We caught the train to Edinburgh from Newcastle Central and I just knew that there was going to be a problem when a group of misbehaving middle aged women joined us in our carriage with tee shirts announcing that they were celebrating ‘Marie’s 50th Birthday’.
There were signs in the carriage saying keep the noise down but I don’t think any of them could read so they cracked the cans and topped the bottles and made an almighty racket all the way to Edinburgh. I actually prayed to God that they weren’t staying in our hotel.
We found a seat at the other end of the carriage and ignored them as best we could and enjoyed the ride. Trains used to chatter but now they hum and the journey took us along the Northumbrian coast past Alnwick and Lindisfarne, Holy Island and Berwick and then followed the Firth of Forth towards our destination. It was like a vivid reminder of our two day mini bus excursion in Turkey with the Dagenham Womens’ Darts Team.
There is surely no finer city to arrive by train than Edinburgh! If there is, then please let me know?
In most cities the railway terminus is out of town, somewhere in the scruffy district with the graffiti and the dirt, somewhere well past its best but not so in Edinburgh because Waverley Station (the only station in the world named after a novel) is right in the beating heart of the city and once ascended from the subterranean platforms a visitor is deposited immediately into Edinburgh’s principal thoroughfare – Princess Street. The A1, the road that links Edinburgh to London, four hundred miles away and a road on which Scottish Nationalists would construct a border crossing at Berwick upon Tweed if they had their way.
And so it was that we emerged from the underground chambers of the railway station and arrived blinking and unsure into the centre of the capital city of Scotland, the seventh largest city in the UK, but only the second in Scotland after Glasgow. The largest UK city is of course London with a population over seven million and the smallest is St David’s in Wales with a tiny population of only two thousand.
Immediately we were met by the unpleasant reception of dozens of beggars hanging around the station concourse and we picked our careful way though the dirty sleeping bags and on to the wailing siren of bagpipes on every street corner. There was no mistaking that we were in Scotland!
Adjacent to the station there are a number of fine old hotels, The Caledonian, The Scotsman, The Royal British and the Old Waverley where we were staying. It was only a five minute walk from the station and we presented ourselves at reception and were booked in and handed our key and we made our way to the fifth floor. Edinburgh hotels are expensive and I was not expecting anything special but when we opened the door we were delighted to have a suite at the front of the hotel directly opposite the Scott monument and with a fine view of the castle.
From the tall windows there was a grandstand view of the city. There were soaring towers of granite with green copper domes standing straight backed and proud like soldiers of a Highland regiment, high pitched roofs to deal with winter snow, salt and pepper coloured buildings with symmetrical windows that would please a mathematician, terracotta chimney pots in orderly rows and flagpoles with waving Saltires but also quite surprisingly an equal number of Union flags. The 2015 vote on independence split the country down the middle and the evidence was here to see.
The buildings here rise imperiously above a narrow gorge where railway lines squeeze themselves into the city in between gardens of rain soaked velvet green and above it all stands the castle, a magnificent structure rising from the ground as though announcing the beginning of a volcanic eruption.
And opposite, almost within touching distance was the soaring Gothic memorial to the novelist and poet Walter Scott. Some people don’t like the memorial but I think it looks just fine.
On account of the view I could have stayed in the room all afternoon but that wouldn’t have got a lot of sightseeing done so as soon as we had unpacked and could tear ourselves away we went back to Princess Street with a plan to see the city.
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