So, Scotland is really made for cars it appears…as my adventure on Sunday proved. My first stop was Linlithgow Castle, the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots and an easy train ride from Edinburgh. I really do love trains. Before entering the castle area is a beautiful fountain. Then there is a gorgeous church, which I attended a service in before going into the castle. Finally I went into the actual palace, which a ruin. It is a gorgeous ruin and because no royals live in it at all, you can explore more or less to your heart’s desire. I was happy as a clam and I explored every corner of this castle. There was a group of Spanish tourists who spoke no English and I was translating some of the signs for them. One of the ladies was sweet and offered to take a picture for me. More than llamas at this stop. I went up Queen Mary’s stair to a wonderful little tower that lets you sit at the top of the castle. I ate my lunch there. All in all, this castle gets top marks for just letting you explore, although I would have liked a bit more signage or else a free guided tour or really any guided tour option. I had so much fun imagining how these rooms might have looked.
Next stop: Hopetoun House. Now I had noted that the brochure only gave directions by car and the internet informed it would be a bit of a walk, but only 7 minutes (lies). When I asked the clerk at Linlithgow Castle his response was. oh, I think that is for cars, but here is the bus that will get you closest. I got on the bus. The bus driver then proceeded to let me off way too early…like 3 miles too early and to direct me to walk in the wrong direction towards the Hopetoun farm shop. But I wasn’t sure and either way I was walking without a sidewalk on a busy road. So I walked towards civilization. After about a 2 mile walk in the wrong direction and an intimate acquaintance with some Scottish thistle (surely that makes this worthwhile!) a nice lady who had pulled over at a turnoff asked me
if I needed help to which I said, do you have a map or any idea of how to get to Hopetoun House? She turned out to be on holiday looking for a place she had never been, so she was happy to help me out. She drove me right up to the gates! Saving me what would have been about a 6 mile walk…
I’ll return to my way back to Edinburgh later, but for now enjoy my description of the gorgeous stately home of the Earls of Hope. First I want to note that the arms of this family include a rainbow over a globe.
The house was built in the 1600s but has a very interesting history because just as the center of the house was completed for a very well-off merchant family, the head of the family became an earl and the gorgeous, but not nearly big enough house that had just been completed had to be expanded to be worthy of an Earl and the present fashion of the Grand Tour. It is a massive and elegant structure that truly melds the two pieces of the house beautifully. The ladies there were very helpful and answered all the questions I could possibly imagine. The home is still lived in, in the wing we can’t go into. I got some great views of the grounds from the roof as well. While I was there I went of a tour about the visit of King George IV to the estate. This particular visit is important and commemorated all over Scotland because he was the first sitting sovereign to come to Scotland for approx. 150 years. The tour was short but informative. When I asked about other tours they did, apparently this Sunday is going to be the tour about the textiles in the house and the lady who does it was there that day. So…I gleefully interrogated her about the textiles and it was fabulous.
Now about getting back to Edinburgh…so first off I walked the about 2.5 miles back to a bus stop on a true country road. It was a rather pretty walk, so I don’t begrudge it too much. I had a view of a river and beach to my left and no cars splattered me with water. As I walked I ate the snacks secreted in my purse and was largely content. However, the bus to pick me up after a half hour wait was none other than my bus driver from before who informed that contrary to the signage, no more buses were going to Linlithgow and therefore my train today. He was willing to take me without paying a fare to the end of the line where we could consult with other bus drivers as to the best way to get me there. This was about 15 minutes. He then spoke to two other drivers and I said I really just wanted to get back to Edinburgh and Linlithgow was just how I got here. So I ended up taking 45 min bus ride back to Edinburgh. Conclusion: Take a car to Hopetoun House. The house was worth the effort to get there however.
After some more wandering about Edinburgh and a good dinner I headed back to my hostel. The next morning I popped my TARDIS into the storage at the train station and went to see the Britannia, the last royal yacht of the British Royals. It was so much fun to see how the etiquette of the royals is adapted to the sea. For example, sailors on the royal decks often did not wear their caps, thereby not being in uniform which means that the Royal Family did not need to offer endless salutes to them. It was also interesting to see how people adapted to the small spaces of a ship.
Finally I took the bus back to the Royal Mile and took a meander through St Giles’ Cathedral, this time getting the pass to take pictures. The Chapel of the Order of the Thistle is simply amazing. The woodcarving is a joy to look at and as before the guide in there was informative and friendly. Finally I got on the bus to the airport and was on my way to Dublin, Ireland!