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Yesterday (got in too late to write this up), I went to the National Museum of Scotland, the Scotch Whiskey Experience, and Edinburgh Castle.  Found a couple of other things along the way.

Yesterday morning, I set off for central Edinburgh to find myself a phone SIM for my week here.  As it turns out, I can hang on to this one, as I’ll be able to use it again when I’m in London at the end of August!  Across the street from the 3 store was the National Museum of Scotland, with free admission.  Well, who am I to say no to free?

The museum had a lot of classical works from the renaissance period, many depicting the various milestones of the life of Jesus Christ.  I noticed that most of the art was oil on canvas or oil on copper.  Some of them were upwards of 6 or 7 feet in width.  I’m trying to wrap my head around the work that went into using such a large canvas, and how one manages to do composition for such a large work.  They had a rather large portrait gallery, mostly of people I’ve never heard of.  I think that part of the museum was closed for construction, as there was an entire level that we weren’t allowed to visit and there was scaffolding on the outside.

After the museum, I made my way up the road (literally UP, sidewalks with handrails) to the Royal Mile, an old road which connects Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace and is one Scots mile long (slightly more than an English mile).  The road is lined with shops and is now pretty much aimed at tourists, but you could still see a lot of the age of the buildings, especially if you went through one of the alleys.  My next destination was on the Royal Mile, and happened to be right across the street from where I entered it.

The Scotch Whiskey Experience is a tour through the process of making scotch whiskey.  They also have a presentation on the different major areas that scotch whiskey comes from within Scotland, and the different flavors that come out of each geographical area.  For instance, I learned that I prefer scotch whiskey from the Speyside region, which has an amber color, and flavors of fruits and tends to be relatively mellow and sweet.  The tour includes a ride, not unlike the Disneyland Haunted Mansion, where it takes you through the whole process of how whiskey is made.  The tour included tastings from the four major regions of Scotland: Lowland, Highland, Speyside, and Islay.  It also included a display of what is supposedly the world’s largest private collection of whiskey, just shy of 3,000 bottles total.

Across the street from the Scotch Whiskey Experience was a tartan making shop where I could see the machines and people in action working on making tartan cloth to sell in their shop.  It’s a pretty interesting process to watch.  Getting to the making of part requires walking through a fair few shops first, but I made it out with only a set of MacInnes cufflinks.  MacInnes was my father’s mother’s maiden name, and I think the clan I can most closely associate to.  I also found kid-sized sets of bagpipes and have threatened to pick up a set for a friend back home, but haven’t actually done so yet.  His wife would probably kill me.

After the tartan shop, I made my way up (more) hill to Edinburgh Castle.  I visited the Scottish War Museum where they had on display the kit that they’d set soldiers up with throughout the centuries.  I have a new appreciation for the work that the people that play military at Dickens Fair put in to making their costumes accurate.  I spent probably 2-3 hours walking around the castle, seeing as much as I could.  One of the best bits was seeing the Honours of Scotland, which used to belong to whomever sat upon the throne of Scotland, but now belong to the people.  I was surprised to see what good condition they were in (even with some refurbishing) after having been locked away for 111 years.  The views from the castle were spectacular, as it is up on the top of a hill, overlooking all of Edinburgh.  The only higher point I could see nearby was Arthur’s Seat, but that wouldn’t have been a good place to put a castle.

After the castle, I found myself some (late) lunch and decided to go on one of the ghost tours of old Edinburgh that I’d seen flyers for.  I went on the “Ghosts & Gore” tour by the Cadies and Witchery Tours group, led by the ghost of Alexander Clapperton.  It was about an hour and a half long and our ghost host had lots of stories to tell us about some of the less pleasant aspects of city life in the 18th century.  The “scary” part was his partner sneaking up on the group at each stop, making a bunch of noise to try to scare us, then joining the host to give us more flavor of each story.  It was a two-man crew, the host, and the scarer who kept showing up in new costumes.  It was a fun little tour, and would probably be more scary for a younger audience (we were almost entirely a group of adults), the jokes were terrible (as I love them), and the hosts were nice guys.

After that, I decided to make my way back home as it was almost 10pm already!  Watched the first episode of Burn Notice with my flatmates, and found my bed.

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