Royal Princess Port of Call: Edinburgh #TuesdayTravels

The second port of call for my British Isles cruise on the Royal Princess was Edinburgh, Scotland. (The first port of call was Le Havre, France, but since we opted for the Normandy shore excursion, I’m saving that port for Veteran’s Day week.)

Royal Princess

Royal Princess at anchor

Edinburgh was one of our two tender ports, so we anchored at South Queensferry, then got on the ship’s tenders or a local boat for a short ride to and from shore. That day, the crew members who saw us off and took photos were dressed in Hogwarts-style robes. (They often dressed up in costumes appropriate to the port of call.) Our motorcoach awaited for the tour of Edinburgh and a stop at majestic Edinburgh Castle. First we drove through Edinburgh’s Georgian New Town, built in the 18th century. I love the clean symmetry of Georgian architecture.

Edinburgh New Town

Georgian architecture

Then we came to Edinburgh’s Old Town and drove as far up the hill as possible toward the castle. Then it was time to get out and hoof it on up to the entrance. Some of the people on the bus were unable to go any further, and there was little help for the disabled. (From what I can tell, the UK doesn’t have a law requiring access for disabled people like we do in the States.) I’ll admit that it was quite a hike up to the castle. The Medieval Scots believed in holding the high ground.

Edinburgh skyline, with the Castle atop the volcanic Castle Rock dominating the city.

Edinburgh skyline, with the Castle atop the volcanic Castle Rock dominating the city.

The tour guide told a story of how the castle was once taken, thanks to a young soldier who had once been stationed there and new a back way down the cliffs which he had used to visit his girlfriend in town. He showed the attackers the way up the cliff and they surprised the garrison and captured it. Love stories like that.

Entrance to Edinburgh CastleThe city was crowded with tourists so it was slow going through the castle. However, the line to see the Crown Jewels moved pretty quickly, so we got to see the crown and sceptre. The views from the castle are amazing.

Crowds at Edinburgh CastleMy favorite part of the castle is probably the dog cemetery. Yep, for reals, they set aside a spot where the residents of the castle can bury their loyal canine companions.

View from Castle

Looking down on the Dog Cemetery at Edinburgh Castle with vista of city and Firth of Forth in the distance.

Greyfriars Bobby Pub

Greyfriars Bobby

Statue of Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh (from

The Scots love their dogs, and all of Edinburgh loved Greyfriars Bobby, a little Skye terrier who remained loyal to his master after death. For fourteen years he slept by his owner’s grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard every night until his own death in 1872 and became something of a mascot for the people of the city. There’s a statue of him in front of a pub of the same name. I saw the Disney film years ago and loved it.

I was on the wrong side of the bus to get a good picture, so here’s a closeup of the statue, courtesy of

After the tour we had lunch at the Hawes Inn in South Queenferry before taking the tender back to the Royal Princess.

Hawes Inn

Hawes Inn, South Queensferry

Next stop: Inverness.


Recycled Reviews: A Virtual Visit to Scotland @SusannaKearsley

Both of today’s books are set in Scotland, a country that has long fascinated me.

The Shadowy Horses
by Susanna Kearsley
Audiobook narrated by Sally Armstrong
Oakhill Publishing 2011
(Originally published by Orion, 1997)

Setting: Eyemouth, Scotland
Inspired by Rosemary Sutcliffe’s The Eagle of the Ninth, about the Roman Lost Legion.

Verity Gray is an English archeologist who is lured to a dig in Scotland by Adrian, an old boyfriend/colleague. There she learns that eccentric Irishman Peter Quinnell is financing the project. Rumored to be mad, Peter is obsessed with finding the Lost Legion, the Roman Ninth, which marched north into Scotland and disappeared early in the 2nd century AD. She’s especially shocked to learn that Peter picked Rose Hills because a local boy reputed to have second sight had seen a Roman legionaire in the area. Can Robbie’s Sentinel be real? Peter is hard to say no to, and Verity is intrigued by the job  as well as attracted to handsome Scotsman David Fortune. And then there is Robbie, a charming and precocious eight-year-old whose predictions are rarely wrong. I especially love the way the animals react to The Sentinel. The cats hiss and arch their backs while Robbie’s collie gambols by the ghost’s side, jumping up occasionally for a pat.

Last year I read Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden, and fell in love with her writing style. Her prose is lush and unhurried, as she draws you into the world of her characters. The Shadowy Horses is part archeological mystery, part ghost story combined with a lovely romance. It all makes for a very satisfying mix, on that fans of Mary Stewart will enjoy.

I’m so glad I chose the audio version. Armstrong is a marvelous narrator who does a wonderful job, especially with the Scottish accents, which sounded spot on to my American ear. I can still hear her musical cadences even though the audiobook is finished and returned to the library.

* The Shadowy Horses page at Kearsley’s website includes  location photos and insight into what inspired her to write the story.

The Winter Sea
by Susanna Kearsley
Allison & Busby, 2010

Kearsley returns to Scotland for this story within a story set on the rugged coast north of Aberdeen. In the modern story, novelist Carrie McClelland arrives in Cruden Bay, a village near ruined Slains Castle, and knows this is where she has to live to write her book about the abortive 1708 Jacobite invasion.

Carrie’s story is interspersed with scenes from her novel, featuring one of her ancestors, young Sophia Paterson, who comes to Slains in 1708 to live with a kinswoman. There she meets the love of her life, an outlawed Jacobite who serves James III and finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue and danger.

The whole thing becomes eerie when Carrie researches the events of 1708 and discovers that the scenes she has already written are oddly accurate, even down to names of characters she thought she’d made up, but who really existed. Her father suggests it might be a case of genetic memory. Carrie isn’t sure; she just knows this is a story that must be told.

I enjoyed this book, too, though not quite as much as The Shadowy Horses. I liked the fact that it was set in 1708 rather than the more popular 1745 uprising, and the history of Slains Castle is quite interesting. You can check out Kearsley’s location photos at her website.

What country fascinates you?

Originally posted at Flights-a-Fancy 3/6/13