This was a very fun and interesting day! We all slept in (except Brad). Dee Ann and I hoofed it over to the Royal Botanic Garden, which was lovely. They have a series of 10 glass houses that contain different climates with more than 3000 exotic plants. A few of the beautiful flowers we saw there:
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the whole garden, but it is FREE! so we can come back and explore more any time. We walked back and returned just in time for our rooftop tour of St. Giles Cathedral. This cathedral is just next door to our apartment. Stephen, an economic historian, was our guide and was very informative and helpful. He first gave us a very brief overview of the history of the cathedral, focusing on the architecture of the roofs, since that’s where we were heading. We then went up the 97 steps to the top, where we had beautiful views over parts of the city. From there we were able to enter the bell tower. That was quite interesting, and the bells rang while we were in the tower.
We headed back across the way to our apartment and settled in for the Edinburgh Riding of the Marches. Dee Ann, Hal and Brad had a drink and some snacks downstairs, while I stayed in the apartment and looked out the window while waiting.
We had no idea when we booked this apartment what a great vantage point this would be for the event (we didn’t know about the event until a couple of days ago!). Much better than at the bar downstairs, so everyone eventually made their way back. Crowds started lining the streets about three hours ahead of the riding (they were expecting about 10,000), and there were a few bands and processions to keep all entertained during the wait.
So, you ask, what is Riding of the Marches? It is a parade of over 250 horses up the Royal Mile led by the Edinburgh Captain and the Edinburgh Lass. The Captain is charged by the Lord Provost with inspecting of the city boundaries. This is now a symbolic tradition that represents the inspection of common lands that dates back at least to the 15th century. At the end, the Captain announced that the people of Edinburgh were sound and the borders were safe, the flag was unsullied and some other things that I didn’t write down. Then the horses left and the street sweepers came by to clean up and everyone disbursed pretty quickly. I posted a very short video of the horses marching by on my Facebook page, if you want to get a sense of what it was like. What a wonderful surprise finding for our visit to this lovely city.
We took a little break from all the activity for an hour, and then it was out again. St. Giles Cathedral (next door) hosts free concerts at 6PM on Sundays, so we headed over there. The performance was by a string quartet named The Routes Quartet. They are a combination of classical and folk music. If you want to hear a sample, they have a song posted on their web page: http://www.routesstringquartet.com. This selection is the first one they played for the concert, which lasted an hour.
As I write this, Brad has headed off to bed, and Dee Ann and Hal went to find a pub for local folks that was recommended by someone on the plane. All in all, a quite varied day!