Lovely Lauriston

Hi Friends.

How would you like to join me today for a stroll around the grounds of one of the prettiest castles in Scotland?  Oh good, I’m so pleased!  I promise that you are going to love it.

Today we are in Edinburgh at the oh-so-lovely Lauriston Castle.

Just a quick history of the castle:  Lauriston’s tower house – the original construction on the left – (see picture below) was built by Sir Archibald Napier sometime around 1593 and the pretty Jacobean-style extension was added in 1827.  Over the centuries, the castle passed through numerous hands until it came into the possession of its final owners – William and Margaret Reid. The Reids acquired the property in 1902 and lived there until Mrs. Reid’s death in 1926.  Because the couple had no children, they left the castle to the city of Edinburgh under the condition that it be preserved unchanged.  And so the promise was kept.  The remarkable Edwardian interior, filled to the brim with their fine furniture and artwork, is now a museum maintained by the city.  For a nominal fee, you can take a guided tour of this home (uh, castle) which remains exactly as it was at the time of the Reids.  The manicured grounds, which boast a view of the sea and a stunning Japanese garden are a real bargain – free!  Lauriston truly is a gem in Edinburgh.

The photos that follow are from Mr. C’s and my first trip to Scotland, which we took in the month of May.  The weather that day was magnificent.  I think you will see that with scenery like this, it was impossible not to fall crazy in love with the place.

I do hope you will enjoy today’s pictorial blog.

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Holyrood Park

It was our first time in Scotland and the end of our trip.  After two weeks of near perfect May weather, our last day met us with a chill.  Rain came down, fog rolled in, and it was a precise reflection of our mood.  We were sad.  More than that.  We were downright melancholy.  For at that time we had no idea whether we would be able to return to Scotland.  Was this a once-in-a-lifetime thrill?  Did we just fall head over heels for a place that we would never again lay our eyes upon?  It is, after all, an expensive proposition to fly almost 6,000 miles and to lodge and live in a foreign country for two weeks.  And to my way of thinking, if we can’t go for at least two weeks, then why bother going at all.  It is a long, expensive journey to only take a small taste of the place.  And I don’t want only a taste!  I want a whole, heaping plate full.

Feeling glum, Mr. C and I decided to get out for awhile rather than sulk about our morning flight home.  So, we did a little shopping, attended a wonderful afternoon church service at Grace Church Leith (an overwhelmingly emotional experience for we two sad saps), and finally, as the weather cleared a little, we made our way over to Holyrood Park.

It. Was. Breathtaking.

It was magical.

It was bittersweet.

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St. Margaret’s Loch and the ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel

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Proud Mary-Part 2

“Mary, Queen of Scots entered the room where she would be executed. She told her friends and servants to ‘rejoice rather than weep for that the end of Mary Stuart’s troubles is now come … tell my friends that I die a true woman to my religion, and like a true Scottish woman and a true French woman.’

Mary was disrobed; her black garments were removed, revealing an outfit of deep red – the Catholic colour of martyrdom. She knelt down on a cushion, resting her head on the block, before stretching out her arms and crying in Latin “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” The axe came down, but landed on the back of her head rather than her neck. A second blow cut into her neck but a third was required to sever the head completely.

When the executioner lifted Mary’s head it tumbled onto the stage, leaving him holding her wig. Her hair was short and completely grey due to years of stress as a prisoner. A final surprise was waiting for the executioner – Mary’s little Skye terrier had been hiding under her skirts, soaked in blood.”  –Laura Brown, Historic Environment Scotland

 


Hello again, my friends.  I hope this day finds you well. I also hope that you are not too annoyed with me if ‘Proud Mary’ has gotten stuck in your head.  That song has been playing on a continuous loop in mine for the last two weeks! Perhaps publishing my article today will be the magic that makes it quit.

So, today we are going to pick up where we left off in my previous blog about the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.

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On display at Edinburgh Castle

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Prestonfield House

Hello Readers,

Hope everyone is well.  Today we are going to hang out in my favorite city – Edinburgh.  I booked us a champagne afternoon tea at luxurious Prestonfield House.  So touch up your lip gloss, Ladies.  Men, grab your wallets.  A warm welcome, fine dining, and hospitality awaits!

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When Mr. C and I travel to Scotland (or anywhere where we stay more than two or three nights, for that matter), we always prefer to rent a private residence rather than stay in a hotel.  It not only allows us the experience of living like locals, but it’s so much more pleasant and economical. A rental provides all the amenities of home – a laundry facility, plenty of room to spread out, and perhaps best of all – a fully equipped kitchen.

Oh, now don’t give me that look.  What, you don’t like to cook when you’re on vacation?  Haha -that’s okay.  Me either, actually.  But, luckily for me, Mr. C does!  And on top of that, his culinary skills are sublime.  He’s definitely a keeper.

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What Lies Beneath-Part 2

Hello faithful readers,

This is an update to my original article that I posted about a week ago, just before Halloween.  The Real Mary King’s Close was so kind to grant me permission to use their awesome photos.  All photos in this post are credited to them.  Many, many thanks, indeed!  Now you’ll really be able to get a feel for this hidden treasure.  Enjoy.

Sooo, who’s ready to meet some ghosts?  Me too.  Let’s go!

In my previous blog post (What Lies Beneath-Part 1 ), I gave you a little history of how the city of Edinburgh was built.  How it expanded east from the castle and how Mary King’s Close and the other nearby alleys came to find themselves frozen in time underneath the City Chambers. 008 The Exhibition Room_previewSo now we are ready to head below ground and visit what I think is one of Edinburgh’s most compelling attractions, The Real Mary King’s Close.001 The Real Mary King's Close Logo_preview

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What Lies Beneath-Part 1

Greetings everybody,

Are you feeling adventurous? I hope so because I would love for you to join me on a little trip below the City Chambers on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.  Below the Chambers, you ask?  Yep!  We’re soon going to head underground to visit The Real Mary King’s Close.  So, if you’re game and not too afraid of the dark, come on!  I promise, I won’t jump out and scare you (although I can’t promise no one else will…).

Deep below ground, beneath the tourist hustle bustle, the souvenir shops, pubs, performance artists, and busking bagpipers, there lies a hidden labyrinth of narrow alleyways and abandoned dwellings.  It is an utterly fascinating and well-preserved peek into what life was really like in Edinburgh’s 17th century past.  But to understand it more clearly, I need to tell you a little bit about how the city of Edinburgh grew.  That’s what we are going to focus on today.

You might recall that the city of Edinburgh had its beginnings outside the walls of Edinburgh Castle and eventually spread east along the sloped stretch of road called the Royal Mile.  Because the city was surrounded by a wall meant for protection from invaders, Edinburgh’s residents (who coped with extreme overcrowding) were unable to expand the city outward and were therefore faced with no other alternative than to build up.  What they ended up with was a web of narrow alleyways (called closes) that led off of the Royal Mile, with buildings that grew many stories high.

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The Wizard of West Bow

Hello, Readers.  I can hardly believe we are already in mid October!  Where I live the weather has cooled down (mostly) and the trees are beginning to don their Autumn wardrobe.  I’ve switched out my own closet in favor of jeans and sweaters and have planted the pansies and mums.  The little pumpkins I purchased are sitting pretty in the garden, blissfully unaware that in another month or so they are going to become pies.  Poor little fellas.

In keeping with our October theme, today I would like to share with you a tale that is everything weird, disturbing, and strange.  As they say, you can’t make this stuff up. A perfect fit for Halloween, I think.

Today’s story is an extraordinarily puzzling one about a gentleman named Major Thomas Weir.  History remembers him better as The Wizard of West Bow.

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Deacon Brodie-The Real Jekyll and Hyde?

In the spirit of October and upcoming Halloween festivities, I thought it might be fun to do a few blogs this month that highlight some of the weird, dark, and spooky stories of Edinburgh’s past.  Edinburgh’s history is full of accounts of unsavory characters and macabre tales, each with the ability to intrigue and fascinate even the most incredulous among us.  It’s going to be a lot of fun to research and write about them for you.

To kick things off, I would like to introduce you to a man who was (or who was at least in part) the inspiration behind Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson’s famed 1886 novella,  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

That man’s name was William Brodie.  Or as he is better known, Deacon Brodie.

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Victoria Street-The Grande Dame of Edinburgh’s Old Town

I have a girl crush.  Her name is Victoria.

I mean how was I not to fall for her?  She is everything  that makes me happy.  She’s sophisticated, unpretentious, cheerful, elegant, vibrant, charming, and just the sight of her causes my heart to beat a little faster.  Simply put, she’s beautiful.  I think it might be love.20170929_081248All right, I’m just being silly.  A girl can have a little fun on a Friday morning, right?  Seriously, though, I do love Edinburgh’s Victoria Street.  In my first pre-trip research, I had seen plenty of pictures in my guide books and on the internet.  But it wasn’t until we actually rounded the corner from Old Town’s George IV Bridge and I caught sight of old Victoria that I realized what a lady she really is.

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