Heading off to «Auld Reekie»
Mom and dad wanted to explore Edinburgh (nicknamed «Auld Reekie» by the Scots!) so at 9am on August 6 we left Carshalton and headed north.
We found ourselves in Bucken by lunch time so dad stopped and we ate at the George Hotel.
The hotel is part of an early 18th Century coaching inn, originally with a courtyard plan, and galleried timber-framed rear wings of earlier dates. Not surprising there were a few coaching inns in Buckden because at that time, (the 18th and early 19th centuries), it was on the Great North Road, a busy coaching road just 80 km north of London.
After stuffing our faces, we carried up northwards until we got to the Royal & Angel Hotel in Doncaster!
Like the George Hotel, the Royal & Angel was on the Great North Road and in the 19th century became Doncaster’s principal hotel where a number of prominent guests stayed overnight, including Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal, Prince Alfred and the Princess Alice. They spent a night there on August 27, 1851 while journeying to Balmoral.
Well, it might have been a treat for the Royal visitors to stay at that hotel 100 years ago but when we stayed there, we were really miserable as it was disgusting!
Dad said that the air in our rooms was awful and stale, there was a smell of gas which lingered with the stale air and we couldn’t open our windows to get fresh (!) air in as the noise of the traffic going up and down the Great North Road was deafening with the windows shut 😮
We woke up at about 5am, itching to get going but we couldn’t leave until after our breakfast so it took another five hours before we packed up our car and headed up, up and on to Edinburgh!
It took about an hour of driving with the windows down to clear all our heads from the horrible air in the hotel.
Doncaster was not our favourite town to put it mildly! To this day I can remember the dreary grey houses, all in a row, the grimy streets and it just cemented my dislike for England.
So we trundled up to Ilkley, (aka “the Grove”) where we stopped somewhere for lunch.
«Ilkley goes back a long way. In fact it goes all the way back to ancient times – and we really do mean ancient! Two millenia ago, the Romans had clearly recognised its attractions and to prove it they built a fort here which they called Olicana.»
[Source: BBC Bradford and West Yorkshire]
Dad was horrified at what we ended up eating «a few bits of cold, fatty mutton, hot potatoes and cold cabbage in hot water!» and the cost for the pleasure of this disgusting meal was 3 shillings each! «WOW!» was all my poor papa could say! 😛
Daddy mentioned that driving through the Yorkshire Moors was fairly monotonous but there were some areas of the landscape which were interesting.
At 3:20 we arrived in Carlisle and checked into the Viaduct Hotel, built in 1887 and which was situated on Victoria Viaduct.
We decided to go for a wander and headed towards Carlisle Castle, near the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall. Imagine … Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner in the castle in 1568 😮
On the way to the castle, dad said we passed by quite a few stores which looked a lot nicer than the stores in Doncaster!
Apparently we all had an excellent sleep and we were up and ready to head north by 9am. Dad said that the road reminded him of driving around the New Territories and then, lo and behold, we all got our first glimpse of Scotland!
After Hawick the scenery got monotonous, and just 14 km before Edinburgh dad saw a sign for Kirkhill Hotel so he turned down a leafy lane which took us to a mansion. When we went inside mom and dad were amazed to see a cocktail bar!
We all enjoyed a very tasty lunch and afterwards I found the swings by the golf course so I had fun swinging on them 🙂
It was a lovely place and dad said all they charged for B&B was 15/- (15 shillings)!
We got back in the car and headed up to Edinburgh. Drove up the main road, turned left into Princes Street, had to ask a policeman where Royal Circus was and eventually arrived at No 25, which you can see on the Google map.
Royal Circus was designed in 1823 by William Playfair, one of Edinburgh’s neo-classical architects, and it consists of two semi-circular crescents with gardens inside the “circle”, as you can see by this aerial view!
25 Royal Circus was a B&B place and would have consisted of all the floors, either 3 or 4 of them and I would imagine there would have been a staircase linking all the floors.
Dad was impressed with the B&B place, run by Miss Wilkinson, saying it was a very nice and clean place.
Daddy and I went shopping and when we came back, we all had quick baths to freshen up and afterwards we all found our stomachs were rumbling. Rather than schlepp out to find a restaurant, dad said he’d go and get some takeaway.
He came back with 5 fish, haggis, some potatoes and a loaf of bread 😮 There was no salt, forks or knives so we had to eat with our fingers. Afterwards daddy got all worried about the smell of fried fish in our “fashionable” guest house so he went out with all the papers the food was wrapped up in and took it down to our car!!!
Miss Wilkinson finally brought a camp bed for me to sleep on with many apologies for being so late and also brought us some tea and cookies. Mom and dad loved listening to her Scottish brogue and were very happy that we managed to book the rooms in such a lovely place.
The next morning mom, dad and I woke up refreshed but not Lindy, who complained about having an uncomfortable night.
There was a huge queue for the bathroom so I had to stand guard by the door so that when Lindy and mom came, we could all rush in and do our thing. Poor daddy said that when it was his turn to use the bathroom, when he came out there was a lady waiting and he got very embarrassed 😀
Breakfast was served at 9:30 and afterwards we got into the car and went to King’s Park.
This park is situated at the eastern extremity of the city, is about 4.8 km in circumference and consists mainly of rocky and steep hills. One hill rises into three tops and the highest of these tops is called “Arthur’s Seat“; this rises up to 250 meters (822 feet) above sea level.
It was amazing to see the whole of Edinburgh at our feet and could see as far away as the Firth of Forth!
My parents reckoned that Edinburgh looked entirely different from the English cities they’d encountered and said that it just oozed history.
After wandering around King’s Park we headed off to Holyrood Palace. The map below shows you all the monuments in King’s Park and where Holyrood Palace was …
We went on a guided tour through all the state apartments in Holyrood and saw some of the rooms which were used by Queen Elizabeth during her recent visit to Scotland.
I think we all found it rather meh – no big excitement, just lots of dusty rooms and paintings on the walls and all the usual stuff you find in palaces 😉
Lindy was crying about having something in her eye but she wouldn’t let mom come near her to put Murine in it so tempers were a bit frayed by the time we got back to Royal Circus.
My God we were energetic! I feel exhausted just reading about all the walking we did during the day 😮
Coming back along Princes Street, mom saw some fabulous tartans and in one store which sold cashmere sweaters there was a sign which said “For Overseas Visitors Only”!
We collected Lindy and went to a takeaway to get fish and chips, with an extra portion of chips, and drove to Portobello to eat our dinner.
Portobello was «Edinburgh’s bracing seaside resort» situated 5 km from the city, facing the Firth of Forth.
Back in the early part of the 20th Century a pool was built in Portobello and it was HUGE! 100 meters x 45 meters, it was the equivalent to two Olympic-sized pools and there were lockers provided for 1,284 swimmers.
It was famous for its distinctive Art Deco design, lofty diving boards, artificial waves and chilly waters, and was Portobello’s main attraction for over 40 years. The pool, which opened in 1936, was the largest outdoor facility of its kind in Europe. The 5,678,117 liters (1.5 million gallons) of water required to fill the pool was filtered from the sea and heated to a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit by steam from the adjacent power station – though most accounts of the water temperature ranged from icy cold to sub-Siberian.
[Source: Portobello in the Fifties]
We parked on the promenade and sat in the car to have our dinner, and I think all of us enjoyed the view of the sea and smelling the fresh salty air.
Once we finished, dad drove us back to Royal Circus via Leith, which sits at the mouth of the Water of Leith. This is the main river flowing from Edinburgh down to Leith and enters the sea via the Firth of Forth. It’s 35 km long and rises in the Colzium Springs at Millstone Rig of the Pentland Hills.
Leith was Edinburgh’s port for hundreds of years, the original harbour dating back to the 14th Century, and the port has been visited often over the centuries by royalty, including Mary Queen of Scots and King George IV.
Daddy mentioned us visiting Mackie’s a few times when we were in the Scottish capital – they were shortbread manufacturers and had a store on Princes Street where I guess we used to go for “tea and biscuits”! 😛
We spent several days wandering around New Town.
New Town is a central area of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. It is often considered to be a masterpiece of city planning and, together with the Old Town, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. It was built in stages between 1767 and around 1850, and retains much of the original neo-classical and Georgian period architecture. Its most famous street is Princes Street, facing Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town across the geographical depression of the former Nor Loch. [Source: Wikipedia]
We wandered around Princes and George Streets, checked out the stores and dad remarked that he found it surprising that just about all the taxis in Edinburgh were Rolls Royces.
Dad had another incident with the po po (police) when he went to get our car which was parked at Princes Street Gardens. A policeman came up to him and told that parking was only allowed for 20 minutes and he had overstayed his welcome! Dad apologised for his mistake and when the cop heard his accent, he took a good look at him and asked if he was a stranger to Edinburgh.
Daddy replied in the affirmative and produced his HK driver’s licence. The policeman gave dad a warning about not doing that again and off he went! Phew 😀
On the 13th we went driving to Dundee. Why? I have no idea. I suppose mom and dad wanted to see the place but why? Perhaps their friends in Carshalton or Joanna and Izzy told them that was a city to visit when they were up north!
The map shows the way to Dundee and the finger points to the city. We left Edinburgh at 10 and went to Queensferry but seeing the mist and all the cars queued there, dad decided to carry on going the longer way!
As you can see from the above map, instead of getting on the ferry and heading straight up to Perth, daddy drove up to Stirling, Dumblane, then to Perth and up to Dundee.
They were surprised at the size of the town and the number of fine stores. Dad said that he sent the Hills a postcard, so obviously they were told to see Dundee by David and Naomi, Deidre’s parents 🙂
We had tea at Val D’Or before heading back to Edinburgh. After driving for more than 10 km, dad realised we were driving on the A9 going north to Dunkeld instead of south 😮
Found the right road heading to Perth and then got onto the road for Queensferry, passing through a lovely stretch of wooded, hilly countryside.
We went to the same takeaway shop for fish and chips and haggis and then when we got back to our rooms in Royal Circus, we all crashed from exhaustion!
The next day we all took it easy and went out shopping after breakfast. Went to Shandwick Place and had lunch at the West End Café, then did more shopping. Came back to Royal Circus at 4:30 and an hour later we decided to go to Mackie’s. There was a long queue to go into that restaurant so we went to Railey’s and had sausage and chips with ice cream for dessert.
After dinner we drove to Belgrave Mews off Queensferry Road to watch a puppet show. The theatre was tiny with accommodation for just 66 people, no more!
The Belgrade Mews Puppet Theatre opened in 1951 and was converted from stables and a garage at the home of Miles Lee and his wife Olive, who ran it for 10 years.
Lindy and I really enjoyed it and dad even said it was pretty good so we came home feeling very happy with the way the evening turned out.
I was wondering about how Princes Street was spelled – whether there was an apostrophe or not, and it amused me to see this report.
They took the apostrophe out of Prince’s Street in the 1830s but the grammar police are eager to restore the apostrophe
We bade Miss Wilkinson a warm goodbye when we pushed off at 9:45am, stopped to buy bread from Mackie’s and then headed towards Carlisle. Arrived there around 2pm and went off the main road to try and find Hadrian’s Wall! Not sure if we were successful in finding his wall but it was fun nevertheless, and since then I’ve always had a passion for anything about Ancient Roman.
We carried on to Keswick and entered the Lake District, which dad said reminded him of the scenery around Shatin!
We stopped at a clean B&B place, had dinner at some place then went for a long walk along a lake. The houses were all built of local stone which had a greenish colour to them giving them a very unusual appearance.
Woke up, had a great breakfast and then got in the car and headed along winding roads to Kendal. As Kendal was very boring, we carried on to Leeds and by the time we got there, our stomachs were rumbling so we looked out for a decent restaurant.
Apparently there was nothing suitable, just pubs, so we drove through until we came across the Oakville Hotel. Had a revolting lunch and dad was grumbling about the fact that it cost him an outrageous price of £1.10.8p so when we got back into the car, we all agreed that dad should drive straight back to Carshalton.
He cancelled our reservation with the Elmhurst Hotel in Reading, called Joy and told her we were coming back a day earlier and he and mom took turn driving us back to Woodstock Road.
Everyone gave a sigh of relief when we got back!
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A video of what it was like in Edinburgh when we visited the city in 1953
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