Four favourite places in… Edinburgh

I’d like to establish a new series today: “Four favourite places in…” My starting city is where my love for Scotland has its roots, Edinburgh. The correct pronunciation in the local leid is kind of “Embra” btw. I found a quite dead-on vid on YouTube, let’s start with that one:

So, now, that you know how to ask if you’re in the right town :), I’ll tell you where I’d recommend to go if you have just restricted time and wish to visit really special places. The order of appearance doesn’t say anything at all about my preferences:

  1. Angel ©Maria Pakura

    Angel ©Maria Pakura

    Thistle Chapel in Saint Giles Cathedral, flush against the Castle-close third of the Royal Mile. You will usually meet quite some people there, many tourists amongst them. But most see the beauty of the wood-covered room without knowing what they ought to look for. There’s a beautiful little secret hidden in the carvings, and I’ll tell you how to find it: When you’re stepping through the entrance door of the room, stop and turn, so that you face the door. Climp up the carvings directly at the right side of the door with your glance, and you will find a tiny wooden angel. With a bagpipe. Why is that extraordinary? Because classic angel figures play flutes, trumpets, harps, violins, but no bagpipes, as the bagpipe was an instrument closely connected to military acts and fights of Highlanders, so it became temporarily banned due to the Act of Proscription 1746. If you want to know more about the history, check out this Wikipedia-article or visit a very special museum in Glasgow. But without any doubt, giving a bagpipe to an angel was a creative act of rebelliousness, especially in a church, and this alone makes this one carving in the Thistle Chapel unforgettable.

  2. Gilmerton Cove ©Maria Pakura

    Gilmerton Cove ©Maria Pakura

    Gilmerton Cove, 16 Drum Street. I have visited many caves in different countries over the years, and there’s much to see beneath the ground in Edinburgh’s city core, but Gilmerton Cove is worth to drive some miles out of the centre. If you don’t know, where to look for it, you wouldn’t believe that this wee house is a kind of portal to the underground and the past all the same. A very friendly guide will welcome you to your tour and show you the different rooms and alleys in the dark cove. It’s not particularly huge or spectacular, but it will raise many questions, and no one can really answer them, what makes the Cove a place of mystery and secrets. You will find rock-cut chairs and tables, signs carved to the stone, some with obviously roots to Templars and/or Free Masons, others not. You will learn more about the texture of the stone there and how ridiculously hard it is to cut it. I won’t dictate your questions, you will ask them anyway as soon as you get to this stunning place.

  3. Grand Gallery ©Maria Pakura

    Grand Gallery ©Maria Pakura

    National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, close to Candlemaker Row and Greyfriar’s Cemetery. Especially when you get into this splendid exhibition complex on a rainy autumn or winter day for the first time, the effect will be overwhelming. If you just want to breathe the atmosphere of the long tradition of the museum and its ancient beautiful architecture, go to the white Grand Gallery and take it in. Don’t miss the Millennium Clock Tower (just right now temporarily removed until November 2015 btw), a gorgeous work of modern surrealism, in action every full hour. If you are looking for something more special and more local, you have to stroll through the new buildings. It’s not easy to find the Arthur’s Seat Coffins, you might need assistance: level 4, within the display “Daith comes in”. You will find a couple of tiny coffins, each not much bigger than a hand, with horrific dolls inside, which obviously were no children’s toy but seem to symbolise something. Experts believe that they were buried in the rocky soil of Arthur’s Seat which begins to spring up at the foot of the Royal Mile in a kind of rite with a relation to the murders of the infamous bodysnatchers Burke and Hare in the 1820s. But who knows, eh..?

  4. An authentic Wild West replica street, off Springvalley Gardens behind the Morningside Library (184 Morningside Road). You’re a Wild West fan and loved “A fistful of dollars” and the like? You don’t need to travel thousands of miles overseas then, just go to the rather calm, if not even boring quarter Morningside. I would never have thought that there’s a kind of enclave hidden behind the  venerable library: a small, but complete street with a Saloon, a Trading Station, a Cantina, mostly shabby-wooden in a Tex-Mex style. It’s not a film set but likewisely not as old as it appears. It was built in the 1990s for a furniture advertising campaign, and it’s a big question mark how long it will exist as the area is said to be for offer and might be turned into a housing area soon. So hurry and up and visit the Wild West side of Edinburgh as long as it’s possible. Since I don’t have own pics of it, I recommend this recent article on it, containing some impressions.

Hope you feel inspired to explore Edinburgh afresh or at all. I will take you to other places soon, but I’m always open to your views. Maybe you want to tell my readers about your home town’s fav four? Write me, I’m looking forward to it!

©Maria Pakura

Ten things to love about Scotland in autumn

  1. Dean Village/Edinburgh in autumn ©Maria Pakura

    Dean Village/Edinburgh in autumn ©Maria Pakura

    Even in the bigger cities, the play of leaves’ colours is stunningly beautiful, so that walks around become a sensual pleasure.

  2. There are less people around. Most huge festivals are over, typical tourists head to the warm South.
  3. Mulled wine gets back to the menues, and it’s such a pleasure to drink the first mug after a long walk through the fresh wind.
  4. After the barbecues and day outs of the summer, it’s now twice as nice to sit back in a pub and listen to open mic nights’ performers or storytellers.
  5. Be a child and dream. It’s possible virtually everywhere across the country as Scotland’s beauty is inspiration enough. But if you need one tiny push more, go to Pitlochry and visit the “Enchanted Forest”. The colourful illumination in the evenings alters the daily view.
  6. Samhain is ahead, and with it pagan traditions. Let this be  an impulse to learn more about the mystical side of Scotland, for example by attending herbal walks and diving into ancient wisdom.
  7. Seafood is so much better than during the warmer months now. Btw, did you know there’s a seafood trail between Arran and Mull? A breathtaking scenery meets amazing food, so don’t miss it!
  8. With the fall comes the theatre, concert and art season as well. There’s a intriguing exhibition in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, for example, till November 22th. Old photographies show the world and people of the Victorian era. #VictorianSensation
  9. I love the sea more than most things in the universe. And I’m into sailing. Nothing better than an autumn sail in Scotland to get the head free. I won’t be busy as it’s too cold and too windy for many, but we’re not sissies, are we? 🙂
  10. The Highlands. Are always beautiful. But never more beautiful than just right now. Don’t drive but walk through them, for half a day at least. It’s magical!