Dana took a convenient, direct flight from Toronto to Glasgow, while Mark took a less direct route, from Bangalore to Dubai to London to Glasgow.
After a 90 minute drive drive from Glasgow airport, we arrived in Edniburgh, Scotland’s capital city, to spend the weekend enjoying its rich history and architecture, and its many photographic offerings.
On entering this beautiful European city, one is immediately struck by the iconic Royal Castle perched on the imposing volcanic rock in the very center of the city. Built by King David I in 1130, the famous castle was taken by the English and retaken by the Scots on a number of occasions. Today, one of its cherished possessions is the Scone Stone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, which has witnessed the coronations of monarchs in Scotland, England and now Great Britain for centuries. The stone is only removed from the Royal Castle for coronations at Westminster Abbey.
From the Royal Castle to Holyrood Abbey (also built by King David I) is the Royal Mile, a world-famous avenue that is a must for any visitor to Edinburgh. The Mile is chock filled with sweater shops, pubs, restaurants, and boutiques featuring Whisky from every region of Scotland. But is also far more than that. We strongly recommend taking your time wandering through the narrow and steep closes on each side of the high street, soaking up the history, and admiring the many monuments and statues. You know you’ve reached the end of the Royal Mile when you see the End of the World pub at the former city gate – it literally was the end of the world for the citizens of Edinburgh who lived all of their lives within the walled and fortified city.
In the 18 and 19th centuries, Edinburgh was known as the Athens of the North because of its abundance of Greek-style architecture. This explains the still unfinished National Monument (also referred to as the “national disgrace”), modeled after the the Parthenon on beautiful Calton Hill. The National Monument and the nearby Nelson Monument on Calton Hill are well worth a visit if for no reason other than the spectacular vista. From there, one can get a full view of the Firth of Forth as well as the many outstanding sites in the City itself, including the impressive monument to Sir Walter Scott and the clock tower perched above the Balmoral Hotel.
For those who appreciate Scottish pubs, there are many quality pubs to be found throughout the City. In addition to the Royal Mile, we recommend trying the historic pubs in the Grassmarket area – once the site of public hangings – and the Rose Street pedestrian walkway in the New City area.
The conveniently located Sheraton was our home for the weekend – a very nice and modern hotel with a lovely spa.
The weather was unseasonably pleasant so we took a long walk up and around the castle and along the Royal Mile on our first day. Along the way we stopped in an old pup on George Street for a bowl of soup, some fish & chips and a pint, of course. There are so many great restaurants/options in this area it is hard to go wrong.
On Sunday, we signed up for a 5-hour walking tour with local photographer, James Christie. The tour provides a brief city history tour and is great for beginner photographers. Mr. Christie provides his clients with a photographer’s view of the city. If you prefer to know more about the city’s history and landmarks, a different tour/company is recommended.
Our Edinburgh restaurant recommendations/comments:
Wildfire – a small, intimate restaurant with average food; service was very slow the night we dined here. 3*
We recommend trying Kitchin – we were unable to get last minute reservations but the Michelin- starred restaurant is supposed to be fab.
Monday morning we headed back to Glasgow and the Blythswood Square hotel, a very nice hotel which also has a great spa.
Unfortunately Mark had to work in Glasgow so Dana did some solo touring, including the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. One of Glasgow’s highlights, the museum is free to the public. Kelvingrove is located in the West End of the city, on the banks of the River Kelvin, and near the University of Glasgow. The museum includes a small collection of French, Dutch, and ancient Egyptian art, as well as a larger collection of Scottish art and Scot life and history. It is a nice way to spend a couple of hours.
A short cab ride from the hotel, the Burrell Gallery & Museum is a must see; this is also a free museum. (Bus service is also available, and stops near the main entrance to the park.) Located in Pollok Country Park, this fantastic gallery includes a portion of the more than 8,000 objects collected by shipping magnate Sir William Burrell, with particular focus on late medieval and early Renaissance Europe, as well as a great collection of Chinese Art and textiles. One of the many highlights is Rodin’s Thinker, as well as works by Rembrandt, Degas, Cezanne. The gallery also has a nice cafe for lunch. After a tour of the gallery and museum, the surrounding park and woodland is a lovely place for a long walk.
Our last day in Glasgow was a foggy, rainy day – some might say a typical day in Scotland. This was not the best weather for a bus tour with Discover Scotland, but the full-day tour was well worth the price, despite the fog. The tour begins with a pickup at the hotel and proceeds to Dumbarton Castle – where Mary Queen of Scots set sail for France, Luss – a small highland village, Loch Lomond – a beautiful freshwater loch which is the largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain, Aberfoylee – a village at the heart of Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, picturesque Loch Drunkie, a stop to feed the Highland cows, lunch stop in Callandar – the gateway to the Highlands, Doune Castle (may be of interest to Monty Python fans), an optional stop at Deanston for a wee dram – a private Scotch whiskey distillery, and ends at Sitrling castle, one of Scotland’s most important castles.
Like Edinburgh castle, Stirling Castle also sits prominently on volcanic rock, and is one of the most popular attractions in Scotland. Strategically located above the River Forth, the Castle has an incredible history. Mary Queen of Scots was taken there as an infant for protection, and ultimately was crowned in the Royal Castle. It was also attacked or besieged at least 16 times, and nearby Stirling Bridge was the site of William Wallace’s most famous victory over the much larger English force of King Edward I. It truly is a must see.
Our Glasgow restaurant recommendations/suggestions:
Sarti on Bath Street – good Italian food in a casual atmosphere. A short walk from our hotel. 3 1/2*
Red Onion – a casual, locals place. Good food, felt a bit rushed. 3*
Number 16 – a small West End restaurant with good food. 3*
… Mark & Dana …