After climbing up and down five flights of stairs, we figured Lena was ready for a rest so we plopped her in the stroller and went for a walk in an attempt to get her to sleep. We lucked out and were able to eat at a local pub while she napped. We stopped in at a place called Whiski on the Royal Mile. It was perfect for a quick, cheap lunch and the food was fresh. Jason ordered a BLT then remembered that bacon here is a bit different from home. Rather than bypass-inducing strips of fat, the UK serves what Americans would consider ham. It was still tasty and came with a nice side salad and chips (or french fries). I ordered the homemade soup as I’ve had good luck with that elsewhere. The soups here are usually pureed so you don’t know exactly what’s in them but it was similar to a pea soup and came with freshly made bread. As seems to be the norm here, everything was locally sourced and freshly made. Yum!
After lunch, we walked back up towards the castle. It was later in the afternoon so the light was really beautiful. I grabbed a quick shot of Jason and Lena looking out over the city from the base of the castle. We asked another tourist to take a family picture for us. You can see the result below. Fail! The poor lady snapped about 15 pictures yet when we looked back at the camera, she had only taken three and all of them had cut off our heads. I guess she didn’t push the button all the way down and also forgot to look through the view finder. I’ll have to remember to be a bit more selective next time when asking a stranger to take our picture!
You can see that the castle is pretty enormous from the outside but I was shocked at how many more buildings were behind the initial facade. I can’t imagine all the work it took to lay each of the stones not to mention what life must have been like living behind those walls.
Lena, of course, was in heaven with all the opportunities for stair climbing within the castle walls. We were lucky to get a few photos of us holding her before she begged to be let down to climb some more. Since we had the Diva with us, we didn’t opt to buy the audio tour but I’m sure it’s quite interesting. The cannons were a big hit with kids as you could climb and sit on them while getting a great view of the city. There’s also a gun that fires at one o’clock every day except Sundays; the tradition started in 1861.
Your entry fee allows you access to the museums inside the castle. We spent awhile in the National War Museum and despite the fact that I’m not terribly interested in military history, I really enjoyed it. The exhibits were beautifully curated and had something for everyone. Lots of old guns, swords and other weaponry, uniforms ranging from the 1700s to present day as well as personal items such as letters and toiletries from years past. I was really impressed that the end of the museum was dedicated to present day veterans who have been injured during war time and how they’ve been able to recover with the help of prosthetics. They even had some examples of prosthetics used years ago and it was interesting to see how far we’ve come. Can you imagine using an iron hand?!
At the top of the grounds is the Scottish National War Memorial. The design was absolute beautiful and I spent quite a while inside admiring all the adornments. The two animals standing guard on either side of the exterior doors were some of my favorite sights of the whole trip. I loved the modern style and the fact that they each represented a country – the horse was Scotland and the lion was England.
The last exhibit we saw was the crown jewels and unfortunately, no photography was allowed. That exhibit included the Crown, the Sceptre and the Sword of State – the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles. According to the castle website, “the Sceptre was presented to James IV by Pope Alexander VI in 1494 while the Crown was first worn by James V for the coronation of his wife, Queen Mary of Guise in 1540.”
If Lena had been just a bit older, I think we would have gone for the audio guide. They recommend giving yourself about two hours to explore the castle and it’s nice and open so kids can run around and check everything out. Tickets were £14.50 per adult and under 5’s were free. They also had a nice cafe and gift shops so there’s plenty of places to rest along the way. Add this to your list if you’re headed to Edinburgh and check out their website for more info: