhaps a bit touristy (so what), but the kids' favorite highlight was the Camera Obscura.  The headliner for this attraction is an observatory topped with a mirror which reflects images onto a small disc for viewing.  The mirror is revolved 360 degrees giving a view of the entire city.  The kids enjoyed "picking up" people with a card and then dropping them back onto the disc (sorry, difficult to succinctly explain).  In addition, throughout the building there are rooms set up with all kinds of illusions.  It was a big hit.

A very impressive drawing that results in the image of a man (sorry, someone famous) when reflected on a cylinder.

 infinite lights . . .

 infrared cameras (that's us, can't you tell?)

 fun with mirrors, Nicole version

fun with mirrors, Alex version

Giant Alex

Giant Nicole

We stopped for an afternoon break/tea at the Elephant House.  It was here that a poor, single mother on welfare penned some of her early writings while nursing a beverage.  She doesn't have any problems with her finances now (J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame).

On Saturday, we went to the nice National Museum of Scotland

Alex in the stocks

 with a steam engine

On Saturday, we finally got some sun.  Unfortunately, we spent most of the time in the museum and then we took a Historic Vault (underground) tour.  I did snap Calton Hill from a closer viewpoint later in the day with a few rays though.  [It was about 60F most of the time we were there.  Derby hasn't been much warmer.  Beats the high temps the US is currently getting though.]

more Calton Hill

If I may digress, I thought I'd show a few food shots.  We were pleasantly pleased with our dinner dining choice (lucky?).  We do like our food.  Here's a lamb dish from Wiski's along the Royal Mile.  I often order lamb since it's not a big hit in the household.

I found a nice Scottish Ale (Caledonian 80) that was a nice change from the English Ales/Bitters I've been having of late.

on another night, I had the bottled version -- noticed the more descriptive but less legalese way for the pregnant women drinking warnings

 pizza and pasta on another night
Alex got into the mussels on the 3rd night at The Doric Pub.  He's his mother's boy.

ready to board the train after a fun 3 days wearing obligatory souvenir sweatshirts (we did have fun shopping along the Mile)

we were able to snag a choice table (each way actually) -- enjoying movies

All in all, it was a nice, quick trip.  There were plenty of additional activities we would liked to have done, but  we didn't have that luxury for this trip.  This whetted our appetite and we look forward to getting back to Scotland while we are here.  Next time, we'll probably take the car and head up into the Highlands.

Interesting story:  we bumped into a co-worker from Indy.  Kuk actually sat next to him when she started at RR.  We bumped into them 2 more times while there (it is a compact city).  To top it off, we were even on the same train out of town (but they got off in York).


  1. Awesome, Scotland is one of the places I am looking forward to visiting. I'm all for the lamb also. But where is the obligatory domesticated farm animal shot? See you sooner or later.

  2. Looks like you had a wonderful time, touristy things included! Enjoy the cooler weather - when you get back you'll forget how to live in hot, humid weather ... What an reminder I got these last several weeks!!! Ugh! The food looks delish & the train brings back fond memories of our time abroad! Continue to enjoy all the family time!
    p.s. I'd love to know how the school system is set up there. Poor Alex ... 11 months of school ... sounds like a very bad dream!!!

  3. five years latter with a response, but so it goes...

    thanks for sharing your blog. the Kipfer3 will be departing Indianapolis for 3 days of Edinburgh next week and then onto Isle of Skye. your pics and narratives are great. will touch base upon our return.