Edinburgh Tattoo

This was always going to be a long day with a late night. Months ago Charles had suggested that we go to the Edinburgh Tattoo while here and we had accepted that suggestion with enthusiasm. Late summer sunsets mean that the performance does not begin until 9:00 pm, necessitating a late night. Last night we had discussed logistics for today and decided that rather than shuttle to and fro, we would go into the city in the morning, spend the day sightseeing, and then eat before going to the Tattoo.

There was no rush in the morning. We had breakfast, discussed plans for the day and got our gear together. Although it is late summer here and the weather was predicted to be fine and sunny most of the day we needed to be prepared for chill at the outside performance. It was out with coats and, in Majella’s case, thermal underwear. Charles packed cushions to soften the hard plastic seats and blankets to keep us warm. Our plan was to leave those in the parked car and return to get them in the early evening when they would be needed.

We set out around 10:30 am, drove toward the city, and found a long term parking space in a street south of the old city. It took us 20 minutes or so to walk through the streets of old stone houses and across the Meadows Park to reach the city. Just short of the Meadows Park we spotted Victor Hugo Deli and decided that would be a suitable place to eat dinner before returning to the car to pick up gear for the evening. We booked a table and walked on across the park where there was a carnival associated with the Fringe Festival. From that point on the city was mostly packed with crowds attending the festival and performers.

Our first stop was at Greyfriars where we looked at the kirk that stands on the location of a pre-reformation Franciscan monastery. It may be better known by many for the story of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog that stayed by his master’s grave for many years. There were larger crowds gathering around the statue of the dog than in the kirk or its graveyard.

From there we walked further into the area around and along the Royal Mile that stretches from Edinburgh Castle down to Holyrood Palace, the royal residence in Scotland. The streets were packed with tourists and street performances associated with the festival. We paused for a while to listen to some singers between seeing some of the local sights. Charles had begun his career in the police force as a beat officer in the area and knows it well so we had expert guidance.

DSC_5484By lunchtime we had reached the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. We had lunch in the cafeteria there before spending time in the gallery. It is an impressive building, with a large central open space decorated with images of events and people from Scots history. The galleries presented portraits of significant men and women from Scottish history in groups arranged by historical periods. Walking through the galleries and reading the descriptions of images was a fascinating way to learn something of the history of Scotland and developments in portraiture.

We spent more than an hour in the gallery before setting off again to the Royal Mile and walking down to Holyrood Palace. Along the way we visited other sites including Cannongate Kirk, where Cathy had graduated with her degree from University of Edinburgh, and Whitehorse Close, where Charles and Cathy had taken Jane and Lea when they visited some years ago.

DSC_5493Eventually we reached the end of the Royal Mile and came to Holyrood Palace which has been a royal residence for more than 500 years. The site was originally an Augustinian abbey, founded by King David of Scotland in 1128, but later extended and converted to the current building. Ruins of the abbey are still there and attached at the back of the present building which is used by the Queen as her official residence when in Edinburgh. We took the tour with an audioguide that described the various rooms used for state functions and some history of the building and its occupants over the centuries. There was much said about how the rooms became more grand as we took the processional path up the grand stairs, through the various rooms to the throne room and then to the King’s bedchamber which was evidently designed to impress those who got that far rather than be used. He slept in a smaller room nearby. The current royals have apartments on the floor above which we did not see.

We had drinks at the café there before walking back to Victor Hugo Deli for dinner and coffee. After that Charles and I walked to the car to pick up gear we needed for the Tattoo while Majella and Cathy waited in the Meadow Park. Once we returned we walked back to the Royal Mile for the Tattoo. Charles was wanting to time our arrival so that we were there for the performance but not for a long wait in a queue. We paused at Deacon Brodie’s Tavern for drinks before walking the last few hundred metres up the hill to the Castle and the Tattoo.

IMG_1720Charles had got his timing right. There was a short delay while some VIPs arrived in buses but then we walked in without queueing and took our seats about 10 minutes before the action began with an overflight by a transport aircraft followed by arrival on the performance area of the massed pipe bands. The show was filled with military band music, precision marching, and dancing by performers from Scotland, India and Norway. The lightshow on the castle wall varied from simple patterns of coloured lights to elaborate projections of moving images of aircraft on an aircraft carrier. At various times there were fireworks and occasionally loud explosions with bright flashes as part of performances from different groups. Majella had been concerned that she might fall asleep after her long day of walking (more than 20000 steps) but there was no risk of that with the quickly changing variety of entertainment and the loud noises.

Getting out of the performance area took some time and then we had the walk back to the car. It was almost midnight by the time we were back at Balerno and nobody had trouble sleeping.