There’s an old joke about a tour guide saying, as he took a party around Edinburgh Castle, “this bit is exactly as it was in the 11th century, no modernisation has been done in any way.” One of the tourists said to her friend, in a piercing whisper, “That’s Edinburgh Council for you!”
Edinburgh is extraordinary. I live about twenty miles away, on the Firth of Forth (the Forth river estuary, to a non-Scot) and take my visitors in by train as that’s the easiest option, buses and trams and taxis in every direction on the receiving end when our feet start to hurt.
There’s the added bonus that as you emerge from Waverly station you are in the very heart of the city and can do a 360 degree turn to see the city rising up its hills in every direction, ancient and modern buildings, the Scott monument close at hand and the Castle rearing high in the distance. There’s nearly always a piper playing near the monument, which not all see as an advantage, but still, it’s very evocative, and I personally love the pipes!
Because of the volcanic plug which gives Edinburgh Castle the best vantage point for miles around, there have been people living around Castle Rock since long before records began, a trace of Roman history (not that the Romans were able to spend a lot of time there - the Scots have always been fearsome warriors, and restless under outside rule) and influences all through history to the modern day. The city itself is mainly Georgian in architecture, but between, behind, and even under those lovely façades, old Edinburgh waits for its visitors, tour guides trim back their rolling accents to be understood by all, and free-range tourists, maps in hand, wander round entranced.
Whether my guests want museums (and the toy museum is a firm favourite), a whisky tour, art galleries, plunging underground to visit the Old Town (there’s a Halloween tour which brings the quaking visitor back above ground at midnight in the cemetery made famous by Greyfriars Bobby) or just taking the weight off in Princes Street gardens, it’s all on offer and so much more.
But - bring a raincoat. We do get good weather, and as I type this it is sunny and a very pleasant twenty degrees outside. The gloaming will last until well after ten pm tonight, because this is May - but we have four seasons in every day, even in the best weather, and the worst weather is dreich (dull and damp) for weeks on end, making you suddenly understand why your Scottish ancestors have spread all round the world!
About author E J Lamprey
Elizabeth (E J) Lamprey lives in Scotland, within easy distance of Edinburgh. She loves Scotland but accepts that with a mere fifteen years residence she is still considered a tourist, albeit a tenacious one.
She has been variously a book reviewer on a city paper, a columnist in a national magazine, a copy-editor and critiquer, a commercial blogger and a reporter on a country newspaper, usually alongside more conventional jobs, using her maiden name, her married name, or Lamprey, which is just one of the four names with which she was lavishly endowed at birth, and the one she likes the most.
Writing a series of cheerful whodunits set in a Scottish retirement village is her favourite occupation, but a secret passion for SF led to a couple of books appearing under the name Joanna Lamprey. Quite recently the research into singles websites that started with the third Lawns book spawned another book, this time under the tongue-in-cheek name Clarissa Rodgers-Briskleigh.
One thing all the books share is the celebration of being no longer young, yet quite definitely not yet old. It is nature's unexpected and welcome gift, a burst of autumn sunshine and energy, and although that wasn't the original intention, all the books celebrate it to the full.
The Grasshopper Lawns books
All my Grasshopper Lawns books are set in the Firth of Forth area which is around 20 miles from Edinburgh, but only one of them, Seven Eight Play It Straight, spends a lot of time in Edinburgh, for the festival. However, it does go underground, and I talk a lot about the Old Town in the book, Seven Eight Plays it Straight.
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