Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mountains and Museums in Edinburgh

Our Edinburgh Home
Springing for a Georgian (King George IV era not the state) apartment for our five nights in Edinburgh put quite a strain on our budget.  Built in 1830, our Regent Terrace home has been worth the six hundred pounds with its expansive and romantic windows complete with views of the Queen's Holyrood Park, private rear garden and convenient location, being only a couple of blocks from Princes Street and the Royal Mile.  I think the owner threw in the spine-tingling door creaks and window shakes for free, but after my sleepless night in Helensburgh waiting for the ghost of Mary Meredith to appear, I have controlled my imagination.

With our perfect location paid for, we searched the city for free activities for families.  Our apartment had a amazing view of one: Holyrood Park and the ancient volcanic mountain named Arthur's Seat.  The first thing Wyatt asked when he caught a glimpse of it was, "Can we climb that?"  My first thought, "No way in hell," but climb it we did.

Arthur's Seat
Starting early to get the two hour climb in before the rain, we headed toward the mount.  Wyatt and I argued about the best path up the cliff.  I wanted to take the incline plane pathway much traversed by hikers.  (We had studied simple machines this year so I was proud to apply the term and have the children understand.)  Wyatt preferred a more straightforward route by creating his own path up the mountain's side.   Guess who won the argument?  Thank God for the "Mommy Trump Card!"  I encouraged him to come back one day (without me) and scale the rocky cliff to his heart's content.  "Just please don't make your mother have to spend the day in a foreign emergency room..."

About half way up the path, I started worrying that I would be the patient in the ER visit.  I can't tell how disheartening it is (no pun intended) to have exercised and walked more this past year than ever in my life and still be on the verge of keeling over just going up a hill.  My heart was screaming!  My husband and two youngest kids bounded off ahead as Anabel and I sat on a pile of rock/steps to catch our breath.  Other hikers just stepped over us like we were road kill on their way to the top.

The Trail up the Mountain
Can you see Greg way above?
Out of pity (or sheer embarrassment), Greg hollered down to us that we should take the side trail around the peak and meet them on the other side.  Relieved, we headed around the path until I thought, "Wait a minute.  We have hiked all this way and may never be here again.  I want to see the view of the St. Andrew's ruins and the city of Edinburgh from the peak of Arthur's Seat!"  So we turned around - Anabel complaining the whole way, but still following me - and finished the climb.  It was breathtaking!  (Literally.  I couldn't breathe clearly for five minutes, but... damn it, we did it!)

Our View from the top

Anabel and I triumphantly enjoyed our view and walked down to visit the chapel ruins close up.  It would have been easy to just go around, and maybe I would have if my impressionable 13 year old daughter hadn't been with me.  I think being a parent makes me want to be a better person; and setting a good example and finishing what you started are just two lessons I struggle with daily.  Climbing a mountain did much for our health and our self-esteem.  We were further rewarded for our efforts with a spectacular spotting of over 20 swans swimming below the chapel in St. Margaret's Loch.  Have I mentioned that Anabel loves swans?  She gathered several swan feathers as souvenirs.  We may still make it to the emergency room... what kind of germs do bird feathers carry?

St. Andrew's Chapel Ruins from the Loch
Exercise, teachable moments, ancient ruins, incredible views and swans - all free!

Lady Emma
By the time the inevitable rain arrived, we were snug inside the National Museum of Scotland, also free.  Starting in the Land of Scots exhibit, we traced the history of Scotland and connected the dots from Inverness to Edinburgh, from Mary, Queen of Scots to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites.  With medieval armor and early examples of Christianity in the Highlands, the exhibit told the story of a thousand years of Scottish Clans.  One display reminded me of the Salem Witch Trials with its gruesome implements of torture used during the European witch hunts. Thumb screws or iron gag, anyone?  Once again, the kids gravitated to the hands-on exhibits and tried on costumes, worked trebuchets, and attempted tapestry work.

Similar to our nation's Smithsonian, the museum had many sections: natural life, Egyptian, communication, transportation, and astronomy.  Each section had an interactive part so the kids had a blast.  After our hike that morning, Greg and I were content to sit in the central grand gallery and let the kids play.  I couldn't think of a better way to spend a rainy day in Scotland!

Hours later, we walked home in the rain sipping hot chocolate and coffee.  The perfect end to a fantastic family day! (And our £1 drinks came with a doughnut for only 5 pence more... who could say no to that?  Not me.  Wait.  Could that be why I was huffing and puffing on the mountain?  If I connect the dots... or donuts, as the case maybe...)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading and commenting! Heaven knows, I need some interaction...