2003 (August 18) letter from Oban, Scotland, about Edinburgh visit: We are sitting in a campground in Oban, on Scotland’s west coast, experiencing real Scottish weather. Cool, rainy and windy. This is the first day we’ve experienced any rain since we left Northumberland eight days ago. The rain is very heavy indeed – and we no longer leak. While we were in Edinburgh, Ron put two coats of white roof sealer onto the roof of the RV, and apparently it worked. Yea!
This got to be such a long letter that we broke it into two. This one is about Edinbergh.
We left England last Monday, and drove to Edinburgh. It was lucky that we were able to find a campsite. It is festival time in Edinburgh. But we got one on the outskirts of the city and were able to use the parking lot of the local TESCO supermarket while we got a bus into the city. We stayed three nights, spending two days in the city.
We left the Mosbo house in the late morning, so we got to Edinburgh in the late afternoon, and stayed at the campground. Tuesday we went into the city – first to the Information Center and then to the National Gallery art museums. We found that recent remodeling had forced the ShopMobility site to move too far away from our bus. I was finding it hard to walk all the way there – and we were very aware that it would be a very long walk after a busy day, to get back to the bus. In the end, we gave up the idea, and just walked around the city, going to the art museums and a few stores. On the walk we passed a most beautiful display of begonias next to a huge floral clock which kept time. The picture attached is of the begonias. We didn’t find much to write about in The National Gallery except for the recently acquired Titian portrait of Venus, and a wonderful Hals portrait. Next stop, however, was the building that houses the Scottish artists, and we discovered a wonderful portrait painter we’d never heard of but impressed us as first class – a man named Alan Ramsey. Of course, those of our acquaintance who really know something about art probably have heard of him – but we had not – and we thought he was wonderful. Incidentally, all this walking around the two museums was only possible due to Ron’s cleverness and his help. He asked for a wheelchair and then he wheeled me around!
Next morning, we returned and visited Edinburgh Castle – a huge, brooding presence on a rocky tor, even on the bright sunny day it was. (picture from Princes Street on a cloudy day) There was a bus up to top of the Royal Mile, and an unbelievable number of people visiting. The queue for tickets was at least twenty minutes. In fact, a steward told us later that there had been 7,200 visitors that day. We walked for hours through the grounds, several museums devoted to Scotland’s military, the royal apartments, etc. We also listened to a bagpipe &drum band from the army of the Sultan of Oman. (Picture) Obviously the Royal Scots had trained his army. They also brought a group of musicians and dancers who concentrated on traditional music from a coast of India. Standing there in this setting which once represented the best in military defense in a quite earlier age, we certainly enjoyed the concert with the men in long white robes and their tartan-clad drum majors.
The view from the castle is spectacular. The attached picture shows Princes Street, with a ubiquitous line-up of busses, and the buildings between Princes Street and the Firth of Forth which can be seen in the distance. That sight is what the Castles Gun teams could see.
We found the museums very affecting. The museums traced the military history of Scotland from the 1500’s when many went to serve as mercenaries in Sweden. Then a Swedish officer was hired to build a Scottish force, which became one of the main sources of employment in this beautiful but economically depressed country at the time. Scot regiments have fought all over the world since then. They lost 145,00 men in WWI alone. That’s a great deal to lose in a country that even now has only around 5 million people. In World War II we believe it was a Scot force that took over the battle of Overloon and beat the Germans taking heavy losses. An American force had tried first and failed to drive the Germans out of that area of Holland because they were not willing to sacrifice so many men. But the Scots are kind of crazy that way. Can you understand how unarmed pipers can lead a force into battle against machine guns and tanks? I can’t. But they have really done that.
After some hours, we decided to leave, and Ron managed to get us a ride down the hill with the Castle Courtesy Vehicle. Is this a great country or what? From there, we walked down the Royal Mile to the library, where we made an appointment to send letter #6 about Coral and Tom – only discovering that I’d lost the diskette between breakfast and our appointment. Never did find it, but we were able to make a new one and send it out eventually. Then we visited the Royal Museum – where we saw a number of exhibits about science and industry including the first locomotive ever made. At 4:45, the museum "played" the hour chimes of the millennium clock, which was created by a number of artists and consists of a huge collection of gears and bells and fantastic figures that begin to move at different times. It is very much a Rube Goldberg installation, and a lot of fun to see.
This is all from Edinburg. Next letter is about our experiences in a town called Dunecht, just west of Aberdeen.
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Intrepid Traveler