Friday, April 7, 2017

A Tour of Edinburgh Castle and a Solo Visit to one of the World's Most Haunted Graveyards

Continued from...

Part 1 -
Part 2 -
Part 3 -
Part 4 -
Part 5 -

All the walking and exploring must have done me in by my third morning in Edinburgh as I slept in a wee bit longer than I usually would (I also picked up on some local lingo...WEE - Adjective Scottish - meaning little). I didn't bother with breakfast at the hotel because I still had leftovers from my trip to a nearby grocery store the night before. On my way up the street, grabbed a cafe mocha (for some reason this became my drink of choice during my time in Scotland) at a place called Dino's Cafe on the Royal Mile and headed towards Edinburgh Castle.

I took my time walking along the Royal Mile in the late-morning sun. It was a surprisingly lovely, warm September day and I wanted to make the most of my last full day in Edinburgh. I noticed more shops and restaurants I hadn't noticed the previous days and the pipers and buskers were out in full force.

I arrived at the castle to the sounds of Scotland the Brave being performed by a lone piper outfitted in full traditional regalia. A large crowd had gathered around the entrance of the castle and the lineup to get through was quite long. Fortunately for me, I had already purchased my tickets online a couple of weeks earlier and one of the perks of buying in advance was it allowed visitors to skip the lineup and go right on into the castle grounds.

I knew from looking at pictures and from what I had heard that Edinburgh Castle is big but I wasn't expecting it to be quite as big as it actually is. I put an entire afternoon aside to visit thinking it would be enough time and it wasn't. I wandered around trying to see as much as possible and got lost a few times because the place is like a maze! I visited the National War Museum of Scotland and tried to find the exhibit that features something about the Cape Breton Highlanders but didn't find it. I watched a man in period costume do a pike demonstration (a pike is a type of weapon the Scots used in war, apparently with quite gruesome results). And I got to see the original Crown Jewels of Scotland which left me awestruck as I stood before the real crown jewels worn by Queen Mary of Scots during her coronation in 1543.

I walked around those grounds where battles were fought and royalty once walked and tried to visit every building and every exhibit but I just didn't have time to see it all before closing time. I was one of the last ones to leave in a large crowd of other visitors who were also trying to squeeze as much in as possible. I exited the main gate of the castle and made my way back onto the Royal Mile. It was a nice evening and I didn't want to go back to the hotel just yet. I walked down the street and noticed people were still going into St. Giles Cathedral. I wandered into the grand cathedral which I heard is home to a statue of an angel playing the bagpipes. I picked a good time wander in too; a little orchestra was practicing near the front of the alter and the music was hauntingly captivating.

The inside of the ancient cathedral is beautiful and I could have stayed in there for hours just looking at all the sculptures and artwork. I noticed some war memorial plaques on the wall and scrolled through the names to see if I could see my last name among them. I saw MacDonald and MacLellan and MacKenzie...but, alas, no MacEachern.

It was almost dark when I left St. Giles and my time in Edinburgh was running out.   I wanted to ensure my last night in the city would be memorable so I pondered my options while taking a break in Parliament Square. One thing I knew for sure was I wasn't ready to return to the hotel just yet. I remember thinking that the calm weather and impending darkness made for perfect conditions to take another stroll through Greyfriar's courtyard...alone and by the light of the moon and stars only.

It took a while for me to find the Greyfriar's Kirkyard although I had already been there twice. Once I found it, I entered and was pleased to see that I had it all to myself. I saw no shadows or figures of living beings lurking around but I was hoping for non-living ones.

I walked around until I found a comfortable place to sit. I listened carefully but all I heard was the sound of the wind rustling the leaves in the trees. When my eyes were sufficiently adjusted to the darkness, I peered into the night searching for any sign of shadowy figures or apparitions but all I saw were headstones.  I spotted the tomb of Sir George "Bluidy" MacKenzie. I stared at that creepily imposing building, waiting for some figure to come out of it or to hear a blood-curdling scream. Nothing.  So I walked right up to it, did a 360 degree turn to make sure no one was watching and checked the door. Locked. I'm certain I would have gone in had it been unlocked. I love everything paranormal but I remain a skeptic.  I always will be until I see or experience something undoubtedly paranormal. That night in Greyfriar's Kirkyard, said to the one of the most haunted locations in the world, I got nothing. No kicks, slaps, punches or pinches. No disembodied voices. No ghostly apparitions. Not even the heebie jeebies. Heck, the hair on the back of my neck didn't even stand up.
Sir George "Bluidy" MacKenzie's tomb

Upon leaving Greyfriar's, I got lost again. I love getting lost in new cities though so it wasn't a big deal. It's during those times that I find the places that are not in the guide books. I walked and walked, not really knowing where I was going, and just watched all the people out for a stroll in that beautiful city on a Saturday night. I went up streets I hadn't seen before, went through little alleyways that led to other unfamiliar streets and up some stairs that led to another street. Edinburgh is probably the only city I have traveled to so far where I felt 100% safe doing this at night by myself.

When I did finally find my hotel, I settled into the bar area and ordered myself a plate of Veggie Lasagna (which was delicious by the way!) and a beer.  The excitement of the city as I saw it through the restaurant window had me torn between going to bed after I ate so I could be well-rested for my early wake-up call the next morning...or taking another stroll, my last evening stroll, up The Royal Mile.  I finished my meal, grabbed a heavier sweater from my room and enjoyed a long stroll up that lively street on that last night in the City of Edinburgh.  You only live once right?

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