Journey to Scotland

Part III: Edinburgh
And the Fringe Festival

a travelzine by Diann

(Copyright 1996. Please do not reprint without permission.)


Webpage highlights:
Edinburgh -

August 17th:

That morning in Glasgow: English breakfast at a local tea house for under 2 pounds. As it was cheaper than the train, I caught the bus to Edinburgh.

Clipped over to the nearby Museum of Antiquities (another consideration; the bus station lets off very close to the museum), where I saw various old artifacts. Some of the museum was off-limits due to renovation, but I enjoyed the Pictish stones, in a room where I noticed culture clash -- Pictish, Scots, Norse, over a good 800 years. There was an untranslatable Ogham inscription on a Pictish rock, which did not correspond with Irish Ogham (which has mostly been translated). There was a goose and fish paired Pictish stone that seemed evocative. Frequently, the Picts would pair symbolism. Meanings to this day can only be guessed at. A couple other stones from Morayshire and Callendish were of interest. The Gaelic Scots invaded, and then the Norse, all leaving their legacy in various parts of Scotland. In another room, a few of the chessmen from the Isle of Lewis stood attentively with their fierce visages. There was also a portrait gallery here, but this day that did not interest me so intently.

I did a bit of shopping here (books and postcards), before moving on to Edinburgh herself.

The city is crowned by Edinburgh Castle, once home to Mary, Queen of Scots, an imposing fortress with ramparts and many buildings. Below, on the one side, is a park. Across from that is a commercial street (Princes'). Many streets are steep and challenging; it is amazing how they cut this city into the bedrock. At the end of the day, I certainly felt as though I'd had my workout.

Edinburgh is in its festival month -- both the standard, long established festival centered around the Military Tattoo and other "high brow" events. In the last several years, a fringe Festival has grown up, called simply "The Fringe"; and it now takes over Edinburgh. There are all sorts of events and venues; and there are street performers: bagpipers, violinists, South American rock and folk, jugglers and jesters -- etc. There is theatre. Colorful. There seems to be just about everything. If it can be performed, it, or something like it, is no doubt there. And there are a lot of people, from all over the British Isles and everywhere, to see the sights and watch the performances. All the Edinburgh hotels and bed-and- breakfasts fill up early.

I watched a fair number of street performers. Some were set up in special zones, and performed in shifts, with others performing not far away. Others were truly street buskers, laying out a hat waiting for signs of appreciation.

There was so much going on, that I hardly had any time for the historic, although I did visit St. Giles Cathedral. I decided to test my camera's ability, and took a decent photo of a stained glass window lit only by the sunlight falling through it. I also stopped by an old cartographer's shop on the lower end of the Royal Mile -- had I felt like paying the price I could have come home with some excellent antique maps that would have been worthwhile to hang up on my walls. I did buy a couple of sweaters here in Edinburgh -- sweaters are reasonably priced and are of very fine (and wooly-warm) quality.

Eventually, I met up with Jeff and his new girlfriend Victoria for dinner at the Angus, where they chose beef for dinner and I had noisettes (possibly French for "small portion") of lamb; quite tasty. Oak-smoked salmon with lemon and capers was the appetizer we all chose. Excellent. (Jeff was also over here for the science fiction convention, and the three of us would meet up again.)

The three of us attended half of the Cirque Surreal -- an updated circus on the outskirts of the city proper. This was a fascinating performance -- both of humor and of near-impossible feats. I learned that there are apparently a million ways of riding a bicycle. The trapeze performance was essentially over our heads, or so it seemed -- they did have a net, but it was still astonishing. Anyhow, we left at the intermission for the Military Tattoo, for which I'd gotten tickets.

The Tattoo was held on the Esplanade outside of the Castle. Darkness settles in as the bagpipers arrive, the fading colors of the sun adding to the ambiance. Excellent show! Hadn't realized this was going to be outdoors, but on reflection, playing that many bagpipes in an enclosed space would have outdone, say, Motorhead, on the deafness scale. There were bagpipes and drums; there were military brass bands. I could have done with a little less brass and a little more bagpipe, although this is a minor quibble. All against the backdrop of an impressively-lit Edinburgh Castle. We even had a Lone Piper playing upon the ramparts. Guest Egyptians came and marched and bagpiped, too. There was some dancing as well -- of the folk-square variety. Considering the frequency of rain in Scotland, although we had excellent weather, I rather suspect the show goes on in whatever precipitation occurs.

The three of us stopped for a whisky, and then I left them, and took the train to Glasgow. And then a cab to the hotel, the hour being wee and uncertain. (Normally, I walked in Glasgow, but after dark I bowed to the practicality of safety.)

Diann's Scotland Page | London | Glasgow | Edinburgh | Ayr | Arbroath | Highlands-1 | Highlands-2 | Intersection | Cuisine

Last Updated: Friday, March 29, 1996