In order to make the most of our time in Edinburgh, we bought tickets for an early train out of Inverness. The others took a bus back to Fort William to pick up their rental car and drive to Edinburgh where we would meet for a special dinner, to celebrate Corey & Kate’s 15th anniversary!
I got up a little before breakfast, but didn’t want to wake Rachel, so instead of cleaning up and packing I relaxed and did some reading. Then we went to breakfast, leaving behind a disaster – our belongings scattered all over as a result of the cleaning and drying operation yesterday plus the reorganizing required to fit everything in our camping backpacks again. Optimistically, we set a departure time during breakfast, but failed miserably with executing the plan and finally set off for the train station (a 15 min. walk) only 25 minutes before departure.
Fortunately, we had no trouble finding the station. Things took a turn for the worse inside, though, when we attempted retrieving our tickets from the kiosk. Rather than waste valuable time, we thought we would try talking to a woman at the ticketing counter but she wasn’t feeling helpful and only insisted that the kiosks were working earlier that morning. Despite Rachel’s pleading for help, the woman wouldn’t budge (stress level rising…), we hurried back to the kiosk and we (Rachel) discovered that our issues were the result of operator error – we (Chris) needed to leave credit card in the machine for it to read, rather than quickly swipe in and out.
On the bright side, the train didn’t leave without us, but with such little time to spare and without reserved seats, there weren’t any seats together. This didn’t help alleviate stress, and we ended up settling for priority seats across from each other. It was a quiet ride to Edinburgh, but we never had to give up our seats during the trip, so our spirits had a chance to recover.
The sun had been out all morning, and it continued shining on us while we walked to our hotel and marveled at the buildings of the Old Town for the first time. After checking in and dropping off our bags, we resumed our march through the city – this time to the Craigmillar Castle, which came highly recommended by our friends Robin and Jarrod. It was 3 miles through a beautiful, bustling park, some busy city streets and then through less-busy neighborhoods on the outskirts of town. By the time we arrived it had started sprinkling lightly but we had learned by now to always keep our rain jackets within reach.
The Craigmillar was the first castle either of us ever visited, so it was great fun to read the stories of the inhabitants and imagine what it looked like back then. It felt like a castle you would see in the movies, and we had it mostly to ourselves.
Thank you Robin and Jarrod, we loved it! Next we would see the Edinburgh Castle which (we have heard) is very impressive but an entirely different experience since it is a major tourist attraction.
In the park on our walk back, we met a bearded Collie named Chester and his friendly owner whose name we did not get. Apparently, his fur kept changing colors until he turned three!
Next, we passed through the hotel again to clean up and change before walking to meet with MICK for the anniversary dinner. We left without the map and tried to use our phones but they were useless (we could see our location, but not any street names since we didn’t get UK sim cards). Late again, we resorted to asking for directions from the one person around. Fortunately, we knew the names of the intersecting streets for the restaurant, so we asked how to get to the street which we hoped to be near. We received a simple response… “go that way,” which wasn’t the confidence-inspiring direction we were hoping for, but thankfully their instruction was accurate.
To our delight, the hostess lead us to a private room where the others had only been waiting a few minutes. Dinner didn’t disappoint either – the most popular plates were lamb, scallops and cod with squid ink pasta (Ian had the squid ink pasta – we were impressed by his adventurous order!); everyone was beyond-satisfied.
Entrees were followed by desserts which were equally enjoyable, then we shared a cab back to MICK’s aparthotel for more wine while we watched the Olympics.
After saying goodbye and agreeing to return early tomorrow with breakfast to prepare in their kitchen, we set off once again on foot (our FitBits have been very happy this trip). On the 1 mile walk home along the Royal Mile and Cowgate, we stumbled upon streets buzzing with partiers. Our waitress explained that we happened to be in town during the Military Tatoo and the Fringe festival (supposedly, during these two events the population nearly doubles), the latter of which attracts world-famous comedians in addition to other performers, which contributed to the exceptionally vibrant nightlife. The neon lights, loud music and raucous crowds (interspersed with fully-costumed party-goers) filling the street had us tempted to join for a drink. Instead, though, we continued walking and only observed, so that we would be fresh for our exciting day of planned-activities tomorrow.