Category Archives: UK

Days Seventeen-Nineteen: Edinburgh sightseeing, and a Geocache

In which I visit two of Edinburgh’s attractions that are new to me: Holyrood Palace (and Abbey), and Calton Hill.

Along the Royal Mile, there are a lot of “closes”, or alleys, frequently to back yards or gardens.

Dunbar's Close Garden
Dunbar’s Close Garden

The Scottish Parliament building, probably a symbol of Scottish nationalism, is architecturally jarring. It’s not necessarily bad, but its modernism (sorry, architecture majors, I don’t know what I’m talking about) looks bizarre next to Holyrood Palace.

Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament
More of Parliament, in situational context
More of Parliament, in situational context

Holyrood Palace is “the Queen’s official residence in Scotland”, although from the looks of it neither she nor anyone else ever inhabits it. Although Mary Queen of Scots’ bedchamber is probably of interest to fans of the Other Boleyn Girl series (hi Mom), all in all it’s not a great loss to this blog that photography was prohibited.

Maybe I just like churches, but the ruins of the Holyrood Abbey were better:

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The palace gardens are immaculate, but that’s because you’re not allowed to stray from the path, which is a let-down.

On the way back I saw John Lennon’s grave. But no, not that John Lennon.

If this was supposed to be art, I'd call it "Two Incomplete Structures."
If this was supposed to be art, I’d call it “Two Incomplete Structures.”

Next up is Calton Hill [day 18], home of the Nelson Monument, which commemorates the naval battle of Trafalgar, and the National Monument (of Scotland). It also hosts a small and mystifying (i.e., bad) art gallery.

Art, apparently.
Art, apparently.
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View of Nelson Monument
View of the National Monument from the top of the Nelson Monument
View of the National Monument from the top of the Nelson Monument
More views from the top
More views from the top
View as I fell off the Nelson Monument. Just kidding.
View as I fell off the Nelson Monument. Just kidding.

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Today [day 19] I went geocaching with Sophia. I was almost entirely unsuccessful (zero for two) when along came another pair of geocachers, who found the one I was looking for in about 30 seconds.  I’m obviously a newb…

Hint: it turned out to be within the frame of this photo. Spoiler: it was a thimble-sized magnetic cynilder stuck under the railing!
Hint: it turned out to be within the frame of this photo. Spoiler: it was a thimble-sized magnetic cylinder stuck under the railing!

This time tomorrow I’ll be in Barcelona! Now to pack…

 

 

 

Posted from Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom.

Day Fifteen: Lindisfarne and Alnwick

This weekend Sophia and I tagged along with some of her classmates for a 15-person day trip to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and the town of Alnwick (pronounced “annick”), both across the border in England.

Holy Island is especially cool because it is connected to the mainland by a large natural sandbar, which is covered with water at high tide. There’s a paved road across. Signs everywhere warn drivers and hikers that the road will become impassable at certain hours and that the water rises rapidly and may necessitate a Coast Guard rescue of cars foolish enough to race the clock.

Driving to the island
Driving to the island

Although I didn’t learn the history ahead of time to know why it was holy, I did visit the parish church on the island, as well as look at the island’s castle and walk on the nice large-stone beach. The other major stop we made there was to buy mead, which seems to be the island’s main export.

Lindisfarne Castle in the background.
Lindisfarne Castle in the background.

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Inside the lime kilns
Inside the lime kilns

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Lindisfarne Priory ruins
Lindisfarne Priory ruins

In the nearby town of Beal there is a birds of prey center.

Sophia with a baby eagle
Sophia with a baby eagle

Alnwick Garden is an ornamental garden/park with nice fountains, labyrinths, … oh, and a “poison garden” where they grow khat, opium poppies, salvia, marijuana, datura, and a lot of other plants that were somehow a bit less interesting.

Miryam casting a spell (?)
Miryam casting a spell (?)
Cannabis plant: "Please keep off the grass"
Cannabis plant: “Please keep off the grass”

Day Thirteen: St Andrews

I went up to St Andrews to visit two friends from Yale, one who lives in Scotland and one passing through. When I got my tickets, which were for a train connecting to a bus, I had to remind myself that transportation in this country runs on time and thus that everything would be fine. It was.

Scottish coastline, from the train
Scottish coastline, from the train
A man sitting casually with his owl
A man sitting casually with his owl

The historic Holy Trinity Church in St Andrews was where John Knox preached his first sermon, or something like that. It’s clear that now it functions at least as much as a museum as as a church.

Inside the pre-reformation Holy Trinity Church (Church of Scotland)
Inside the pre-reformation Holy Trinity Church (Church of Scotland)
The pulpit is made of translucent stone, like the Beinecke library at Yale
The pulpit is made of translucent stone, like the Beinecke library at Yale

The other religious heritage gem in St Andrews is the ruined cathedral, which was first built in the 12th century; what remains now dates to the 14th century. It was ruined because of the Reformation, but I don’t know exactly how. There’s a graveyard next to it, with rather more modern (19th-century) graves; many appear to be Catholic, but one large memorial was for a minister who was important in the Church of Scotland, so I don’t know the story.

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