Edinburgh here we come ! First time for both of us and all planned around the Edinburgh Tattoo, plus a few days before setting off we’d found out The Fringe was on, so it looked like a fun packed four nights away. In addition to all this we had a new awning to try out so all exciting stuff, but first off we had to get there.
Up at 6 and on the road for 7.30. The site itself took new arrivals from 9am but after a quick chat the day before with one of the site staff we decided to try and arrive around lunch time, we were told there may not be many pitches to pick from as not many people are up and off the site by noon, never mind 9am.
As you’d expect the roads were clear and the M61 soon became the M6 and M74. Before we knew it we were driving through Coulter and Bigger, followed by the scenic route of West Linton and Easter Howgate which took us right to the site.
A pretty uneventful and smooth journey, it’s always nice to arrive anywhere feeling a little less frazzled and a bit more ‘with it’ to set up Pod.
Booked in easily enough and we were told there weren’t many pitches available as they were at capacity but it didn’t take us long to find a pitch to our liking. Not far from the entrance and toilet block and south facing, great as the sun was out and we hoped it would stay that way for the next few days.
Once Pod was levelled off out came the new awning a SunnCamp Silhouette Motor Air 225 Plus, a big name for such a small awning.
Now, a new awning you may ask as Pod is only just over two years old, as is the Khyam XL awning, but we’ve fallen out of love with it and despite all the modifications we’d done; sewing in the beading, adding sucker hooks and re-waterproofing, it still didn’t quite have that snug fit we were after, our Irish trip kind of made all this clear.
The Wild Atlantic Way had given it a right battering and with hindsight, we would of bought the Khyam regular and not the XL as the tunnel consists of less fabric providing that sought after fit, plus the knuckles in the legs now no longer gave sufficient support and we were in fear of them popping out all together.
All that said, it’s served us well and after 2 years of constant all year round use it’s protected us well from all the elements, sunshine to snow, but in truth we did expect it to last a little longer.
We considered replacing the knuckles but knew within 2 years we would end up in the same boat again, plus we fancied having windows we could see out of whilst sat inside the awning. The Khyam only offered 2 small windows in the tunnel and one in the main section which could only be seen out of if you stood up, we felt very shut off from the outside world, not a bad thing some days but wanted an option at least.
Research for a new one then began, we didn’t want anything bigger, in fact smaller would suit us as we’ve opted for the minimalist approach which leant to the idea of being able to set up within the shortest amount of time. It just needed to be big enough for a couple of chairs, foot stools, bin and multi-cooker, but due to Pod being a little bit of an individual it wasn’t easy to find an awning that would hug the rear without needing an awning rail and beading down the sides, one for future development maybe.
Air or pole was another question and after viewing and walking round numerous types we opted for the air as the fabric was thicker, 300 denier and 6000mm HH, almost canvas like and therefore less likely to waft around at the slightest mention of breeze.
Only thing we weren’t too keen on was the sewn in groundsheet but weighing this up overall, we really liked it, so we bought it.
Once we had it out on the pitch it didn’t take long to slide the beading onto Pod and pump up the two main arch beams, plus the small central support column. All it needed then was for it to be positioned and pegged out, really loved the windows, so clear and plenty of light flooding in.
One thing we did notice though, the ground sheet looked like it may need a little more protection as the hardstanding could do some damage if we weren’t careful, a possible one-off modification to be done before our next trip.
Once we’d finished faffing around we settled into the new awning and as we’d driven far enough for today our limit was a stroll round the site and to the information desk to check on the bus route for the following day and collect a few maps and leaflets to aid our exploring. It would be a big day for us, our chance to see the Tattoo, excited was an understatement, we’d both seen it many times on the TV but now it would be for real.
Back at Pod we sat outside enjoying the much missed sunshine and set about planning our full day of sightseeing in the city. ‘vans continued to arrive in a steady stream plus a few did more than one circuit looking for their perfect pitch.
Dinner was eaten al fresco and showers were had in the typical Caravan Club block, spotlessly clean and hot, perfect end to a great first day, although we could have done without planes flying over after 11pm and starting up again soon after 5am.
Up, out and walking to the bus for 9.30, it was only a short walk round the back of the site and onto the main road. We weren’t waiting long and spent the time chatting to other caravaners who had seen the Tattoo the night before, it sounded wonderful and we couldn’t wait to experience it ourselves.
£1.60 each was handed over to the driver and within 20 minutes we were slap bang in the middle of Edinburgh city.
First off, we were amazed at the architecture, the city was bursting with history, from the structures to the road names, all seemed to have a story to tell.
Our problem was where to start, so after a look at a small map taken from the information room we began by walking up and down main roads and side streets in an attempt to get our bearings. We eventually decided the best way to do this was to go up Scott’s Monument for a birds eye view.
The building of the memorial to Sir Walter Scott began in 1840 and was completed in 1844 and it stands at 61.1 metres high (200ft 6inches) with 287 steps to the top viewing point.
Interestingly, as well as his well known books his fame was guaranteed in 1818 when he re-discovered Scotland’s lost crown jewels within Edinburgh Castle.
We paid the £6.00 entry fee and began our climb up the narrow stone spiral staircase, only problem being it was the only way up and down, so on the odd occasion we met someone on the way down one of us had to hug the wall why the passing party squeezed past perilously close to the centre column and if not careful a slippy slide downwards.
First viewpoint was as expected, spectacular and when walking all the way round views of the castle down to the coastline could be seen. But not to be daunted we continued onwards and up. The next level gave and even better view over to Nelsons monument and beyond, but this wasn’t the end, there was one more level to go.
This was even narrower, MrB had to take the rucksack off as it was impossible for him to reach the top without going up shoulders turned at an angle, there was certainly no squeezing past anyone, it was a one-way only trip.
Once we knew the way up was clear upwards we went onto a very small and narrow platform and the climb was well worth the view. As we’d been blessed with a clear sky the skyline went on forever, past the castle, the monuments and out all the way to the Forth Rail Bridge, amazing.
Time came for us to begin the walk back down but this could only be done by shouting down to those below, we didn’t want to meet anyone half way up as it really was impossible to squeeze past anyone. The way was clear so off we set and once the stairway became a little wider it became slightly more possible for others to pass us, certainly not for those who aren’t keen on tight spaces and their personal space being well and truly invaded..
Back at ground level we walked towards the Scottish National Gallery, market stalls and some of the street performers. We passed bagpipers, jugglers and lone musicians, all doing their best to fill their pots and hats with money from passing pedestrians.
The Gallery was free to enter and whilst passing many wonderful works of art the highlight for us was the works by Wainwright, fantastic to actually see the real thing.
Out on the streets again we wondered through the busy walkways, again surrounded by food stalls and performers. A bit more sightseeing was on the cards and we headed in the direction of Holyrood Palace, we walked round the outside of the city, past Nelson’s Monument and through the graveyard to find the entrance to the palace in front of us.
Very impressive building and the official residence in Scotland of Her Majesty The Queen. Entry to the public and a tour was on offer but we had more to see and had other plans whilst the sun continued to shine, besides, tummies were rumbling for a bite to eat.
Royal Mile lead from the palace up to the castle so we decided to walk up and find somewhere with food on offer, we passed a few and eventually decided upon The Tolbooth Tavern and we weren’t disappointed.
The biggest burger ever was placed in front of one and a delicious cheese macaroni in front of the other, followed by Mars Bar cheesecake with cream and ice-cream, we were going to walk it off so no guilt here on this occasion.
Service was great and food portions were not for the faint hearted, well worth every penny.
Feeling rested and well fed we continued our walk up the Royal Mile, bobbing in and out of boutique shops and watching the street performers from the Fringe.
We eventually found ourselves at Grassmarket Square, brilliant little place, with plenty of eateries to choose from and lots more Fringe performances dotted around, from a young American bashing his way musically through empty paint cans, to a bubble maker entertaining the very young.
Best one that gave us a giggle was the moveable silent disco, about 30 people with headphones on were merrily jigging away, singing and following the leader in his bright yellow jumpsuit as he wound his way along the streets and off up the road into the distance. A true pied piper.
The Tattoo was getting nearer but still a couple of hours away, neither of us had room for dinner so nibbles were eaten whilst people watching, especially those trying desperately to give give out leaflets for Fringe performances, most people were polite in their refusal but there was the odd one who wasn’t.
The Tattoo was due to start at 9pm and the clock was now heading for 8, so we began the climb up the steps to the waiting area and joined a few hundred other people who were all wrapped up for the drop in temperature and waiting patiently to be told they could move forward to the bag searches.
We hadn’t been there more than 10 minutes when the loudhailer was heard dishing out instructions to those with bags.
The queue moved along nicely and once through the bag checking area we walked the short distance up to the castle entrance where our tickets were scanned and we were in. Yay!
It was quite surreal as we walked onto the parade ground, seating all the way round but it didn’t seem as big as on the TV, the wonders of a wide screen.
Seats were found as more people poured through the entrance onto the parade ground, all were soon seated and we waited with baited breath as the announcer did his best to warm the crowd up with a bit of audience participation. It wasn’t really necessary as everyone was just so excited to be there, but his explanation of proceedings was very welcome.
9pm on the dot the fun began, bagpipes emerged from the castle gate and one of us did their best to keep it together, a very emotional experience, just love the bagpipes.
The story of Tartan unfolded intertwined with Indian history, awesome display by all. At the end the lone piper held us spellbound leaving us wishing it could go on longer, but end it did, 100 minutes, spectacular.
People reluctantly left their seats and we all moved along nicely back the way we had arrived. We even managed to make it to the bus stop in plenty of time and were back at the site just after midnight, not long after we were tucked up in bed reliving our first incredibly busy day in Edinburgh.
Wednesday arrived and even the planes didn’t disturb us as we had a very welcome lie-in. Sun was out again so we lounged around the awning and Pod making the most of the glorious weather, but once lunch was out of the way we were back on the bus and into the city centre for some more sightseeing and Fringe watching.
First stop was Nelson’s Monument on top of Carlton Hill, built in 1807 in honour of Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. Many Scots served during this battle and sixty where known to have fought along side Nelson himself.
From here we walked round the National Monument of Scotland which is Scotlands memorial to soldiers and sailors who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. Construction started in 1826 but ran out of money so it was left unfinished, great shame but it gives it more of a natural aura, as if it’s been through a battle too.
Lunch was calling so we walked back through the city and the Fringe entertainment, one of the unusual performances we passed were what appeared to American native Indians on panpipes doing a rendition of Lady in Red, very surreal.
We found ourselves back at Grassmarket Square and as the sun was out we decided to eat at Oliviero Italian Restaurant, mainly because they had a large outdoor dinning area which would allow us to watch the world go by.
Pizza and a few beers were ordered and all went down extremely well, freshly made and delicious. Whilst enjoying this we were saddened to see one of the waiters slightly distressed as a large party of people had walked off without paying, why ? who could do such a low thing, especially during Tattoo and Fringe season.
Entertainers surrounded the square, from jugglers to musicians and many people trying patiently to dish out flyers in the most unusual ways.
Feeling very happy and relaxed we strolled down the Royal Mile and found ourselves in a whisky shop were a bottle of 8yr old GlenDronach single malt whisky was bought for LB, a new one to try once back at Pod.
As we had another big day ahead of us on Thursday and we were meeting friends for lunch we decided to head back to Pod for dinner. Once off the bus we walked along the coast path, brilliant walkway and great views over the sea towards the railway bridge, we eventually found ourselves back at the site and after a little whisky tasting we had an early night curled up in Pod.
Woke to another glorious day and we were back on the bus for 9.30, we were that early there didn’t appear to be any other caravaners joining us. The bus was busy with its regular daily commuters and we ended up chatting with one who reminded us of Greyfriers Bobby and told us of her fathers involvement, his appearance in the film and the statue of him in the city.
We were so pleased to have run into her and thanked her repeatedly for the reminder and once off the bus made it our mission to find the statue of him. Just wished we’d asked her what role her father had played in the film, because that was also on our ‘to do’ list once home and would love to have identified him in the film.
Phone came out and it didn’t take long to find him, another emotional moment when his nose was given a good rub, as this little dog was so loyal and true to his owner, then taken in and looked after by those around him in what was a very different era.
Apparently the statue is a life image, created shortly before his death.
Across the road from here appeared another museum, The National Museum of Scotland, so off we wandered and in we went.
Absolutely incredible place, we didn’t know where to start and could easily of spent the whole day in there. From ancient history to modern works of art, the power of electronics and space travel to prehistoric animals, just amazing.
Lunch time was fast approaching and we needed to find Fishers on Thistle Street.
As we now had quite a good walking knowledge of the centre it didn’t take us long to find it and make ourselves comfortable at the table to await our Podding friends.
Dee and Ian were the first to arrive and it was so nice to see them as it had been months since we had laid eyes on them, in fact October Powwow in Oban the year before.
Minutes later Laurence and his good lady Liz arrived, Laurence we’d spent a few days with at Coniston but Liz was about to be engulfed into the Podding world although we all did our best to vary the topic of conversation.. occasionally.
Fabulous time was had, reliving our travels and planning many more, time went by way too fast and before we knew it we were all saying our goodbyes till next time, October 2017 and Powwow 2 in York.
The castle was next on our list so off we went and paid £17.00 each for the privilege of entry. We’d missed the 1 o’clock gun but moving from one exhibition to another kept us very interested, from dungeons to the history of war through military artefacts and various treasures, plus a very moving experience in the Scottish National War Memorial which honours those who gave their lives in past wars, including those in Afghanistan and the Gulf.
We eventually joined the small queue to see the Crown Jewels and loved the display and story shown en route to the viewing room.
No cameras were allowed inside, pity, as they were amazing to see, even though it was a fleeting glimpse as the viewing line had to keep on moving.
Time was moving way to fast and doors were beginning to close and lock behind us, the castle was slowly closing down which meant it was our time to leave it and the city of Edinburgh.
The bus returned us to the caravan site and once dinner were eaten and showers had we reminisced over the wonder few days we’d had in Edinburgh. The weather had been with us, the new awning worked like a dream and we’d seen what we felt was a small part of the city. We would definitely be back as there was still so much we just hadn’t had time to see, beautiful place and could well be one of our favourite cities.
Friday arrived and it had rained in the night, not a problem though as the day looked dry up till noon and we planned on being well on our way home by that time.
Didn’t take much effort to deflate the awning and as we don’t take half as much stuff with us as we used it wasn’t long before we hit the road.
We both hate this bit, but it just means we had to plan the next trip away. Doesn’t stop us wishing we could just be on the outskirts of home and say ‘Nah.. lets just keep driving’. Maybe one day….