03 June 2009

Scotland Day 2

Day 2:

Most of the morning was taken up by Edinburgh Castle. Saw all it has to see: Crown Jewels, Regimental Museum of the Royal Scots and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Mons Meg, the Chapel of St Margaret, the Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum of Scotland. I like the last two in particular. The War Museum had a great exhibit of portraits by photographer Robert Wilson. I don't remember the dog cemetery (below) from my previous visit, where the pets of officers and company mascots are buried. Our tour guide reminded me of my days leading tours in college: same well-oiled delivery of jokes you know are lame, same attempts to sell a site's history by excessively downplaying it, same I know you've come a long way and so want to be impressed but are also cosmopolitan enough not to let on that you're impressed and after all its just (just!) a bunch of old buildings so let's all use our imaginations and not take anything I say too seriously and besides I may or may not be hung over right now so try and work with me here people attitude.

Afterward we ambled down the Royal Mile to grab some soup and toasties for lunch at the Jolly Judge. Here's the Judge looking Jolly:

I'd recommend the Judge: very cozy; food was cheap and good. The barman said they always keep a couple of real ales on tap. We had Stewart's 80/- Ale and Rooster Brewery Yorkshire Pale Ale.

And here's your (anonymized) humble narrator posing with some of his favorite characters of the Scottish Enlightenment:

Further down the Mile we passed Adam Smith's grave. I stopped to pay my respects.

We went down to Hollyrood House, but it wasn't open to visitors because some hereditary poobah of advanced standing was in residence. Just as well, as my father the brother (henceforth MFTB) was in no great hurry to hand over coin to the English royal family. Can't say I blame him. We did get to see a military marching band going through their paces on the grounds, to which I can only say "Opa!" (Sorry, old college joke.)

The new Scottish Parliament building reminded me of nothing as much as a modern synagogue, and an ugly one at that, but what do I know about architecture?

Did some shopping. Picked up a shiny trinket for Special Lady Friend and a clan MacKay necktie for myself.

Dropped into another pub, The Bow Bar, another nice neighborhood place just far enough off the tourist track to be interesting, for an end-of-day pint, and it also stocks a great selection of ales. We had the Highland Brewing Company's St Magnus Ale and the Dark Munro Ale. There were three barristers in for a pint and they were all well-dressed with the exception of frightfully long trousers on two of them. This was well beyond a break in the leg, this was piles of material sitting on their shoes. Is this the new thing in Britain? These guys were like upper 40's to lower 50's too, so it wasn't some Young Turks trying to rebel by eschewing hems.

Another fashion question: I saw a lot of men wearing their suit coats with the bottom button done up. I've always been under the impression this is verboten, and it looks silly to my eye. I don't remember anyone doing that when I was in London a few years ago, so this is either a new thing or it's something people do in the colder, windier northern latitudes. Can anyone fill me in on these floppy trousers and extra buttons?

By lucky coincidence, we ended up at a place on Thistle St in New Town called Iris for dinner. We were actually looking for a place one door down, but we ran into some people outside of Iris having a smoke who said it was great and we wouldn't regret it. We went in thinking it was the other place and didn't figure it out until we had been looking over the menu for 5 minutes. Didn't regret the mix-up though. I had some delicious duck and MFTB had a wonderfully moist pork loin.


  1. Lovely castle action.

    If you ever get the chance, go to North Wales. It has a similar wet, cool climate, and the most astonishing variety of ruined Norman castles, including the astonishing Beaumaris (intimidating to this day), in a short driving distance. As a bonus, though everyone is blilingual, English isn't the first language. On the island of Anglesey, you can sit in a pub drinking locally brewed ale and eating pigeon (surprisingly good and a local delicacy), listening to the locals jabber in their weird babble.

    South Wales, on the other hand, is just like West Virginia.

  2. North Wales will have to go on my list then. I have heard it has lovely castles.