Newcastle, Edinburgh, Aberdeen
We spent 2 nights in Newcastle so we could have a full day to explore the city. Once again, we started with the Hop-on-Hop-Off bus to get an idea of the city. I noticed that in this city there are very few straight streets but lots of ones that curve.
We visited Black Gate which was built about 1250 as a gateway to the castle. We also went through the Castle Keep, and The Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas. There wasn’t much else to see in Newcastle except for St. John the Baptist Church. But that closed before we managed to get there.
We took the train north back to Scotland next. First stop was Edinburgh where we did a lot of walking around the city, including along the Royal Mile several times. The Royal Mile is the main road and tourist attraction in old Edinburgh with Edinburgh Castle at one end and Holyroodhouse Palace at the other end with all sorts of interesting things and history in between.
We did a tour of Holyroodhouse Palace (the Queen’s official residence in Scotland) and its gardens. One of the exhibits in the Palace displayed 90 years of the Queen’s wardrobe – interesting and quite an extensive exhibit which included her hats!
One of the interesting buildings we toured was St. Giles Cathedral. It is a beautiful old cathedral but they required a fee if I wanted to take photos. Since I don’t have a good SLR camera that can take great photos in such a building, I decided not to spend the money. Sorry, I didn’t get photos of the Thistle Chapel, the windows, statues, pillars, etc. in the cathedral – just the outside of it.
Donna and I also toured the John Knox house. Most of it was built in the mid 1500s. Then, probably the most interesting tour we had in Edinburgh, was a guided tour of Mary King Close. The Mary King Close tour took us on hidden streets frozen in time since the 17th Century. It showed us an example of life in Edinburgh at the time. Mary King Close was one of several hidden streets under buildings in the Old Town of Edinburgh. They were partially demolished and buried under the Royal Exchange building. The closes were very narrow streets just wide enough for one person to walk with tenement houses of up to 7 stories on each side. They certainly didn’t get much light.
We also did a tour of Edinburgh Castle up on the hill. It was not only interesting but also had great views of the city. It’s St. Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest building in Edinburgh. We checked out Scotland’s crown jewels and the historic Stone of Destiny on display in the Royal Palace in the Castle.
To get off the beaten tourist path, we went to “New Town” Edinburgh. New Town was built in stages, between 1767 and 1850, with Georgian period architecture. We checked out the Georgian House which featured the Lamont family and their life in this 5-storey townhouse from about 1800. We then walked around part of nearby Dean Village which was an old village but now part of Edinburgh. It had a nice green park area to walk along by a river. It was very relaxing after being in the busy part of the city.
We could easily have stayed longer as Edinburgh was such an interesting city. However, we were booked into a B&B in Aberdeen and we had to move on. We got to the B&B early in the afternoon and this gave us a chance to explore Aberdeen, “The Granite City”, on foot.
We checked out the outside and courtyard of Marischal College built in the late 1800s. The granite (of course) building recently had a renovation and cleaning and looked marvelous. In the front, there is a statute of King Robert the Bruce on his horse.
In Aberdeen, we went into the Tolbooth Museum, originally the Wardhouse, a prison to house those awaiting trial and punishment. It had some steep, very narrow circular stone stairs that were a bit treacherous to climb and descend. The only railings were ropes. Then, in the centre of town, we saw the Mercat Cross (a well preserved 17th C market cross topped with a unicorn) with the Gordon Highlanders Monument nearby. Next, we walked to Old Aberdeen passing by King’s College and Aberdeen University. While there, we were able to go into St. Machar’s Cathedral (circa 1350 – 1520).
Before catching the train the next day, we had enough time to visit the Maritime Museum. This museum told the history of the Aberdeen’s relationship with the sea. Some of the more interesting exhibits were about the oil industry in the North Sea and the equipment used.
By the way, we had wonderful B&B hosts in Aberdeen. They were very helpful, entertaining, had great breakfasts, and full of information of what sites to see. And they gave us a very grateful lift to the train station.