A Photographer Abroad Day 10 and 11: York and Edinburgh

I have a bit of advice for people travelling travelling in the UK on Boxing Day: don’t. Sure, the streets are wide open (because all the locals are smart enough to avoid the Boxing Day sale insanity), but most places one visits along the way from London to Edinburgh are shut down. Not just the tourist spots, but the grocery stores and eateries, too.

So when we stopped in York on the way to Edinburgh, Clifford’s Tower was shut down.

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Clifford’s Tower is the only remaining keep of York Castle, built by William the Conqueror. We didn’t get to step inside (or even walk around it) because the gate was shut and we didn’t have a Fezzik to get the key… Beside the tower, there were parts of the original Roman wall amid the miles of wall–more than any other city in England. While the course of these walls has been altered through time, most sections are of historical significance.

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This was the beginning of my many encounters with stairs, each staircase reminding me how out of shape I am! I figured if the kids could do it, I could do it, so I soldiered on. While Jeremy, Julie, Emma, and Nevin climbed the staircase, I waited with Elsa, then we swapped!

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Because parking was so hard to come by, we weren’t able to stop at the chapel and I was forced to hold a “drive-by shooting”.

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York was our only interlude between Hertfordshire and Edinburgh. We were all thrilled to arrive–especially the kids! Nothing like two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living area after seven hours in a car! Jer and Julie smartly rented out an apartment instead of a hotel and I’m kind of a fan of the idea.

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The next day we knocked Edinburgh Castle off our list first. It was our first rainy day–it even flurried when we walked around the castle courtyard. E and N struggled to get to the top, but Elsa rolled with it…or let Jeremy carry her (in stroller) up the stairs to the top. That’s right, more stairs!!

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The fortress sits atop an extinct volcano, in a position so strategic that when the Scots rose to take it back from the English in 1314 (after numerous struggles back and forth), they were ordered to destroy it. Because of that attack, the only remaining original portion of the castle is St. Margaret’s Chapel. Many reconstructions and repurposing has left the castle in an altered state, but it was still beautiful and full of history. Parts of the fortress are still used for military purposes, though most have been decommissioned. Most notably and traditionally, a gun fires at 1300 daily (not on holidays!) so everyone within hearing range can make sure their watches are synchronized. This was more important when watches were less common or unreliable, but the practice continues to this day. I heard it today walking through downtown Edinburgh, though Jeremy missed it.

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My absolute favorite part of the tour was the Mary, Queen of Scots actor who held “court” in the great hall. She painted an eloquent verbal picture of what her court might have looked like, how she might have acted, what they ate, even how they danced!

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Emma was too shy to have her photo with the queen, but after seeing the crown jewels and getting a crown of her own, E experienced a change of heart. Too bad the queen had returned to her chambers!

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Daylight, while super bright, doesn’t last too long, and we were back to the apartment by dinnertime! That was fine by me, as my legs and face needed to thaw. Thank goodness for leggings, jeans, warm socks, jackets, scarves, gloves, boots, and layers in general!

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