Sunday, 28 October 2012

Edinburgh in 48 Hours

First I have a confession to make. I went all the way to Edinburgh last week, spent nearly 48 hours there and in that time didn't set foot in a single library. I did buy a very smart dress from The Library Room in Debenhams  but I'm not sure this counts as genuine library research. Therefore I am officially a bad librarian!

I was in Edinburgh for the 12th Scottish E-Books Conference. I'm not going to write much about it here, I'll be doing a proper article for a newsletter. I did enjoy it immensely, especially a very interesting talk over lunch about the feasibility of a national e-lending service that authorities could buy into. 
I also bumped into an old library school friend, one I hadn't seen since the course ended nearly seven years ago. I must apologise again for not recognising you John. Don't take it personally, I'm well known for my terrible memory for faces. Anyway, a coffee turned into a beer, a beer turned into dinner at The Cafe Royal and the result was a very enjoyable evening with someone who it turns out has a very similar job to my own. 

I'd taken Friday off work  to see Edinburgh proper and had promised myself I'd run Arthur's Seat before checking out of my hotel. Despite a slight hangover I made it out of bed in plenty of time and set off to blow the cobwebs away. My route took me down the Royal Mile, past the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace, up the Radical Road and on to Arthur's Seat proper via some stone steps. I won't even pretend I ran all of it, it was a hard slog not made any easier by the early onset of winter. However the view from the top was well worth the effort, as was the easy downhill jog through Holyrood Park. 
After getting back and defrosting with the help of a shower I set off to explore Edinburgh proper. I didn't have a particular plan for the day but soon found myself at The National Gallery where I immediately sort out the Turner's. I also discovered the Scottish Impressionist, William McTaggart, who impressed me with a storm swept seascape. You'd need more time than I had to do the galleries justice, I could only afford a fleeting visit before I left. I did however take time to visit the neighboring Royal Scottish Academy which is currently exhibiting Of Natural and Mystic Things, a suitably ghoulish exhibition for this time of year. Many of the pieces would have looked perfect in a Victorian Cabinet of Curiosities including a mix of science, mythology and nature. If you lean more towards modern art I would take the time to pop in if you are passing. It's just round the corner from one of the open top tour stops and is worth a visit even if your time is limited. 

Afterwards I treated myself to lunch at The Dome, recommended by one of the suppliers the day before. I was quite taken a back by the extravagance of the Christmas decorations considering it was still October but regardless found the converted bank worth a visit due to it's classic architecture. I enjoyed my glass of fizz and food but found the service left a bit to be desired. Don't get me wrong, the team were professional, just not particularly attentive - something I have found all to common when eating alone.

From here I did a bit of shopping, picking up a lovely dress from Debenhams. (I was tempted by a tartin number but thought I might regret once back over the border) I then took the Edinburgh open top bus tour. The one I choose had live commentary and although it is difficult to compare (having not taken the equivalent in Edinburgh) having previously taken a couple of others with recorded commentary thought that I preferred the latter.

The tours are an excellent way to see the city and I did learn a lot about the history of Edinburgh. I just wish I had had more time to listen to  some of the alternative commentary,  available on the same bus. However having done a complete circuit I made my final stop the Castle which I had decided I wanted to see before I caught my train. If you are going to visit yourself make sure you take the time to wait for one of the guided tours which will explain the main layout and history before allowing plenty of time to see all the museums. 

Easily my favorite part was the National War Memorial. I challenge anyone not to be moved by this somber place of remembrance which will hopefully remind all who visit of the ultimate sacrifice made in the past and present. I was also drawn to the contemplative space of St Margaret's Chapel, in fact much more so than any of the other exhibits in the various museums around the castle proper. The exception to this was the National War Museum of Scotland which was well laid out and included the everyday detail and commentary that I always find intriguing when studying the past. There is currently an moving exhibition called Reconstructing Lives that traces the history of prosthetics, geared no doubt towards this years Olympics and the many ex-military personal who have competed successfully after suffering disabling injuries. However the whole museum was fascinating and must be even more so for anyone with more than my tiny knowledge of Scottish history. If your time is limited at the castle make sure you make this a priority.

All of this was done in one day so I was very glad to get on the train and snooze. Hopefully I will be able to go back and visit again sometime as there was so much I didn't have time to see. Maybe I'll have to go to the 13th E-books conference next year. 

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