Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Duke's Destination

Palace of Holyroodhouse 
If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, you may want to know more about his Creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A Scottish physician & writer who created a fictitious character and lived to see him supersede his Maker! This prolific writer was born & raised in Edinburgh and the city, like a doting parent, has treasured the memories of its renowned son. From the university he studied in to the places he sat & wrote to naming pubs after him, Doyle lives on in spirit more than eighty years after his passing.

                                                                  Welcome to Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland & the seat of the Scottish Parliament. And if it fascinates you, the Parliament is open to the public, even during its sessions, and it is free. Speaks a lot about the parliamentarians, one must admit. Especially, if one has seen the live coverage of some Parliaments of the world where members think nothing of throwing of water bottles, mikes & what-not at each other. And not in jest. Be prepared to be frisked before you are let into the governance sector. And while this is not really where we begin our sightseeing from, nothing like bending the rules a little & showing you the pics now.


                                                                                                                                    After some sarkar-ishtyle rule bending has been done, let's go back to the back. Edinburgh is easy to reach by whatever mode of transport suits you. If you book well in advance, the trainline fares are attractive. So are the low cost carriers like Jet & BMI. And there is of course Megabus making life easy for travellers in UK, USA & Canada. No, I'm not being paid to endorse them! Just talking from experience :)

The stay options in the Capital city range from affordable youth hostels to high-end hotels. Remember the Traveller's Tip for a smooth start to your day when on a holiday. Nothing like a pleasant ambiance, a Victorian home & some Scottish breakfast to get started, wassay! 

Day 1: Took the Sightseeing Bus that has 11 halts. These Hop On Hop Off(HoHo) buses, are  the most convenient form of travel especially for those who have limited stay in Edinburgh. Or anywhere else! The ticket is valid for 24 hours & after a complete tour, the visitor can decide for himself which place/s he wants to explore more, and, hop off, accordingly. The frequency of the buses leaves nothing to be afraid of. Pick up your audio set, choose your channel & sit back and enjoy the ride. Get to the double deck of the bus if you want a better view.

After one complete city tour, we got off at the Museum of Scotland and we live to tell the tale. It is incredible. It has history, science, art, natural history etc and an amazing rooftop from where you can see the whole of Edinburgh. Study more about the various sites when you want to. For now, figure out, if one picture speaks more than a thousand words, how many will so many speak ;)

We hadn't had our fill of museums so we hopped off this time to the Museum of Childhood. The museum is in Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile. What is now the museum was once the Salvation Army's hall on the Royal Mile. The website doesn't do justice to it. Visit for yourself for a trip down your own bachpan. And for the children to learn how lifestyle was in the early days.



An absolute must-visit is Our Dynamic Earth. A recent addition to the attractions of Edinburgh, ODE takes you on a journey from the galaxy right into the future. From the 4-D film to the 360° experience, this futuristic journey is a far cry from the historical trails that Edinburgh is so famous for. If you are travelling with toddlers, the darkness in some areas of the Dynamic Earth could disturb them. Go prepared. A self-contained unit, snacking is not a problem. You can find sandwiches, cakes & hot chocolate of your choice within the premises. And even meals, if that is what you prefer.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, The Park of Hollyrood & the Queen's Gallery are all in the same perimeter as Our Dynamic Earth. While the other two have admission fee, The Park is free & open 24 hours. Nothing like relaxing and enjoying the experience of just being there. 
The Queen is in residence at The Palace of Holyroodhouse during Holyrood week from June end- July beginning. She, with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, host over 8000 guests during this week. Prince Charles lives here for a week a year carrying out his duties as the Duke of Rothesay.
Like The Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace & Windsor Castle, the Queen's Gallery in Edinburgh houses pictures from the Queen's life. If you have already seen those, you may give this a miss. Unless, you are an ardent fan of the Queen Mother!


The Edinburgh Castle is what you want to see next. Dominating the skyline of Edinburgh, this fortress, dating back to the 12th century, set atop the volcanic Castle Rock, staggers you with its sheer size & old-world mystery. As you take an audio tour inside, look out for the prison cells and other interesting remains , the quirky parts of the Castle's history that you won't find anywhere else! A powerful national symbol, this is is one part of the Edinburgh World Heritage site, you sure don't wanna miss.
                                                                                               Day 2: Depending on how many days you are spending in Edinburgh, you can leave a few sites for the 2nd day. The National Gallery of Scotland, The Scottish National Potrait Gallery, The Scottish Tartans Museum are all for the art lovers. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, being a society, needs all bookings to be pre-arranged . All you scotch lovers, make your bookings before you reach. Roam around the New Market; eat at The White Hart Inn, the oldest inn in Edinburgh; hear from the locals why they named a pub Last Drop and don't shudder when they tell you that the main hub of the town was once also the public execution centre. It was here that the convict shed his last drop before going on his upward journey. Drop in at the Edinburgh College of Art & learn about Sean Connery's association with it. Smell in the Old & the New, befriend the locals, learn their language, drink their whisky and be one with humanity.

Do all that & more. But you must breathe in one last shot of royalty before you leave Edinburgh. The Royal Yacht Britannia. Take Bus 22, 34 or 35 & go right upto the Ocean Terminal Leith. The Royal Yacht Britannia, one of the most famous ships of the world, was home to the Queen for 44 years. Having undertaken 968 official voyages from the remotest regions of the South Seas to the deepest divides of Antartica, she is now permanently moored as an exhibition ship at Ocean Terminal in Leith.  
This is the closest you can get to brushing shoulders with the Royalty by proxy. Steer the Britannia to the course you want; take an audio tour of the ship wondering why the Queen & the Duke(red) have separate bedrooms; try imagining Rajeev Gandhi & Nelson Mandela in this stately dining hall; make yourself at home in the sitting room or have your cuppa tea in the tea room; enjoy the view from the deck; admire the Bloodhound anchored alongside the Britannia; try the Captains beer or steal his cap, whatever you do today, this journey, without doubt, has frozen in time for you.


And as you bid goodbye to Edinburgh, and say thank you for the wonderful time you've have in Scotland, you suddenly remember something. There's a bank holiday in May! Time to start planning for your next yatra?!!!


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