This is our second time visiting Edinburgh on the same vacation. I am really happy to be returning. Edinburgh is an absolutely charming city. We had limited time here when we visited on our cruise. It will be nice to have unlimited time to stroll around and look at the sites. And, I lost most of my pictures from our first visit so am hoping to be able to replace those photos.
The train trip from Glasgow to Edinburgh is very short; only 50 minutes on ScotRail. As usual, we were up bright and early so reached Edinburgh before 10 am. We had spent a considerable amount of time at the castle before so did not want to visit it again (spectacular though it may be). I mainly wanted to talk up and down the Royal Mile to soak up the atmosphere and find a Christmas ornament to add to my collection.
We decided to pay to store our bags at the train station. It is pretty pricy to do so; 6£ per item for 3 hours of storage. We had two suitcases and two backpacks, so 24£ if we checked everything. I decided to carry my backpack to cut down on the costs. I would be carrying my camera so the backpack would be pretty light. And, my husband being the gentleman that he is carried the backpack for me.
Reaching the Royal Mile from the train station involved climbing a couple of steep sets of stairs and going up a short block. The weather wasn’t as lovely as it was the first time we were here; it was cold and cloudy. But, at least it wasn’t raining (yet)! We ducked into St. Giles Cathedral, an imposing structure. I paid 2£ for the privilege of taking photographs. I was given a sticker to wear on my jacket so prove that I had paid the fee. It was well worth it. I really enjoyed capturing images of the small chapels around the edges as well as the choir area and organ.
We continued our hike up the hill (it’s not very steep). We passed some of the same street performers as we had seen before. There were a couple of pipers in full regalia. The guy dressed up was a centaur was still hanging out near the castle. I parted with a Euro to get a few cheesy pictures with him. He said he was a sad Centaur because his girlfriend was in Romania and he had to make money dressing up and posing with tourists. Poor boy. We walked as far as the castle and were surprised to see that they were still in the process of removing the bleachers from the Tattoo that had ended a couple of weeks before. I found a cute ornament to add to my collection. I managed to not purchase anything plaid, anything made of cashmere, anything related to my family name, any shortbread, or any of the other common tourist items. I have lost interest in collecting junk on our travels, whether it be for me or for my family members. I do like to look, however!
We had a lovely time people watching and sightseeing. It started to rain so we stopped in and had coffees at Starbucks. Eventually we headed back to the train station to grab our bags and grab some lunch. There is a decent mall with lots of food choices at Edinburgh Waverly. We decided to have jacket potatoes for lunch. This eating of baked potatoes for meals seems to be a UK thing. There are jacket potato stands and restaurants all over. It’s a hearty and filling meal (also cheap).
Our hotel tonight was a departure from our norm – we had booked a room at a castle! The castle was located about a half-hour from town so we decided to grab a cab and head out. We knew we would be a little early but were hoping that our room would be ready. We had spent as much time as we wanted to in town and wanted to enjoy our castle digs. Our cabbie was a very friendly Indian man that had a fascinating accent: Indian and Scots! We chatted the whole way Melville Castle so the time flew by. The cab driver had just attended a wedding the previous weekend and said he was very impressed with the place. We were very excited to arrive.
The exterior of the castle is lovely; just what we expected. There was a tall man in full highland regalia outside the door. We weren’t sure if he was a doorman or someone visiting the castle but it was cool to see someone so well-dressed. The only people in Scotland that actually dress in kilts are tour guides or street performers.
There was a fire burning in the fireplace in the lobby which was a nice touch since it was very cold and rainy by now. Our room was not ready but we were told we could wait by the fireplace until it was. The guy in the kilt came by to say hello to us. We still weren’t sure who he was, but at least he was friendly. There were 3 guys in the same exact outfit; two younger, one older. We quickly figured out why.
There was a wedding taking place at the castle. I assume the 3 men were either brothers and father or some such thing. Soon, wedding guests started to arrive. The guests and well-dressed guys in kilts were all Indian and the women were dressed to the nines. Absolutely stunning! Colorful, sparkling clothing; beautiful women. At first it was really enjoyable to watch them come in. Then, it became uncomfortable. We were soon surrounded by people. I am pretty sure that we are in many of the pictures that people were taking of each other as they arrived. Who is that sloppily dressed couple sitting by the fire? Why are they mixed in with the wedding guests?
Eventually, the room became so crowded that we became uncomfortable. I went up to the front desk to ask if there was somewhere else we could wait. The receptionist was no longer sitting at the desk so I waited until another employee came in the room. He said he was new and didn’t really know where else we could go, but he did go find another gentleman that was able to help us. He apologized and led us to the bar area.
The room was a cozy library with a large bar and an electric fire. It was charming, and most of all, quiet and relaxing. I really don’t know why we were not taken back here initially, or at least, when the wedding guests started to arrive. I have to believe that it was as awkward for the other guests to have us there are it was for us to be part of the festivities. The situation could have been avoided if we had been lead back to the bar area from the get-go. There was another woman waiting for her room as well. She had been there for a while and was anxious for her room to be ready as well.
We were only in the bar area for a short time; someone quickly arrived to take us to our room. The room itself was fine; nothing really unique. It looked like any other hotel room. Actually, the furnishings were not as nice as the other hotels we had stayed at. The radiator did not work at all. The room was chilly (it was only about 50° outside); we would’ve really liked to have some heat to warm it up. There was also a radiator with a heated towel rack in the bathroom. That didn’t work either. On the upside, the castle sits on 54 acres so the view from the room was very bucolic and lovely. There was a horse in the field behind us as well as some chickens wandering around.
We had a pleasant, relaxing evening. One of the downsides of staying there is that it is so far from town that there isn’t really anything to do. We spent the evening watching tv and taking advantage of the wi-fi.
Breakfast was at 8 am in the restaurant. This is definitely not the place to stay if you have mobility issues. To reach the restaurant, you had to go down a set of stairs. No lift (elevator) available. The breakfast buffet was really excellent and the same people that had been working when we had arrived the previous day were also working breakfast. I assume they live on-site and work as needed. Who knows? There was some nasty looking food next to the eggs, bangers (sausages) and ham (what they call bacon). I recognized blood pudding and assumed the stuff next to it was haggis. This was confirmed by one of the waiters. Interestingly enough, except for one other couple, everyone in the restaurant was American. We hadn’t run into any other folks from the US anywhere else so it was kind of funny to run into so many here. I assume they were like us – thinking that a stay in a castle was kind of a romantic notion.
If it weren’t for the weirdness with the wedding party at the start of our stay we would’ve enjoyed our time here more. Unfortunately, it started out our visit on a bit of a negative note. But, the place has lots of character and is an interesting place to stay. Just be aware that it is a bit limiting due to its location. In hindsight, we wished that we had stayed in town. Nonetheless, it was an interesting experience, if for no other reason than I can say I have slept in a castle!