Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hogmanay in Edinburgh

After the thrill of seeing some red squirrels, it was with heavy hearts that we packed our bags and prepared to leave Inverness. We had spent a week in the Highlands, and it was now time to make our way to Edinburgh for Hogmanay (New Year). We took a gamble and drove the long but scenic way, via Fraserburgh. 

A strange sight in Fraserburgh
Adam's Mum mentioned that his Great-Great-Grandmother came from that part of Scotland, so we decided to see if we could find the house she grew up in. The address we had led us to the house on the left (below). We couldn't tell if it had been re-clad, or if it was a new house, but we assumed that the house on the right was more likely to be an original style. It was an interesting design, and almost seemed to have sunk into the ground over the years, although it might just have been a very low house in order to give it some element of shelter from the howling winds that came from the sea, just across the road. 

It was a quaint wee village which looked relatively unaltered by the passage of time. We felt privileged to think we might have seen the very house that Adam's relatives inhabited over 130 years ago, and walked on the sea-wall across the road that Great-Great-Grandmother may have played on as a child.  

The drive from Fraserburgh to Edinburgh seemed to drag on forever, and we were glad to arrive at our hotel - even if we were greeted by an extremely fierce wind in Edinburgh. (The gale in Edinburgh could put a Canterbury nor' wester to shame...)

The next morning was Hogmanay, and we decided to explore Edinburgh. We got to cross the harbour three times that day, so Adam was rather excited about that as there was a rather impressive bridge to drive on.

When we got into Edinburgh the streets were pretty quiet, possibly because it was FREEZING outside. After checking out some local attractions, we did what we do best - found a hipster cafe and ordered flat whites.

Mmmm.... coffee....
Just before Adam and I got married, my close friend Helen moved to Edinburgh, where she stayed for three years and worked for much of that time at the botanic gardens. I decided that it would be a good idea to visit Helen's workplace, even if we were about three and a half years too late to visit Helen herself. 

We had a wee look around the gardens, but soon made our way to the cafe where we hunkered down and warmed ourselves with large bowls of soup. (Not literally) It was a bit of a shame to have visited Scotland in Winter, as everything was so darned cold that we felt we couldn't spend as much time enjoying things as we would have liked. The botanic gardens were lovely, and they have a great view over Edinburgh, but it was just too cold to explore much of the complex. We soon realised that it was going to be a very long day if we were to see the Hogmanay fireworks that evening, which were to be let off from the Castle, so we got back in the car and went to find our hotel, which was across the Firth of Forth, so that I could have a nana nap. 

After dinner, we crossed the Forth once again, and parked up near the botanic gardens and waited. And waited. And waited. We thought about going to have a drink in a pub, but when people have been drinking since 3 in the afternoon, it's not much fun to join them at 10pm when they're all past their best! At least it was nice and warm in the car, and we enjoyed seeing the fireworks at 9, 10, and 11pm. Soon after 11, we began the trek into the centre of Edinburgh, and nabbed a viewing spot to await the midnight fireworks. We were surprised at how quiet the streets were - compared to New Years Eve in London, where the public viewing areas were mostly full at 5pm, and the leftover places full by 9pm!! We soon realised that the Scots' plan was to stay in the pub until 11.55, then pour out into the streets to watch the fireworks, then disappear back into the pubs! 

The fireworks were great, although that nasty wind blew them away quickly. One minor disappointment was that nobody linked arms and sang 'auld lang syne', which was one thing I was really looking forward to - they just came out for the fireworks, stood and watched quietly, and disappeared straight afterwards. However, we stayed and soaked up the atmosphere afterwards for a bit, as it didn't really feel right for the evening to finish like that. As we were watching everyone leave, a guy came up beside us and started playing the bagpipes. It was the perfect end to the evening, and a wee group of us stood around and watched, while some people danced to the music. After three or four songs, the piper turned and walked down the hill behind, playing as he walked. A group of about 50 of us turned and followed him. It was a most surreal and lovely thing to follow the bagpipe music down the hill, all of us like the rats - or children - of Hamlin, following their piper. He really made the evening for us.

The next morning we began the eight hour drive back to our house in Kent. We stopped at the border and waved a fond farewell to bonnie Scotland, and just as we crossed into England, dark clouds filled the sky.

Ominous England?

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