Edinburgh, Scotland

I must say, NCL makes it extremely difficult to get into Edinburgh! Though there are several piers here, we are anchored out in the harbor; the tender ride in is 30 minutes! And, following that, there is a 30-minute city bus ride to get to the main part of town. Sheesh!

It all went fairly smoothly. We arrived about a half-hour early, and my husband is always ready early (just in case). In this case, it paid off! We have enough cruising status with NCL that we no longer need to get tender tickets. For me, this is the very best benefit they offer. We heard the announcement at around 7:30 that the first tender was loading so we grabbed our backpack and headed down to the tender boat. By 7:40 we were headed to town (Newhaven). Fortunately the seas were calm for our 30-minute ride. We walked about a block to the bus stop; for two of us it costs 3.2 £ to ride. I forgot to check ahead of time if they have a cheaper rate for seniors; Clayton qualifies (you only have to be 60 in the U.K.). They call it the “concessioners rate”, which is a completely different use of the word concession than you would find in the good old USA. The term “old age pensioner” is apparently now out of fashion; it is considered non-PC. There were quite a few stops along the way to pick up people headed to work. I think many of them were a little peeved that their bus was full of cruise ship passengers; it was standing room only. We got dropped off somewhere in the city center of Edinburgh and tried to orient ourselves.

Most of what a tourist might want to see is located on a street called the “Royal Mile”. At the end of this street is Edinburgh Castle, our destination for the day. Rick Steves highly recommends purchasing your tickets for the castle on-line before reaching Edinburgh; he is 100% correct. I also read that you should get there when it opens (9:30 am); also 100% correct.

We still weren’t exactly sure where we were in relation to anything, but could see quite a few beautiful old buildings up on the hill so figured that was the direction to head. We ended up taking the steepest route there, but had no way of knowing that ahead of time. Good exercise, I’m sure. Coincidentally, when we rounded the corner of the last steep street, we were right at the entrance to the castle. It didn’t open for another 40 minutes but we were able to stake out a spot so that we would be one of the first in when it did open. There was a lovely woolen shop that opened at 9, so I passed a little time there. I had always assumed my husband’s family was Scottish (a combination of the name Phillips and a certain amount of natural stubbornness); I was able to locate the Phillip’s clan’s tartan in the shop. I also located the O’Brien clan’s tartan. My paternal grandmother’s family used to be the O’Brien’s, but when they switched from Catholic to Protestant, they dropped the O’ and became the Briens. It is always fun when I find something related to my family heritage.

Anyhow, we found some people from Toronto to chat with. We also ran into Cyndi and John (we have taken several tours with them on this cruise) and a gentleman from Vancouver, BC that we had chatted with in Ålesund. At about 9:25, the gate attendant said that we could enter. There is still a little walk uphill to the entrance. After having your bags inspected, you get split into two groups. Those that already have purchased tickets go to the left; those that need to purchase tickets to the right. Oddly enough, there were bleachers set up all around the area where we were queueing. It turns out that the Edinburgh Tattoo just finished a day or two ago so the bleachers had not yet been removed. After your ticket is scanned you are given the option of renting an audioguide. There are also free tours with a live guide available.

The castle area is huge; there is so much to see here. We wandered around aimlessly for a while before realizing that we really should head to the highest point and then work our way down. Along the way we found a dog cemetery which is something I have not seen before. Coincidentally the highest point is where Scotland’s crown jewels are located and is the best possible place to visit early. Later in the day the lines just to enter the chamber where the crown, scepter, sword and stone are displayed can be up to an hour long. By the time we finished viewing them a line had already formed. I am so sad to report that my photo transfer somehow deleted every picture past this point. I deleted the program that I thought was causing the problem and have successfully been able to transfer pictures from the last two ports. Only a handful of my pictures transferred today; the rest are gone. So, no pictures past the coronation of Robert the Bruce. Grrrrr!!!!!!

We visited the WWI memorial which was very beautiful and moving. We visited the prisons (both military and regular; the military prison was much nicer) and the military history sections. If we had read all of the information presented, we would’ve been there for days!

I would be more sad about losing my pictures but the good news is that we are returning to Edinburgh in a couple of weeks so will be able to retake all of the pictures I lost. I am more than a little worried that I won’t get pictures of the rest of the places we are visiting if my problem continues. I really don’t understand what is going on but am very, very frustrated. Half of the fun of visiting new places is capturing photos of the things that intrigue me. I have had some wonderful pictures vanish and it really breaks my heart.

After we visited the castle we wandered down the Royal Mile passing lots of fun looking shops as well as a few street performers. Our next adventure was trying to find out where to catch the bus back to the port. The logical place would’ve been across the street from where the bus left us off, but that was not the case. We got to experience blocks and blocks of Edinburgh looking for that darned bus stop. We asked a couple of bus drivers for help and eventually found the right spot, just as the bus pulled up. The bus was much less crowded since most of the cruise passengers would be spending more time in town than we did. Since we will be returning soon, we only wanted to visit the castle today. Anyhow, we were the only people on the tender back to the ship. We had a late lunch and are relaxing the rest of the day. Our final port on this leg of the cruise is Newcastle on Tyne; we will be there tomorrow.