Today was our last day in Edinburgh and it was a “free” day. Yes, I, the much maligned scheduler of vacation “death marches”, had scheduled a free day that didn’t have anything in particular planned. It was to be used to see anything we had missed earlier in the trip, or to explore something in more depth, or just to rest and maybe do a little souvenir shopping. Notice, I also cleverly scheduled our late night ghost tour for the day before our free day, thus also allowing us a chance to sleep in a bit.
My planning thus far had allowed plenty of time to do everything we wanted to do in a given day (high five!), so there wasn’t anything to pick up that had to be dropped previously due to time constraints. Instead, we decided to set the alarm a bit later than we had been and have a relaxing late breakfast before doing a little souvenir shopping and going on a guided Secrets of the Royal Mile tour with Mercat Tours. We had contemplated joining this tour earlier in the week, but we were concerned about timing. They end the tour at Edinburgh Castle, but it is in the late afternoon and we were concerned that we wouldn’t have enough time to explore the castle sufficiently after the tour. Given that we had spent an entire day at the castle previously, we were correct in our concern; we definitely wouldn’t have had enough time by our “take a picture of every brick” standards.
That said, this was a wonderful tour. The guide was engaging and the stories she told were steeped in the history of the city and the country. Although we had walked the Royal Mile several times by this point, she pointed out things we hadn’t noticed, or had noticed but about which didn’t know the significance, or even finer details of things about which we had a basic understanding. Even at the points where she was going over history that I had already heard, she always ended up with a detail or tidbit that I didn’t know and that made the history that much richer. I highly recommend this tour and I don’t know if the beginning or end of your trip would be better. It would give you a great base of the history of the city at the start of your trip, but at the end of your trip you have enough of a background to absorb some of the nuances that might otherwise be lost on you, or to ask more interesting questions. Either way, it’s well worth your time and money.
Ending the tour back at the castle, we were also afforded the opportunity to take a few more photos, this time on a sunny day!
We were also able to go into a small room that had been closed the prior day we were here. Under the Half Moon Battery is a remnant of the north wall of King David II’s Tower, built in the 1380s, and site of the Red Wedding-inspiring Black Dinner of 1440.
Finally, as the sun was setting after dinner, we headed back to Greyfriars Kirkyard to try and get a few photos before it got too dark and the nightly ghost tours started arriving.
Here’s the locked gate into the Covenanters’ Prison that we went into on last night’s ghost tour followed by a photo of George MacKenzie’s tomb – it was too dark to get good pictures on last night’s tour.
I was also rather touched by the sticks left on the headstone of Greyfriars Bobby.
It was interesting to find a surviving section of the Flodden Wall at the outer edge of the cemetery.
One particularly funny moment happened as I was waiting semi-patiently for Steve to finish taking his photos. I was simply standing by a tree in the graveyard, but a ghost tour had entered the area and was standing in front of George MacKenzie’s tomb, undoubtedly hearing the beginnings of a ghostly tale. Suddenly, I heard a small shriek and realized a member of the tour group had looked in my direction and seen me lurking in the deepening gloom. I gave a quick wave and called “It’s okay, I’m not a ghost. Not a ghost.”
The group was Italian-speaking, so I don’t know if they understood the words, but the outburst of laughter assured me that my message had gotten across just fine.