Day One – December 7th 2005
We arrived in Edinburgh around 7.45pm. It wasnt as cold as expected and you can get a £5 open-return bus ticket from there to the city centre. Its not a pretty ride into town with the same shops fabricated from the rest of the UK from Boots, M&S etc. We got dropped off 20 minutes later at Waverly bridge and we walked another 15 minutes to our chosen hostel called “Budget Backpackers” which had some good good reviews from Hostelworld and BugEurope. We didnt botter with a guidebook as it waa a short break. It was a really, really nice hostel. Bright, good security, kitchen on each floor. £12.50 per person in a 4 quad room. We were there 5 minutes and we heading off to sample the nightlife. Most pubs close at either 1am or 3am.
We concentrated on Waxies and Dropkick Murphys. It was a Wednesday night and a bit quiet. Still, the Guinness is decent up here. We also had a gander at the Royal Mile and got a good look around. In the city centre, they had set up an amusement park and a Christmas (German style) market with Mulled Wine, Bradwurst etc.
Day Two – December 8th 2005
We were up pretty early but lazed about. We headed to the Royal Mile (old Town). Generally, it was good but old in general is a tourist town, although if you move off the main drag you venture into some nice areas like the grass market.
The “Royal Mile” is just one long length of shops selling Kitsch, Kilts and junk althought physically the buildings are great.
The Old Town lies at its heart, with the dramatic feature of Edinburgh Castle at one end of the Royal Mile, which follows the spine of a hill down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
And thats where we headed. Thursday at noon is First Minister question time at the Sottish Parliament and I wasnted to see the Scotish Parliament and Democracy in action.
The highlight for me in ALL of Edinburgh was the Scotish Parliament. You can visit their Web site at www.scottishparliament.uk
After much controversy over its cost — the better part of £500 million ($925 million) — and the time it took to construct, the new Scottish Parliament finally opened in autumn 2004. Designed by the late Barcelona-based architect Enric Miralles, it is a remarkable bit of modern design and perhaps worth the expense and delays. The abstract motif repeated on the facade was apparently inspired by Raeburn’s painting of Rev. Walker skating on a Duddingston Loch, which hangs in the National Gallery of Art. Visitors can take a free, self-guided tour or pay to be led about by a guide.
There were some hard questions for the First Minister especially from an MSP for the Scotish Socialist Party which were pretty persoanl. It had to do with the Ministers refusal to meet Cindy Sheedan who was visiting the building at 1.00pm.
Cindy Sheehan’s son Casey was killed in Iraq . She caused a storm of political embarrassment for George Bush and helped reinvigorate the anti war movement in the USA by setting up ‘ Camp Casey ‘ outside Bush’s ranch. Rose Gentle (her British Army son was killed) went to the USA in the summer to join forces with Cindy and now Cindy is coming to Scotland to join with anti war campaigners and military families here before speaking at the International Peace Conference in London on 10th December. (more details www.stopwar.org.uk )
You can see a BBC new report here about her visit.
We did not a whole lot the rest of the evening.We walked up to the castle to get some pictures and got some dinner. We planned to get some drinks in that night. We started at the Oxford at around 8.00pm and hit about a half a dozen other places before a 2-3am end at a GAA function in Dropkick Murphys.
The Oxford Bar is an unassuming little place on Young Street, well away from the main centres of interest for visitors to Edinburgh’s pubs. But for a number of reasons it has to rank amongst the best handful of pubs in central Edinburgh.
The Oxford Bar, or “The Ox” is actually quite fascinating in itself: the door opens straight onto the far from roomy bar. Off to one side a doorway leads through to a traditionally furnished side room wrapped around a fireplace and with a window in the front wall.
But the first thing that makes the Oxford Bar really special is the quality of its beer. It features in the 2006 CAMRA Good Beer Guide, meaning that it has featured in five out of the last six annual Good Beer Guides. This makes it one of the very best pubs in central Edinburgh for beer.
The second reason, and why a steady stream of folk make their way to the Oxford Bar, is that it is the favourite pub of Detective Inspector John Rebus, the fictional central character in the series of crime thrillers produced by bestselling author Ian Rankin. You can’t expect to meet Rebus here, but you will probably meet others looking for him: and you might just bump into his creator, who shares Rebus’s love of The Ox.