The next morning we started off with breakfast in the pub we were staying at. We both had a scottish breakfast which included bacon, egg, black pudding, scottish sausage, toast and baked beans. Andre had the large version which had twice as much of everything. I will eat haggis but I was not going to touch the black pudding!
We then headed up to Edinburgh Castle to have a look at the inside. As Historic Scotland members we got in free (and skip-the-queue entry!) The weather was very Scottish – grey and drizzly – so there wasn’t much of a view from the castle.
We did see the Scottish crown jewels though, which was pretty cool having visited Dunnottar Castle earlier this year, where they were buried and then smuggled from during Cromwell’s seige of the castle. We also saw one of the locks from the chest in which they were re-buried and lost for over 100 years. We also took a guided tour of the complex (significantly shorter than the guided tour of the Tower of London!). We couldn’t stay long though, as our camera battery was beginning to die and we needed to get to a camera shop to buy a replacement before it closed (as the person who packed the camera forgot to pack the charger!).
So after getting a quick bite for lunch at Starbucks we caught a bus across town to the camera shop Andre had called (and who’d told us they had one left!). We found a little independent local store, manned by two men in their early 60s, and filled with all kinds of photography, videography and projector paraphernalia from the last several decades. We walked in, told them the battery we were after, and one of the salesmen said “oh… I just sold one of those.” Never fear though, his colleague said he’d check out the back to see if they had any more. While he was gone we had a look at a battery charger, but didn’t particularly want to buy another one (on the other hand, we had been intending to buy a backup battery for a long time). Fortunately though, another battery was found out the back, and we also scored a £5 second hand polarising filter (something else Andre has wanted to buy for a long time and goes for £20 – £30 new!)
So then it was back towards the centre of town, and we hopped off the bus at St John’s church to see the arts & crafts market in the grounds around it. I won’t list what I bought because they were mostly presents for other people, but we did find some amazing artisans such as Fern Glass and Just Us. We went to a nice pub for tea where I had my first Pimms & Lemonade, a quintessential British summer drink.
That night we had the other highlight of our trip – going to an Axis of Awesome show as part of the Fringe Festival! They played a range of new songs as well as some old favourites, including “one that is probably the sole reason many of you even bought a ticket in the first place!” (The 4 Chords song! [Language warning].) They often mix up the 4 Chords song with different songs included in it depending on their location and audience, however the one they played in Edinburgh this year was probably the most different version I’ve heard. And after the show they invited everyone for a meet & greet, probably hoping we’d all buy merchandise 😉
So after the show we headed down to the wine bar in the venue, along with perhaps a quarter of the rest of the audience. We got to meet Jordan, Lee and Benny, have photos taken with them and got their autographs! Later when we came back to have a look at the merchandise table everyone else had gone so we had a bit more of a chat with them.
The next day the weather looked much less threatening, and after checking out and stowing our backpacks at the lockers in the bus station (much cheaper than the lockers at the train station), we headed back up to the Royal Mile again (the street leading up the hill to the castle) to join a Sandeman’s free tour. If Sandeman’s offers a tour in a city we’re visiting, we’ll take it. They do have paid-for specialist tours, but their general tours (normally about 2.5 – 3 hours long) are always free, so the guides are working for tips. It means you only pay what you think the tour is worth. They know their history and are usually pretty funny. Our guide over-did a few of his jokes – especially the complaints about Braveheart! – and would not stand still – but he still had interesting stories, although he sounded perhaps a bit more rehearsed and bit less relaxed than some other guides we’ve had in the past.
We saw the statue of a philosopher who dedicated his life to disproving notions such as luck (and now everyone rubs the toe of his statue for good luck!), the most important Presbyterian church – the high kirk – in Scotland, a cemetery with some interesting graves and a caged grave to stop grave robbers stealing your body, the cafe where JK Rowling wrote the first two Harry Potter books, the school on which some suppose she might have based Hogwarts (and which her children now attend), among other sites.
After the tour we had a drink to farewell Edinburgh at The World’s End, then did a bit more tourist shopping on our way back down towards the train station.