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Happy Burns Day
Xmas has come and gone and it is a new year and that means .......time for another Ryanair special offer. Hoorah !!!
This is only a day trip though, Bournemouth to Edinburgh for £1.00 each way INC TAX.
This time it will not be “a girl's own adventure” I am going with The Beard and the fruits of his amateur scientist cloning experiment, Fuzzy Lip.
Despite horrendous queues to get through security at Bournemouth, worse than any airport I have ever been to, we board on time and arrive in the home of haggis in time for breakfast .
Edinburgh takes your breath away, I know this cos I could see it in steamy clouds as I breathed out.
As at every airport I have ever visited there is a bus waiting at the kerbside to take us into town. It costs £5.00 for a return, as we drive into Edinburgh centre we pass a huge Rugby stadium, 'The Rumblin' Tum”café and a cake shop called 'Truly Scrumptious' with cakes shaped like handbags in the window .
30 minutes later we get off in the bottom of what was a river bed. Now it is the huge railway station that links Edinburgh with Scotland's outposts and the Sassenach world. The other side of the tracks is a public park. Rising up on both sides, very steeply on one, is the valley that is Edinburgh.
Having just got off one bus we immediately get on another, an open top double decker with a 'live tour guide' [ I guess a dead one would be a bit smelly]. You can get on and off at will all day long. It has to be said that the day today is fairly short, as they stop with the daylight at about 4pm. We do the whole tour without stopping, to get an over view of the city. An overview is precisely what we get as we chug up the steep side of the valley towards the castle, we come under the castle walls and rub cheeks with the sheer craggy granite foundations of the castle. They appear to soar upwards for dozens of neck craning feet, giving you an inkling of the solidness of the castle defences to come . Whoever the doorstep salespeople or unwelcome callers of the day were, they would need more than a shiny brochure and a buy one get one free offer to get in here. As we approach the cobbled parade ground in front of the castle,[ drum roll please]...... snow starts to fall. Not the wet grey snow that we get down south but proper big dry fluffy patterned magical flakes, like the kind you cut out of paper doilies as a child. The kind you want to press between the pages of a book and keep forever.
The kind that whispers to you ,.. it's bloody cold.
From the castle you can see the Firth of Forth, a huge grey dagger shaped chunk of sea that cuts into the land reinforcing the elemental feel of Scotland. All around us are snow capped peaks, it makes me wonder if up until now I have been living in a kind of 'indoors' and that this, Scotland, is really 'outside' The sky is much more vast, you can see further and the air is fresher. I remember a Scottish couple I met in a bar in Italy recently. They had told me about when they went to Ireland and did a coach tour of the Wicklow Mountains, they said they were driven around for an hour or so and then stopped for lunch. In all innocence they asked the driver when they would get to the Wicklow Mountains they had come to see. “You've just spent two hours driving through them “ was his amused reply. To them they weren't “mountains” at all. Now I'm here I see what they mean.
We pass The Scottish Storytelling School and The Toy Museum, all five floors of it !! which our guide describes as “the noisiest museum in Europe” parents note, entry is free !!! I nearly leap off the top of the bus as I see a bakers selling fudge doughnuts !!. As if being home to the worlds best biscuit wasn't enough.
If you are at all seduced by architecture then Edinburgh will have you unbuttoning your cardie in a heartbeat. It is no show girl from Las Vegas though. It is a classy bird , growing old gracefully with the confidence to shun botox and crème de la mer. Edinburgh's architecture takes no prisoners, it is big chunky hunks of menacing granite worked into spooky Gothic spires, arches and columns. They dot the hillside that is the steep slope of Edinburgh and the site of all of them in one vista is mighty impressive.
All except for the parliament building. where, the 21st century rears it's kooky head .You could be forgiven for thinking it's a prison as there are bamboo shaped bars on the windows. You should see it for yourself. I have to say I loved it, but me and kooky are old friends.
We pass Edinburgh's posh hotel.”This is where Sean Connery stays when he comes to Edinburgh” our tour guide says. “It's surprising how many ladies stand outside it when he's in town.”
If Sean Connery is your favourite Bond [man in blue swimming shorts excepted] then you will love Edinburgh. Like our James he laughs in the face of hairpieces and face lifts but sticks with that good old fashioned double act of a twinkle in his eye and a confident rugged exterior.
We stop to admire The Robbie Burns memorial , and the scaffolding it is encased in. This year is his 250th anniversaryof his birth and our guide tells us they are calling it “Homecoming Year” when all Scots far and wide should return to Scotland for a visit.
The cold is beginning to bite so we do too, lunch at “The Hard Rock Café.” On the wall next to our table is a Gibson guitar once owned by Pete Townsend of “The Who”. Fuzzy Lip and The Beard are very impressed by this and tell me I am not allowed to touch it, which I do anyway. They nod heads silently at each other in reverence, whilst I notice there is chocolate brownie sundae on the menu. The Fuzz and furry are less impressed by the background music that is decidedly more pop than Hard Rock. The food and service however are both “right on man”.
The jolly folk of Edinburgh apparently like nothing better than to scare the holy ... out of their visitors and we are about to pay good money to let them do so. A ghost tour along The Royal Mile. Our guide will be dressed up as Dr Jekyll and they have people dressed up as ghosts who's job title is “jumper ooter” who will, you've guessed it, jump out at us at various places. If it is anything like the tour of Frankenstein's laboratory that I did in Salem, New England at Halloween then I will be wild eyed and pumped up on adrenaline for a week afterwards. I never get to find out though as our guide has got stuck in snow and cannot make it. This is a big disappointment but it now gives us time to visit the inside of the castle.
We walk up the royal Mile past shops playing recorded bagpipe music, called www.bagpipe.com . I drag The Beard away from “The Whisky Shop" and Fuzzy Lip from a shop with a poster saying “Credit Crunch Sword Sale . Battle Ready Swords Now Half Price.”
We also resist the urge to “Spend £30.00 on a Kilt and Get a Free Sporran”
The castle is awesome ,we wend our way up through the Argyle Tower, past the Lang Stairs and round to the Argyle Battery. Sadly we have missed the firing of the one clock cannon which happens every day. Up until recently this task was performed by a man known as “Tam the Gun” who has now retired after firing the gun since 1978. They now have a replacement, District Gunner Shannon who is known as “Shannon the Cannon.”
We enter a safe the size of a room, where Scotland's crown jewels and The Stone of Scone are kept. We read about how the evil English stole the stone from Scotland along with the tradition of a monarch for Scotland alone. The story of the crown or “circlet of gold” is a perilous one stretching back 700 years and it's all pretty gripping stuff.
We end our day by visiting the statue of a little dog. He is known as Greyfriars Bobby. 150 years ago the owner of a little terrier named Bobby died and was buried in the graveyard of Greyfriars Kirk. Bobby moved into the graveyard and stayed by his Master's grave for 14 years until he too died. His collar and license tag are in the museum. He was it seems “The People's Pup.”
When I checked last week, flights to Edinburgh from Bournemouth were still available through to March at £1,00 INC TAX. The flight times are good and it makes a really good day out. Wrap up warm. Let me know if you go. I hope you enjoy it and have a hot toddy for me.
P.S ....and if you find you have room for a fudge doughnut in your pocket I'd be ever so grateful
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Adventurous Jenni Stevenson resigned from her job as a senior prison officer and has jetted off on a holiday of a lifetime. She is taking advantage of budget airline Ryanair's offer to fly for £1. The adventure will see her take 10 flights and visit six countries over the next few weeks.