Up early to pack and get the dogs off to the kennels, then a long, painful journey into the station with a gammy-legged suitcase with only one wheel. Like dragging a dead body, it was. As we boarded the 9:58 from Farnham, Mirinda and I parted company as she went and sat in the first class section of the train. This is not because she’s some sort of stranger snob but, rather, because she had work to do – it is, after all, a working day. I settled into the frankly inadequate seat and read and snoozed into Waterloo.
Next we hit the Tube which, thankfully, was running smoothly even with the hordes of protesters carrying on around the streets of London in recognition of the usefulness of the G20 talks. Note I’m being just a tad sarcastic there. Change at Warren Street, then to Kings Cross. Half an hour to stand around and wait for a platform. Then all aboard the National Express train to Inverness.
Mirinda not exactly enthused by the seats. Because we booked so late, the first class seats cost as much as our house, so we had to make do with the other smelly plebs in cattle class. Not bad…the train has free wifi and Mirinda and I sat back at our table seat and typed away like crazy fools. Me on my new book, she doing work.
It was remarkable the number of people using laptops on the train. I guess they were mostly business people – not many of the obvious tourists had one – but it’s interesting how many use them now.
Something I’ll never understand, and excuse me if I’ve already ranted about this, is the way train guards make announcements over and over when no-one has left or joined the train. We had a delay because of a stalled train in Grantham – not ours, I hasten to add – and we had the usual announcement regarding this and explaining that was why we were stood by a field looking at a bunch of lonely looking cows. All well and good and nice to know there was a reason for us to be there. The trouble was, this guy repeated the same information a number of times over the next hour. Both while we sat there and after we’d managed to drive clear. I’m not sure who the final announcements were for as we’d all heard them more times than sanity demands. We hadn’t stopped at a station. I’m assuming no-one had been born or beamed down from orbit. Odd.
The day we travelled through was gorgeous and blue and I hope it doesn’t mean we’ll get nothing but rain while we’re in Scotland.
We arrived only ten minutes late and, given the stopping and starting a couple of times, that’s pretty good. We joined the throng half leaving half arriving at Waverley station and made our way to the taxi rank. And then, the Royal Terrace Hotel.
Very nice! I think the good deal we managed to get was because the outside of the hotel is completely covered with scaffolding. Not bothered! Our room is called Glenkinchie, after the distillery. The bed was comfortable, the TV a great size with lots of English speaking channels (obviously), the bathroom was lovely. Excellent! Though almost a bit short-lived. I’d originally booked it starting from tomorrow. Mirinda was starting to seethe, thinking we’d be sleeping on the street but she soon calmed down when the helpful receptionist just added a night onto our booking.
We settled into our lovely room with a coffee/tea and complimentary shortbread and flicked through the TV options. We then booked a time for dinner in the restaurant downstairs before going for a walk.
Just behind the hotel is Calton Hill. This was a volcano around 300 million years ago. It spewed forth lava, which turned into rocks. The rocks were scoured away by the retreat of the glaciers during the last ice age (15-20,000 years ago) leaving the hill we see today. During the 1700s it was a great spot to visit. David Hume, the philosopher loved it so much he made a permanent path, which, incidentally, is one of the oldest public paths in Britain.
The path leading up to the first level of the hill is incredibly steep! We were both amazed by Mirinda’s resilience in reaching the top. But she did!
At the top is a strange collection of Greek styled follies. One, a half-hearted attempt at the Parthenon, was described as Edinburgh’s Disgrace at one stage. It now appears to be an open air theatre for Scottish drunks who sing with all the charm of fingernails down a blackboard and a lot more volume. It’s rather odd when the early evening air is being taken by tourists and locals with their dogs and in the middle stand a quartet of old soaks, one of them singing his heart out to some unintelligible rubbish.
Things rapidly went down hill (in both senses) when we realised the way we were leaving the hill seemed to be the local toilet. A pity the glaciers didn’t scour the disgusting and the anti-social as well. It could have ruined an otherwise lovely evening but we didn’t let it. We returned to the room so Mirinda could relax in the bath.
Had a fantastic dinner in the hotel restaurant. They have one AA rosette but I think that could easily be doubled. Food was fantastic, presentation, top class. An interesting group beside us at a very long table of 14 girls and only two guys. Not sure whether I should have congratulated or commiserated with them both.
After dinner we had a short stroll along the road then back to the room where I tried to open one of the huge windows.
The windows in our room are massive aluminium sash jobbies, which sit behind the old Georgian versions on the outside. The new ones tend to slide up and down like a guillotine. Believe me, I’m not exaggerating. While trying to hold the window open, I almost lost the fingers of my left hand! I’m sure my wedding ring was all that saved them. As it is, a huge blood blister formed at the base of my ring finger.
There was lots of blood and I spent the night with an old t-shirt wrapped around my hand.