Wednesday , May 23, 2018

Tales from my feet: the long and lovely road to Edinburgh

I FELL in love with Edinburgh in the spring of 2014, on a trip with my husband.

We had just alighted from the airport shuttle and were dragging our bags over Waverly Bridge when I glanced back at the direction we came from and the overwhelmingly beautiful view of the Old Town presented itself before me.

We had booked ourselves into a hotel along the famous Princes st., and were treated to a postcard-perfect view every time we looked out the window. One photo taken at dusk from our room shall remain my favorite travel photo among many I have taken over the years.

On this recent trip with my Mom and good friends, we decided to drive to Edinburgh from London as we had engaged the services of a Filipino driver/guide who was more than willing to take us down a road less traveled. We would pass by two Unesco Heritage Sites and seek out the historic Tramtown.

Three hours after we left our London hotel, we finally arrived at the Derwent Valley Mills . A World Heritage Site along the River Derwent, it is the birthplace of the modern cotton factory or the “mill” system for spinning cotton developed by Richard Arkwright. By 1788, their mill system had grown to about 200 mills all over Britain and soon, his inventions and system of organizing labor had spread to the rest of Europe and the United States.

Our next stop, and an uphill drive through very narrow, unpaved roads, was the town of Crich. A reconstructed period village from the 19th century, it has a pub, café, old-style sweetshop, tram depots and its main attraction – the UK’s National Tramway Museum which houses over 60 British trams. Polished to perfection and very colorful, these beauties take you back to a time when life was easy-paced. We rode one of their trams around town and it was a fun but shaky experience.

After another four hours on the road, we found our way to the Studley Royal Water Garden to explore the ruins of Fountains Abbey. Founded in 1132, the abbey operated for 407 years until Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries. To walk downhill in the rain and come upon the ruins slowly emerging from the valley below was an unforgettable experience.

We finally reached our hotel in Edinburgh 15 hours after we left London and settled in for the night.


Early the next day, we had a photo stop at the Unesco-listed Forth Bridge, voted as Scotland’s greatest man-made wonder in 2016.

We proceeded to St. Andrews in the Kingdom of Fife. This famous town faces the North Sea and is home to the oldest university in Scotland, but it is more popularly known as the home of golf.

We were able to explore the castle and cathedral ruins and had photos taken at the oldest golf course in the world. Our guide told us to pose at the Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course’s 18th hole as it was one of the most famous golf course landmarks that even pro golfers stop to have their photo taken here.

By late afternoon, we found ourselves exploring The Royal Mile – the road linking Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood House.

Our second full day in Scotland started with a visit to the Rosslyn Chapel in Roslin, a site made very famous by the movie The Da Vinci Code due to theories connecting its existence with the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. It is quite small in size but its interiors are very ornate.

After lunch, we climbed up Calton Hill since it offers a view of Edinburgh that is incomparable. Perched on top, you see to the west Princes st. and the castle, to the south the Old Town silhouetted against Arthur’s Seat. In the east and north are views of the docks and other landmarks. Climb 143 steps up Nelson’s Monument and you get an unobstructed 360-degree view of the city below. Another important landmark here is the National Monument erected to honor the dead from the Napoleonic Wars.

Scotland’s other famous landmarks in Edinburgh are the castle, the Palace of Holyrood House (Queen Elizabeth’s official residence here) and its Abbey, Holyrood Park including Arthur’s Seat, which is its highest point, Salisbury Crags, the St. Giles Cathedral, and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The next day, we set out early as we were driving back to London, this time passing through The Lake District National Park. A popular holiday destination famous for its lakes, forests and mountains, it was inscribed by Unesco just this year and covers an area of 583,747 acres. It is located entirely within the county of Cumbria and contains the deepest and longest bodies of water in England, Wast Water and Windermere. Our first stop was at Ullswater, which is a popular starting point for walkers and climbers, then headed to Windermere for lunch and sightseeing before hitting the road again.

The United Kingdom may be known for having four seasons in a day but it truly does not stop you from appreciating its beauty and grandeur. I realize now that I am home, I will truly miss walking around in the rain.