One of the wonderful things about living in Europe is being so close to family I don’t normally get to see.
My cousin’s wedding brought us back to Scotland. This trip included another brief stay in the Borders (no foxes this time) and a fabulous wedding weekend in Perthshire.
After a weekend of butter, salt, and wine (my family in a nutshell), Zach and I hitched a ride with my cousin to Edinburgh where we would spend the next two days.
We had gotten a taste of Edinburgh back in October, but we still had a number of items on our list we wanted to see.
Since we arrived at our hotel fairly late in the day, we simply dropped our bags and headed to Mussel Inn, an awesome seafood restaurant just a block north of Princes Street. Mussel Inn has committed to sourcing their shellfish from a sustainable and renewable farm off the coast of Scotland’s North Atlantic coast.
Eating Scottish-sourced mussels is why I chose the restaurant, so I plopped down in my chair and promptly ordered the 1/2 kilo of mussels with red pepper sauce & pesto. Those lovely mussels from the Shetland Islands did not disappoint.
The following morning, we forwent the public transport and walked from our hotel in Haymarket to the National Museum of Scotland which houses over 2000 years of Scottish history plus science and cultural exhibits.
We quickly read through the remaining exhibits which were focused on Scottish royalty and the metamorphosis of Scotland’s various industries and inventions.
After a bite to eat in the Grassmarket, we ventured out on our grand expedition – to climb Arthur’s Seat.
Both Arthur’s Seat and Castle Rock, the structure Edinburgh Castle stands on, are ancient extinct volcanoes. Geologists have dated lava samples back to nearly 340 million years ago and speculate a glacier eroded part of the mountain away to expose the Salisbury Crags.
Apart from what geologists can tell us about Arthur’s Seat, the giant rock is shrouded in mystery. For example, no one truly knows where its name came from. Many assumed it was named for King Arthur and was the site of Camelot. Others believe the name was derived from Scottish Gallic, Àrd-na-Said, which means “height of arrows.”
Another mystery of Arthur’s Seat is the origin of the fairy coffins. In 1836, some young boys were out on Arthur’s Seat when they found a small cave containing 17 miniature carved coffins, each with a small dressed doll inside.
Rumors began to circulate that they were relics from pagan times or even that satanic rituals still were being performed at the time. There was also one strange story reported by The Scotsman in 1906, in which a woman recounted a strange story her father, a shopkeeper had told her.
[Her father, ‘Mr. B’] had sometimes been visited at his business premises by a ‘daft man’. On one occasion, the man had drawn on a piece of paper a picture of three small coffins, with the dates 1837, 1838 and 1840 written underneath.
In the autumn of 1837,’ The Scotsman explains, ‘a near relative of Mr B’s died; in the following year a cousin died and in 1840 his own brother died. After the funeral, the daft deaf mute appeared again, walked into Mr B’s office and “glowering” at him vanished never to return.
To this day, we still don’t know who made these coffins or why they were buried, but we do know they date to about 5-6 years before they were discovered.
We did eventually reach the summit (251 m) and promptly decided to reward ourselves with some beers and a lovely dinner at a French bistro called Chez Jules.
Tuesday sadly brought a close to the sunny, balmy weekend we had been enjoying so thoroughly. We decided to stick to indoor activities, namely sitting in several cafes and checking our St. Giles’ Cathedral.
Many speculate the original church was built around 1124, although there’s little evidence to back up that claim.
As the parish grew, so did the church. It was easy to see the extensions among the beautiful carvings, vaulted ceilings, and stained glass windows.
The church was originally Catholic. It became a Protestant Church when the Reformation swept over Scotland, and John Knox became its minister.
St. Giles experienced more turmoil when in the 1630’s the Anglican Church wanted to impose their services on the Church of Scotland, to include St. Giles’ Cathedral.
The last item left on the agenda after visiting St. Giles’ was to get Zach some whiskey. I have no idea how he got through a wedding with my family and only had two whiskeys the entire trip. So Zach tracked down a pub just south of the University called The Abbey Bar which boasts a collection of 200 whiskeys for patrons to try.
Not a bad way to end a trip.
Visiting Edinburgh again was a real treat. I’m so happy we were able to learn more about the city’s and Scotland’s history.