Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 21: Lewis Chessmen and Arthur's Seat

Wednesday started with a hopeful sliver of sunshine peering through the clouds as Holly and I left Dalkeith in the morning. By the time we got into Edinburgh, it was full-on cloudy, but we didn't think too much of it. After all, we were headed into the National Museum of Scotland, where we spent a while in their current Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked exhibit. Have I mentioned before how much I love the Lewis Chessmen? Luckily Holly shares my enthusiasm, and we enjoyed the exhibit (and gift shop) immensely.

We finished up with the Lewis Chessmen around lunchtime, and we headed down the Royal Mile to a fantastic little place my aunt recommended back when my parents and I first visited Edinburgh during my semester abroad. The place is called Chocolate Soup, and they are known for their thick hot chocolates. We each indulged in a hot chocolate--mine with marshmallows, of course!--and muffin for lunch.

The sugar in the meal was probably a good idea, considering that next we decided, despite the continuing overcast skies, we would climb Arthur's Seat, a 251 metre peak right in Old Town, as we had originally planned. We decided to climb even when we couldn't actually see the summit because of the low mist:

It turned out, as we kept climbing, that it actually started to rain. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my mom and dad for getting me that waterproof jacket before I left for this trip; really, thank you, it made a huge difference. Holly and I kept climbing, the rain kept coming down, occasionally the wind would blow quite a bit so that we could see the mist moving around us...
Then, after climbing up a whole lot of stone steps, none of which were of uniform size and all of which were slightly slippery due to the wet conditions, we reached a high spot. The mist was pretty darn thick at this point, but standing where we were, we could not see any place that was higher than where we were currently standing. If all other directions are downwards, one must be at the top, right? Well, as it turns out, while we were enjoying the non-view and trying to find our path back down, two other climbers came into our little peak. I asked if there was a path the way they had come; they said yes, the path to the summit. I said, "This isn't the top?!?"; they said no and directed us toward the real summit. At least our little break at the pseudo-summit (Arthur's Ottoman?) gave us energy to reach the real top.

Ah, the real top of Arthur's Seat. Apparently there's an easy climb from a pretty easy path that gets you right to the top. Unfortunately for Holly and me, with all of the mist we couldn't see said easy path to climb, and instead we carefully climbed up a rocky area. We did finally make it to the top, though! We saw the two stone markers signifying the peak, and tried to get a picture of ourselves there without subjecting cameras to too much rain:

See how it's so misty that it's like we're at the edge of the world? Yeah, it was like that for all of the climb down. And see how we're both pretty much drenched? Again, it was like that the whole climb down. Once again, apparently there is a nicely sloping, well gravelled trail leading from the summit back down; we did not find this trail. The end result was that, by very carefully making our way downward and slipping only a few times, we did finally make it down to the bottom again, entirely unscathed if you don't count a bit of soreness from the whole climb. We figure, not many people can say that they climbed the rugged trail up and down Arthur's Seat in mist so thick there was literally no view from the top. Now we have a good story.

We made the slow and damp walk back to the train station in central Edinburgh to meet another IU library student who happens to be in the UK this summer, and with whom Holly is traveling over the mini-break. After she checked into her hotel, the three of us walked up the Royal Mile until we were hungry and had found a pub that looked good. Can I just say that Scottish steak pie, complete with puff pastry crust, mash, and steamed broccoli on the side is a wonderful warm remedy for a damp but pleasant afternoon? Minus the fact that my feet were sloshing about in my shoes, I was quite happy.

A hot shower also felt great upon my return to Dalkeith Palace, where I'll stay until tomorrow morning when I go back into town to catch my train to Bath, where I'll be spending my mini-break. I'm not sure when I'll be able to get to a computer, so I might not update very frequently over the next few days. Rest assured, however, that I'll fill you in on all my mini-break adventures in good time.


  1. I'm glad the jacket worked out so well. I wish I was there to have a hot chocolate with you. Have fun in Bath!

  2. That hot chocolate looks amazing! Also -- good job on the cliff climbing! :)