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Trip Report Edinburgh: A short trip

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Edinburgh zoo has two Giant Pandas. My dearly beloved is nuts about pandas and really wanted to see them, and we had always wanted to go to Scotland, so a weeks “use it or lose it” leave seemed the ideal time.

The first day went badly, the morning flight cancelled and the afternoon plane delayed meant we only got into the city just before 5pm.

We had rented an apartment about 10 minutes walk from Holyrood Palace, and it was very comfortable, and well furnished.

Having arrived so late, We spent a couple of hours wandering around trying to orientate ourselves - walking up the Royal Mile to the castle gates and back. Too tired to find somewhere to eat, we bought pie and chips at a local shop. I wasn’t brave enough to try the deep fried haggis.

Day two: We had an appointment at the Zoo. Because of the demand the visits to the panda enclosures are limited to groups of 50 at a time, last 20 minutes and have to be pre booked.
We were very fortunate, as we walked in to their indoor areas (Pandas are solitary, so they have an enclosure each) we were told the female, Tian Tian was fast asleep, and the male was outside, As we all crowded to look at the sleeping , the male, Yang Guang came into his den and began chewing on bamboo.

As our 10 minute slot came to an end, we left to view the external quarters, he decided to follow, and wandered around the grass, oblivious to the crowds, and then performed a handstand to “scent mark” the wall. Evolutionary dead end they might be, but they were unbearably cute to watch.

The rest of the zoo was a bit disappointing. A mixture of some excellent new buildings like the Chimpanzee centre, but also some more old fashioned cages. As it was cold and blustery most animals were hidden away in their dens, and you couldn’t blame them.
We spent several hours altogether at the zoo, and decided we would cook at the flat, and go out later.

In the evening we did a half hearted pub crawl up the Royal Mile, stopping at various places including the Toll Gate, The Canon’s Gate, The World's End and The Castle.

Day Three. As we were in no hurry, we first climbed up to see the Nelson monument on Carlton Hill. This gave some excellent views across the New Town. Thereafter we walked up to the castle. I found it fascinating: As a working military base for hundreds of years it has been constantly modified and added to, and although some of the original remains, much of it is 17th and 18th century rebuilding. The audio tours and the guides both do a very good job of explaining where the changes happened over time, and why. The views across the city are exceptional.

We climbed down from the castle , through the park which was covered in daffodils. Steep but scenic. With no particular place in mind, we stopped at Café Marlayne in Thistle Street, and had a very pleasant, and reasonably priced lunch.

The afternoon was spent meandering around the streets just viewing the architecture, and reading the numerous historical notices.

Day 4. We had to be out of the apartment by eleven. The owner had offered to come and pick up our bags and store them for us, but as we only had light backpacks there was no need. I wanted to get some pictures from the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel.

Once we were at the ruins, and pictures taken, we strolled on a little further, and further still, until it seemed pointless not to continue to the top of Arthur’s Seat. It was well worth the climb as the views are stunning, even on the overcast day.

Climbing down, we decided on the spur of the moment to take a bus to Leith. I had misunderstood the guide book, and ended up at the Ocean Terminal (a large modern shopping centre and the Royal Yacht Britannia) rather than The Shore ( the historic port on the Water of Leith.) We compounded the error by walking out to Newhaven where we had an indifferent lunch at a pub.

Eventually, mindful of the time, we caught the bus back, passing The Shore on the way (which is when I realised my error). We had a farewell pint at the Canon’s Gait and caught the number 35 bus to the airport.

This would have been a grave error had we not had plenty of time. The Airlink bus had taken about 25 minutes, whereas the 35 went around the houses and took over an hour.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable trip. We will certainly go back for a longer period, but possibly when it is a little warmer.

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