At the start of July, my parents and I travelled 242 miles up the M6 (and on assorted other roads) to Edinburgh – all in the name of attending my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award Presentation and meeting HRH Prince Philip. Whilst the trip was planned around this short but sweet encounter with royalty in the gardens of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, we did manage to get our fill of the Royal Mile, Scottish pubs and other points of interest whilst we were there.
After stopping at Tebay (England’s nicest service station, with views of the Lake District) and Peebles (for a drink) en route to Edinburgh, I was relieved when (seven hours later) we finally pulled up at the Premier Inn.
Once we’d deposited our belongings (and admired the view), we headed out to quench our thirst. Enter: The Hanging Bat (133 Lothian Road), a quirky bar with 46 gins and an array of British (and foreign) beers. A few drinks later, we moved on to Auld Hundred (100 Rose Street) for tea – my ears pricked up when I heard the people around us speaking French, a side effect of studying languages! We then returned back to the hotel via Princes Street Gardens/ Edinburgh Castle; set against the cloudy sky, Edinburgh Castle lived up to its reputation as an imposing hilltop fortress.
By the time we headed out the next morning, I was feeling like an excitable child on Christmas Day – my final degree results had been released, and I was over the moon to be graduating with a First and a Distinction in Spoken French! Excitement under control, we wandered along Grassmarket to Victoria Street, passing a mouth-watering display of éclairs, macarons and tarts in a pâtisserie’s window en route to Demijohn. For the uninitiated, stepping into Demijohn is akin to wandering into Snape’s classroom: dozens of flasks filled with liqueurs, gins, vodkas, brandies and also vinegars, oils and dressings.
As we wandered along Johnston Terrace, we spotted a castle-like building on the horizon – which was, apparently, a high school. Some children clearly got their letters to Hogwarts then . . . !
We then headed down the Royal Mile to St Giles’ Cathedral, which is also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh. Entry to the cathedral is free, with a suggested donation of £3; if you’re snap-happy and want to capture the cathedral in glorious technicolour, you’ll need to obtain a photo permit (£2). It’s worth the small outlay, if only to take photos of the intricate tapestries depicting the Book of Revelations.
Having got our fix of ornate carvings, stained glass windows and exquisite tapestries, we detoured back via the hotel to change clothes for our trip to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Once changed, we wandered back down the Royal Mile towards the Scottish Parliament. Dad was gobsmacked by the ugliness of the building, which cost a whopping £414 million to build (despite initial estimates suggesting it would cost between £10 and £40 million). We then rounded the corner to reach the South Gate of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and joined the queue, brollies at the ready.
After forty-minutes or so of sheltering under umbrellas, we were finally allowed in and told to make our way to our group; as I’d completed my award through the Duke of Edinburgh society at the University of Leeds, I was with others from West Yorkshire. Lots of chatting then ensued – one guy’s skill had been learning to juggle whilst riding a unicycle!
Eventually, everything went quiet and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh emerged from the palace. The National Anthem (or rather, part of it) was played, and HRH then proceeded to go round each group having a short chat – and even cracked a joke about how certificates were no longer framed as they’d run out of cash! After that, we had a group photograph followed by the presentation of the certificates by our VIP presenter, Claire Young. Afterwards, we had a brief wander round the gardens before leaving to seek shelter from the persistent rain in a nearby pub!
To round the day off, Dad and I then went to Maison de Moggy (17-19 West Port) – Scotland’s first ever cat café; Mum abstained from this visit as she’s allergic to cats. That hour spent stroking adorable, fluffy cats was an hour well spent. In keeping with the French name, each cat had a French prénom: Élodie, the only Sphynx cat in a European cat café; Alain and Amélie, the adorable ragdoll twins; Coco, the archetypal witch’s black cat; Guillaume, the regal-looking chinchilla Persian; Marcel and Philippe, the Bengal brothers; Sebastian, the crème de la crème of ginger pussycats; Jacques, a gorgeous pure-white Norwegian Forest cat; and Fabien, Jacques’ sibling and a handsome tawny-coloured Norwegian Forest cat. Since the cats are able to move between the café and a private space to the rear, they are in control of whether or not they want to be surrounded by excitable humans; when we visited, there were a few who were taking a catnap out of sight. Below, in order: Élodie, Marcel, Jacques, Fabien and Alain.
When our hour was up, we headed back to the hotel to change into dry clothes (and more importantly, dry shoes) before going out in search of tea. Luckily we didn’t have to go too far, venturing as far as Grassmarket before we spotted Petit Paris, a quintessentially French brasserie in the heart of Edinburgh’s old town. Nothing quite beats a good steak-frites and a tarte au chocolat!