I jumped on the train in the morning for the 3 or so hours journey to Edinburgh. It was a cool journey, as we start right in the highlands and move away – the landscape kept changing along the way, but was stunning all the time. A common theme, are you noticing?
I arrived in Edinburgh, the last stop on the Scottish leg of my trip, dropped my stuff off at the hostel (which was right on the Royal Mile), and then headed into the crazy, packed city. There were swarms of people. Everywhere. The roads are mostly shut to vehicles, so people can go everywhere. There are tourists and travellers from all over, visiting. There are locals who are taking part. There are tons of performers on the streets performing magic, hula hooping, singing, performing drama… you name it. And there are just as many people handing out flyers to all sorts of crazy performances, in all sorts of crazy costumes. The ticket lines are insane. The crowds are huge. The pubs are packed from morning to night. I spent the afternoon wandering around the mile and taking it in, and wandering to the “new town” to for a bit more of a relaxing walk and dinner in Princes Park.
Then it was back to the hostel to pick up my clean laundry, and just have an easy night and try and fight off the cold that was attempting to take over.
The next morning, feeling much better, I was up earlier enough to get to Edinburgh Castle when it opened, hoping to avoid some of the rain that was predicted for the day. I took an early guided to tour to get acquainted and find out more history and information, then had some time to wander myself and see it all.
There were some amazing views, as the castle is at the top of the hill.
The part you aren’t allowed to take photos of include the crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny. I had been to the castle on a quick trip to Edinburgh in 2001, but I really wanted to return to see the Stone. There is a bit of controversy as to it being here in Edinburgh, but’s really interesting to hear the Scottish people talk about how proud they are that it’s back in Scotland, and no longer in Westminster Abbey. There is a lot of history, pride and nationalism tied to this stone, and I took a couple minutes to stand outside the queue and just reflect on it.
After a full few hours of taking it all in, including the Scottish National War Memorial, I grabbed a quick lunch, and went wandering around town for a bit. I took in some great free fringe shows (they gratefully accept donations) that were in the back rooms or basements of pubs, and just enjoyed an afternoon of entertainment.
That night, I had tickets to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, upon recommendation from a few people. I bought my tickets early in the year and was glad I did, because this show sells out every year. It runs for most of August and is amazing. Here’s a snippet from an email I wrote about it.
It was cold, and a bit windy, but thankfully the rain held off. The doors open at 2015, and people are queued long before then up the Mile – it goes back about 3 – 4 blocks. But, once it opens, it takes no time to get in. In front of the castle, on the esplanade, they have temporary outdoor seating for this show. Taking place all through August, every night at 9 pm, it’s truly a festival of militaries, bands and excitement. The show started at 9, just as it was starting to get dark, and was full of military units and bands from around the world. Yep, more bagpipes folks. But, since this isn’t a competition, they played a lot of fun, get the crowd hyped, tunes. From Robbie Williams, to Boogie Woogie Dance, to some classic Scottish tunes (that the whole audience joined in and sung). There were motorcylists who did stunts. There were army gymnasts (ok, not their real name, but can’t think of what it is and that best describes them). There were more bands and marching and dancing. And behind it all, the castle was lit up and kept changing colours, had a Scottish flag mapped over it, scenes that depicted what was going on. There was a high Admiral present who had a prominent seat at the end of the Esplanade and after each performance, each band would face the Admiral and the drum major or captain would salute.
There was a tribute march to all the soldiers who are fighting overseas, given by the British National Guard and soldiers who have just returned from 6 – 12 month stints in Afghanistan. And there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
And then we all stood and sang God Save the Queen. Like a good Canadian from the Commonwealth, I impressed the Scottish folk beside me by actually knowing the words and the tune. Fair play to me. Then we all joined hands, and sang Auld Lang Syne, that old faithful Scottish tune.
And then all the lights went out, the bugle sounded, and the lone Scottish Piper stood at the top of the castle and played the final song. And when the last note came and went, we all took a moment and then clapped in rousing appreciation of the night and all that we had seen and been a part of. Thankful to live in safe countries, thankful to be protected by those willing to serve and protect us, and hoping that eventually peace will reign.
These photos can’t capture the feeling, the sounds, the smell of the place and the noise, but hopefully they give you a taste and whet your appetite to take in this amazing event yourself.
A band warms us up as we wait for it all to begin:
And it all begins
The castle changes colour all night long:
Military Gymnastic Routines
And a tribute to the men and women who serve in the Forces around the world….