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davidx Edinburgh - A travel report by David
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Edinburgh,  United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom
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davidx's travel reports

Edinburgh – and Rugby (work out the connection)

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What connection can there be between the capital of Scotland and an industrial town in the English Midlands? None, as far as I know, but Rugby is not just a place or just a game but two games. report of the month contest
Apr 2009

Debating Chamber of Scottish Parliament
Debating Chamber of Scottish Parliament
My son had arranged a weekend in Edinburgh with some fellow Rugby League enthusiasts. I shall give a brief description of the main differences between the two forms of Rugby in a later section but one strange fact is that Rugby League has no major following at all in Scotland – yet on the May Day weekend all 14 teams in the Super League were playing at Murrayfield, Scotland's grand international Rugby Union stadium. One of Guy's friends had to be in Hong Kong in connection with his work so I was recruited to fill the gap. A long weekend in one of Europe's finest cities and the chance to watch any I wanted from seven matches was too good to resist.

I loved both the city – which I had only seen on day trips before - and the Rugby. Here I concentrate on the first. I don't know how much our non-UK members know about government here but the facts in brief are that Scotland was a separate country from England until their King James VI became our James I in 1606 and the Scottish Parliament abolished itself in 1707. By the late 1990s, Scotland had separate ministers responsible for such matters as education and health. Scotland then became self-governing with its own Parliament. There are still Scottish MPs at Westminster (London) and the UK government still controls defence and foreign affairs and most tax. (as far as I can make out, this makes Scotland roughly equivalent to a US State.) They have always had their own laws and legal structure.

Our first visit was to the Parliament Building, purpose built after a competition between architects' submissions. I found friday afternoon a ggod time for the visit, as there was no debate and so the chamber could be photographed. The chamber was as striking as I had expected from TV but I had not realised quite how much the Parliament Building should perhaps be called Buildings as there are several. At the risk of upsetting Scottish members, I found that a bit of a straggle.

Favourite spots:
Pawpaws in a glasshouse
Pawpaws in a glasshouse
Much as I like the Royal Mile, my favourite has to be the Royal Botanical Gardens, where we went on the Sunday morning. Aparently it dates from the 17th century when it was strted as a 'physic grden' on a patch of land the size of a tennis court, the second oldest in the UK. There have been two moves to reach its present site, which occupies 31 hectares – whatever that means. Anyway it's big – and FREE although there is a charge for entry to the wonderful glass houses. The palm house is claimed to be Europe's tallest. Sadly palms cannot be topped and must be felled when they reach the roof.
Outside the glass houses, features include an arboretum, alpines, a rock garden, a woodland garden, a Scottish heath garden, peat walls and a Chinese hillside. There is also a very good cafeteria, where we enjoyed lunch before heading for four Rugby League matches.

What's really great:
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle
The Royal Mile extends from Edinburgh Castle at the top to Holyrood house and the Parliament Building(s) at the bottom. It contains St Giles Cathedral, John Knox House, (nothing t do with the famous protestant reformer of that name), a fine tenement building called Gladstone Lawn (not WE Gladstone but a Scottish merchant}, owned by the National Trust for Scotland and housing some outstanding furniture, numerous six-storied 17th century buildings and a particularly good (and FREE) museum of Childhood.

The history of the Gladstone's Land building is representative of the history of the Royal Mile itself. Started in the 16th century as a much smaller building, it was extended by Gladstone in the 17th and became much more upper middle class. Then in the 18th century, the wealthy moved to the new city and the Mile started on a downhill path with ruthless landlords exploiting poorer and poorer people over time.

(Continued in 'sights')

St Giles Cathedral
St Giles Cathedral
(Royal Mile continued)

In the 1930s Gladstone's Land was condemned by the City Council as a lodging place on the grounds of terrible overcrowding. Fortunately somebody realised its potential and gave it to the National Trust for Scotland. Now the Royall Mile is a very up-market address

St Giles Cathedral is the centre of the Church of Scotland, a pesbyterian church quite distinct from the Church of England (known north of the border as the Episcopal Church of Scotalnd.) I found its exterior magnificent rather than delightful but the Thistle Chapel within is another story. The Order of the Thistle is Scotland's highest Order of Chivalry (equivalent to the Garter in England) and this is their chapel with coats of arms of the members and wonderful carvings at the end of all seats.

John Knox House has nothing to do with the proptestant reformer but is the oldest house in the street and would bear a visit. On the other side is a splendid Childhood Museum – FREE.

Just a flower!
Just a flower!
We stayed in a self-catering apartment on the first floor of one of the splendid six storey tenements overlooking the top end of the Royal Mile. Floors are joined by a tight spiral staircase with a rope bannister.
The living room, bathroom and principal bedroom were all spacious and extremely good. The kitchen was quite adequate. However the smaller bedroom was the reverse of spacious with minimal storage facilities and presumably it was expected to be used mainly by young children. This room was OK for us for 3 nights but it would not be suitable for adults for a longer time.
The position is spectacularly good.

Holyrood House
Holyrood House
Holyrood House at the bottom of the Royal Mile is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland, and is noted for its history as the home for a time of Mary, Queen of Scots. Through her first marriage Mary was Queen of France as well and she was the Roman Catholic claimant to the throne of England. Her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England, had her executed – bloody times!

Here I find a chance for a quick mention of Arthur's Seat and other hills up from Holyrood and the Parliament Building, hills that do much to make Edinburgh the spectacular city that it is. Too high for me now but I can still recommend.

Even a has-been or more properly a never-really-was like me can see when nearly every pub in the Royal Mile has live music and stays open late but the Rugby went on until 9p.m. so by the time we got back, I was ready to stay in.

Here beginneth a brief and simplified lesson on Rugby Football. It is one of the variants of football in which handling of the ball is allowed. It is said that carrying the ball first happened illegally at Rugby School in 1859. (I wouldn't know – I was not there!) This was Rugby Union but in 1922 the northern clubs broke away to form their own game of Rugby League.

For many years RU was regarded as a game of gentlemen played at Public Schools – RL was a very working class game – and proud of it! Antipathy largely ended with the professionalisation of RU. Neither game needs the segregation of fans common in soccer.

Principal differences: RU has 15 players; RL has 13. (2 back row forwards less.)

In RL the side with possession of the ball has it for six tackles – so that often after the fifth the ball is kicked upfield; in RU possession is retained until the ball is lost in a tackle, kicked away or there is some infringement of the rules.

In the Thistle Chapel
In the Thistle Chapel
Anyone who cannot find somewhere to suit in Edinburgh for eating must be either incredibly fussy or incredibly incompetent! It's worth looking around however because prices vary dramatically. Without looking at realy expensive places, we saw haggis and neeps for nearly £10, bought some ourselves at the 'Ensign Ewart' for £6-75 and watched our friends enjoying some in the grassmarket area next day for £5.70.
This area was once the site of public executions but now provides a really peaceful square ful of eating places – with a great view of the castle above.

Other recommendations:
View from a tourist bus
View from a tourist bus
Scrums, where all the forwards bend and push each other are ar more common and important in RU, which consequently has more rules and more interruptions. RU has lineouts – rows of opposing forwards in parallel lines in from the touch line and there is a throw in whenever the ball goes into touch. In RL the ball is kicked for the start of six tackles in field from where it went into touch.
In both games any player in front of the ball is off-side and must not interfere with play. Hence the ball can only be passed to a member of the same side backwards.

This is a chance to comment on the tourist buses of Edinburgh. There are four separate routes, one even going to the berth of the Royal Yacht Britannia, now decommissioned as a floating museum in the Firth of Forth. Each costs about £12 for a hop-on-and-off ticket but £15 entitles you to a grand ticket where you can hop on and off any of the four routes for 24 hours – good value if you are not going to watch Rugby.

Published on Friday May 8th, 2009

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Sat, Jun 27 2009 - 06:27 AM rating by gloriajames

Congrats on ROM!!
5* for the great report & pics & the report title, caught my attention

Mon, Jun 15 2009 - 09:30 AM rating by jorgesanchez

A masterpiece. Well deserved RoM.

Sat, May 16 2009 - 07:51 AM rating by mistybleu

Excellent report and a really enjoyable read.

Thu, May 14 2009 - 03:43 AM rating by bineba

This report reminded me of why I would like to go back to Edinburgh one day - it's a great city! It must be about 20 years since I was there.
Never got into rugby (or cricket) despite having lived in this country for nearly a quarter of a century, but I love my football!

Mon, May 11 2009 - 11:51 PM rating by louis

Great report David, it was a pleasure to read it.

Sat, May 09 2009 - 02:03 AM rating by pesu

Thanks, David, for this very informative report. Unfortunately I am totally clueless about Rugby... I like the pics, too!

Sat, May 09 2009 - 01:40 AM rating by krisek

David, you are back in big style! So many great facts - I did not know about the Rugby Football...

Fri, May 08 2009 - 01:09 PM rating by eirekay

David, terrific report as always. The Grand Ticket is great advice! What a deal!

Fri, May 08 2009 - 11:36 AM rating by porto

David, Top Drawer report and pics,well done.

Fri, May 08 2009 - 11:21 AM rating by jacko1

A well written and informative report David, even for us natives of the UK, very well composed.

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