Although our hotel room was lovely and quiet there was no need to set an alarm as each morning we were roused from our slumbers at 8.00 a.m. sharp to the clattering sounds of a glass recycling truck emptying bins along the road. With so many nice things we wanted to fit into our Edinburgh city break we weren’t complaining and were soon up and about.
We checked out of our hotel, leaving our luggage to collect later then wandered along to the West End of Princes Street and continued up the slight incline of Lothian Road to have breakfast in the Caley Picture House which has been tastefully transformed from a former cinema. This pub was still under construction on our previous visit so we were eager to take a look. It features the original stage with additional seating on the cinema’s balcony.
It was very quiet at that time of the morning and after enjoying our cooked breakfasts we made our way slowly up the hill to Tollcross that leads to the affluent southern Edinburgh neighbourhoods of Bruntsfield and Morningside. There are many interesting small shops and cafes along Bruntsfield Place characterised with their attractive Georgian tenements above.
Bruntsfield is also home to a stretch of open parkland complete with sweeping views across The Meadows to the volcanic Arthur’s Seat in the distance. Golf has been played here on Bruntsfield Links since 1761 and it remains one of Edinburgh’s free public short hole golf courses. For those without their own clubs, these are available to rent for a nominal £5 from behind the bar of the ancient Golf Tavern overlooking the course.
Continuing on our way, we reached the Holy Corner junction between Bruntsfield and Morningside. This takes its name because of churches located on each corner. Three of which continue to hold services whilst the fourth became the Eric Liddell Centre in 1980 named after the famous Scottish athlete whose story was told in ‘Chariots of Fire’. If, like me, you are a fan of both the 44 Scotland Street and Isabel Dalhousie Sunday Philosophy Club series of books by Alexander McCall Smith then you may be familiar with some of these landmarks as they feature in his novels which capture Edinburgh’s charm most beautifully and certainly inspire visits.
After glancing in a few more of the inviting small boutiques and a wonderful chocolatier we caught a Lothian Bus (No.23) from outside Morningside Library over to the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street back in the city centre.
Entrance to this fascinating museum is free of charge and as we’d looked around in detail before, on this occasion we headed over to the Science and Technology galleries which are our favourites. Here we viewed Dolly The Sheep, one of the most iconic exhibits and the world’s most famous sheep.
The ‘Making It’ gallery explores how manufacturing and engineering have changed our lives with planes suspended from the ceiling. Hot air balloons can be operated by the press of a button to watch them fill with hot air and soar to the roof of the gallery to float amongst the planes.
Moving on to the Grand Gallery we learnt about the people who designed, built and operated Scotland’s lighthouses providing a safe passage for mariners.
Located across the road from the museum. on the corner of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge is the statue to the Skye Terrier, Greyfriar’s Bobby. This little dog became famous in the 19th-century as legend has it that he devoted 12 years of his life to guarding the grave of his owner in Greyfriars Churchyard until he himself passed away.
This delightful story which has captivated generations, has featured in numerous books and films and his dedication and loyalty became legendary and he was also laid to rest near his owner’s grave. Earlier in the week we had visited the Museum of Edinburgh where we had seen a collection of the little dog’s belongings including his collar and bowl.
Continuing slightly further along George IV Bridge we past the Elephant House Cafe where JK Rowling used to sit and write in the days before her Harry Potter books were published. A few minutes later we had reached Victoria Street which is one of the most photogenic parts of Edinburgh with its colourful buildings arranged on upper and lower rows. Unfortunately it wasn’t looking at its best at the time of our visit with large scale construction work taking place along the road coupled with the gloomy December weather but I’m sure you can imagine how beautiful it really is.
Retracing our steps back up the hill, we crossed the Royal Mile then turned onto The Mound so that we could visit the Museum on the Mound. This museum is housed in the magnificent head office of the Bank of Scotland which today also serves as the Scottish headquarters of the Lloyds Banking Group.
The museum is open daily Tuesday – Saturday and admission is free. Its galleries explore the history of Scotland’s oldest bank, why it was founded and how it has developed and changed over the last 300 years. There’s even a safe which can be unlocked by carefully following a series of detailed instructions. We were successful and inside the safe we found our reward, some attractive postcards of Scottish banknotes to take home as a souvenir of our visit. It’s quite a small museum but very interesting covering topics on money matters, the rise of building societies and the changing world of bank working and how the employees spent their leisure time. From the museum terrace there are some splendid views across to Princes Street.
There was then just enough time to squeeze in a visit to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery located on Queen Street. This red sandstone neo-gothic palace opened in 1889 as the world’s first purpose built portrait gallery. In addition to viewing portraits of Scotland’s famous historical figures, the building itself is an absolute masterpiece with its exquisite entrance hall being one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The museum is open daily and offers free admission and even if you only have a few minutes to spare I highly recommend popping in to admire both the portraits and the architecture.
On leaving the museum, our short break in Edinburgh was all too quickly nearing its end and so we reluctantly returned to our hotel to collect our luggage. We then enjoyed one final meal in the city centre before returning to Waverley Station to take the train back home. It had been a wonderful winter break in this most beautiful of cities. If you haven’t already visited Edinburgh I do hope this series of posts might inspire you to spend a few days there as whatever the time of year you choose to visit I’m sure you’ll fall in love with the city just like me!
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