My early-morning flight from SFO to ORD would give me plenty of time for the connection to the two-class 757 connecting flight that would depart at around 8 pm Central Time for the 7-hour flight to Edinburgh. I had lots of time to hang out in the United Global First Lounge at ORD. Fortunately, my inbound and outbound flights were using the same terminal, and they were also the same as the lounge location.
This would also be my first time using a single-aisle aircraft to make an international trip. I have flown internationally-configured 757 aircraft many times (United p.s. transcontinental flights), and the flight length is only about an hour longer. But still, it seemed too small a cabin to be in for such a long flight.
in he end, it was fine. The overnight flight did not allow much time to sleep, given time taken for takeoff, dinner, and pre-arrival meal. I maybe had 1.5 hours sleep -- much less than even I thought I would get.
We landed at around 8 am. The Edinburgh Airport is a significantly smaller facility than Heathrow in London. It does not handle any super-large jets. So passport control processing was fairly quick. I only had carry-on baggage, so I was out of Arrivals and in search of my train into town. earlier int he summer, Edinburgh just opened part of its new light-rail system, which included a direct route from the airport into central Edinburgh. From the airport zone, it would be a £5 ticket, or for £9, I could ride all transit in Edinburgh until the end of the transit day. And my hotel would be only a block or so from the station. It was about a 5 minute walk to the station, and there were automated ticket machines (that take credit cards). You are issued a paper ticket that you have to show to fare inspectors whenever asked (which was every time you rode the train or boarded a bus).
It only took about 25 minutes to reach the Haymarket stop, which is also a secondary heavy rail station and where the Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor Hotel is located. As is usually the case, a morning attempt to check in doesn't usually yield a room yet. So, I checked in my bag and headed off to explore the city. I hopped back onto the light-rail and continued the route in toward the center. First landmark I hit was the Sir Walter Scott Memorial.
|The Queen is exiting the Cathedral in the ceremonial robes.|
|The Queen in entering her limousine.|
|I had tea in the Yellow Room.|
|Free refills on the scones were offered!|
The next day was going to be a bit more busy than I had originally planned. I also was going to compete a little with the forecasted weather (a bit of rain later in the afternoon). I chose to start of with a visit to Edinburgh Castle right when they opened. I bought a transit pass for the day, since I would be traveling around town a bit (£3.50 from vending machines). I noticed that there were no signs about closed off areas nor restrictions on backpack sizes today. I went back into the office and they activated my Explorer Pass, which works much like a rail pass, where the activation date is noted and you mark of the the subsequently used days.
|View towards the New Town|
Stirling Castle is where many Stewarts had stayed while they ruled Scotland. Important battles against the English were fought here. From the train station, it is about a 15-minute walk generally upwards towards the castle grounds. The train turnstiles will keep your ticket when you exit the station. There are several maps along the route, so it is easy to find your way to the castle.
|View of an important battlefield|
|There was one tower with stairs to climb to the top.|
Linlithgow Castle was in a country location and served as a royal palace and convenient stopping point between Edinburgh and Stirling. It was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. It ceased being a royal palace when James VI of Scotland was crowned James I of England and he moved the court to London.
On returning, I exited at Haymarket Station since it was closer to my hotel than the main train station at Waverley. I had enough time to rest, shower and then head off to my planned dinner at a place called Castle Terrace.
It turned out that the Castle Terrace Restaurant, located at the foot of the Edinburgh Castle Hill, was a little walk or a short bus ride from my hotel. It serves local ingredients prepared using modernist techniques.
|Salmon tartar with wasabi sorbet|
|Diver scallop and onion tart|
|Peach and hibiscus dessert|
|You are allowed to climb to to top of one of the towers.|
|View of Trimountain on the way to Alnwick Castle|
On our drive back to Edinburgh, we took the coastal route and made a quick stop at Holy Island. It's famous for how much the tide changes and how very quickly it can do it. We arrived at low tide.
On my final full day in Edinburgh, the Palace of Holyroodhouse would be open for touring (now that the Queen had departed Edinburgh). A ticket entitles you to visit the Royal Apartments of the Palace (free audio guide) and a free guided tour of the Abbey ruins. Again, no photos are allowed from inside the palace building. If you purchase your ticket directly from the Royal Collection Trust (the Palace is not part of the Explorer Pass), it will be valid for a year. So you can return within that period of time, show your ID that matches you with your signature on the ticket, and gain entrance again for free.
|Just a nice view of Castle Hill|
|The ruins of the Abbey intersect with the palace building.|
|Exterior forecourt view|
|View of Waverley Station, Calton Hill from near Holyrood.|
|Live music came from above.|
|My duck and citrus appetizer.|