Wednesday, November 18, 2009

History and Ghosts

With only 2 days left in Edinburgh I set out to see as much of the city as possible and so joined a huge group for a free tour. Our group got the only Scot working that day which was cool and since the free tour guides are working just for tips, he really worked on making it a very fun tour. For 3 hours we braved the increasingly drizzly and cold weather to explore the old town. Started on the top half of the Royal Mile leading up to the castle where we got to hear lots of interesting stories from Edinburghs history. Headed down to the grassmarket, site of many hangings and other unsavoury goings on, where we stopped for lunch and to watch the few who dared tackle a deep fried Mars Bar. Then over to Greyfriars Kirkyard where we learnt about a few hauntings, saw the school that was meant to have been JK Rowlking's original inspiration for Hogwarts and visited the grave of Greyfriar's Bobby's master where Bobby, a Skye terrier, sat for 12 years thus earning him a statue outside the cemetery, lots of fans and 2 Disney movies. Headed back across the royal mile to hear about the man who inspired Jeckyll and Hyde and finally to the gardens below the castle for the story of the guys who once stole the stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey to return it to its rightful place in Scotland...for about 2 days.

Spent the rest of the afternoon doing a bit of aimless wandering. Visited the writers museum which is dedicated to Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and the one who's name I've currently forgotten, and walked to the bottom of the Royal Mile to see Holyrood Palace and Arthurs seat which I planned to climb the next day.

Headed out after dark into a very cold and windy night to join a ghost tour with the same company that runs the free tour. Armed with tiny wind up torches and a voucher for a free beer at the end we set off over the cursed North Bridge (most popular place to commit suicide in Edinburgh) and into New Town. Visited Calton Hill Cemetery with its many ghost stories and saw where a ghostly face had appeared over time on the back of one gravestone. Climbed up Calton hill to hear about the realm of the faries (not the nice Disney variety), witch burnings and the druid celebrations that are still held there every Beltane. Nearly got blown off the side of the hill while overlooking Arthur's Seat and listening to stories about the 17 dolls and coffins that were discovered in a cave near the top. Climbed down a steep flight of stairs back to the Royal Mile where we learnt about the murder of Mary, Queen of Scots secretary by her husband Lord Darnley and his subsequent murder some time later and finished with a story of modern day vampirism (some guy who took Anne Rice a little too seriously) before heading to a pub to warm up with a pint.

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