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Edinburgh Above and Underground.

Who would have thought that when we checked into the iconic Balmoral Hotel in the middle of Edinburgh that we’d be given a room three down from the one in which J K Rowling holed up in  to finish “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.”  Yep, that’s what happened.  Her name is on the door.   Evidently lots of people ask for the room.

I enjoyed our couple of days at the Balmoral, with its landmark clock stretching high above this part of town.  The Hotel was once owned by the railroad and has much to offer a visiter, including a tartan concierge.  This well trained gentleman can guide people  to find their Scottish  roots–clans and all things plaid.

Tea was served very day in a grand old Palm Court with an impressive dome.  We enjoyed a cheery bar with friendly staff.  Really, it was a lovely experience.

 One of the concierges made the suggestion that we take the Mary King’s Close tour.  I’m not normally a fan of crowded tours and I really don’t like underground places (like subways) but this tour was well worth overcoming my objections.

A close is a narrow alley way type street and in medieval times they were typically named for the most prominent person living near HIgh Street (now called the Royal Mile).  Houses were stacked on top of each other leading down to the lake (now a well fertilized park….no indoor plumbing) and generally pretty awful by modern standards.










The tour is truly a time travel.   Evidently this street–dating from the 17th century—the homes, cattle stable and shops, were covered over when the leaders of Edinburgh decided to erect a market on its top.  Later that space was converted into a city hall.

So, instead of being modernized like many of the other closes, it is frozen in time.  A darling young woman, dressed in medieval clothes and playing the role of a resident of the street, took us back in time to see how people lived, loved and died.  It was truly fascinating.  The real deal.

If you are going, put this on your list.  (Sorry, no photos…too dark and not allowed).


We also visited Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official royal palace.  It’s still in use. The Queen of England stays here.  Oh my.  Dreary old place.  It would be my hope that the royal family and their guests have some modern apartments to take their shoes off and put up their feet after a tiring day of waving and smiling.    The chapel behind the palace is in ruins and made for an interesting photo op.

 We poked around the charming city, buying kilts for the grand daughters and a new cashmere sweater for me.  What else? I think there are more sheep than people in Scotland.

 I found the sights and signs in the city interesting. I didn’t know that there’s a tartan for Princess Diana.  And  look at the sign asking people to call if they are in distress.   Sounds like a good idea.



And this one? Suntan lotion? Hah! Not needed.  And I’m curious why they say “probably” the best beer garden in town.  Is the owner afraid of taking a stand? Will a rival beer drinking clan lead by air piercing bagpipes descend upon the party palace challenging them to defend their claim?


As always the some of the people on the streets amuse and amaze me.  Here are a few I was able to capture.

And to sign off my second blog post on Edinburgh here are couple of  images I enjoy.  One the sign asking for picture taking.  As a photographer wannabe I get frustrated with the times I’m told “no, no photos.”   And the cute green reflector vests for children. They wear them a lot here.  I’m sure because it is  dark half of the year.  The  blinding rainstorms descending with out notice during the summer months make it hard to see little tykes.















Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


1 Comment
  1. posted by
    Melanie Rogers
    May 30, 2013 Reply

    Great article! I evidently missed a lot during my brief visit there 10 years ago.
    The “probably” on the beer garden sign has a strange way of emphasizing the point, doesn’t it? If it simply said “the best”, it wouldn’t have been noticed, as that claim is everywhere. I loved your humor in pointing it out! And, is that strange, uber pierced, technicolor creature flipping you off? It takes him from colorful to menacing. Funny stuff, Susan!

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