Greetings from Whitley Bay. This is a seaside town, which from what we have seen so far bears a striking resemblance to that stereotypical English seaside town in my imagination. We arrived late last night, so haven’t has the chance to check it out yet. This is what we’s been up to:
- We had a lovely drive around Loch Lomond. We kept an eye out for Nessie but didn’t get to see her, party because very few tourists ever do, party because she is said to live in Loch Ness, not Loch Lomond. Loch Lomond what very picturesque. Anna explained it best when she said it was like being on the lid of a jigsaw puzzle.
- After a fairly long drive right around Loch Lomond, we wound our way to Edinburgh. We checked into a B&B in Tranent, just out of the city.
- We went across the road for a pub dinner. They had Haggis on the menu, so I decided to give it a try (only brave enough to order it as a starter). It was no bad at all, quite like a spicy sausage, with just a hint of offal texture.
- The next morning I was up at around 4am and saw the first few snowflakes fall. I went back to bed but the snowflakes didn’t. By 9am we were crunching through a couple of inches of snow towards the bus stop. We caught the bus into the city, through even more falling snow. We started an open-topped bus tour of the city (sitting downstairs this time). We got off at the castle, but sadly the castle had been closed due to the weather. We walked through a tartan mill and managed to avoid the temptation to purchase a kilt or pose for a photograph in full highland regalia. After that the castle was still closed. We considered taking it by force, but history has shown it to be fairly impenetrable, so we had a spot of lunch instead.
- Finally, after lunch the castle had been reopened. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the rooms and displays. At one o’clock they fire the “one o’clock gun”. It was quite a large gun, more like what I’d call a cannon. They fire it at 1pm so that ships at sea could adjust their chronometers. Apparently it can be heard at Leith Harbour, more than 3km away. I can certainly report that at a distance of about twenty metres with absolutely no warning, it is audible.
- The Edinburgh castle also houses the Scottish Honours, or the Scottish crown jewels. These are the original crown, sword and sceptre of the Scottish royalty. Dating from the coronation of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1543, they are the oldest crown jewels in the UK, and the second oldest in Europe. There is an amazing story of how they were smuggled out of the castle to avoid caputre by Oliver Cromwell during the English civil war and buried in a parish church. Years later, after the union of the English and Scottish crowns and parliaments, the Honours were placed in a oak chest and sealed up in a room of the castle for 111 years. In 1818 a few Scots were wondering what could have happened to them, so they dug them out again and put them on display. Equally as interesting is the Stone of Destiny, or the Stone of Scone, also on display in the castle. However, as time is running out, I shall leave it up to Wikipedia to tell you about it.
- We finished our bus tour of Edinburgh, passing by plenty that we would have liked to get out and explore if time were on our side, including the old and new houses of parliament at Holyrood. All in all Scotland was fantastic, hope we get to come back some day.
- Back in our car we followed the coast down to Whitley Bay.
We’re about to explore the beach a bit to see just how the North Sea measures up to the Pacific Ocean. Then we’ll have a poke through their Newcastle, and finally leg it for York. This is our third last day in the UK, so making the most of it.