Tag Archives: real mary kings close

The Real Mary King’s Close

The second guided tour I took in Edinburgh was for the Real Mary King’s Close.  The tour office was located on the street level just off the Royal Mile, not far from the Castle.  But the tour itself went through homes, found not terribly long ago, beneath the current streets and homes….

Of course way back then the homes we walked through were at ground level.  But as people started to build more, instead of scraping old places and starting new, they simply lopped off the roofs of the old homes, built a new “ground floor” and simply built new homes or buildings on top of the old ones.  But this practice of building homes was forgotten about until some workers of the City came along and rediscovered all the homes (now underground) and turned them into a tourist attraction!

The tour was quite fun but for those who have any claustrophobic tendencies, they may want to skip it… The way down was a bit tight, but once in the rooms I didn’t think it was too bad.  But then again, E said she really didn’t enjoy the tour because she felt claustrophobic.  So be warned people!!

Anyway, our guide from start to finish played the part of a young man who lived way back when and sadly died at 23 from some horrid plague.  He told great stories of how the people lived (Gardy Loo!!) and the various plagues that afflited that age.  He was humerous and witty and played his role well!  We went through spaces that looked like a single room but were told it was a whole house for several families!!  Other areas were for animals and others still for the rich.  Each room was recreated to reflect the kind of people that would have lived in each room… But perhaps the most interesting of all the rooms… That of a little girl ghost…

When the spaces along Mary King’s Close were rediscovered, several measures were taken to make sure the spaces would be safe for tourists to travel through.  During projects of reinforcement, some workers would describe strange things or sightings of a little girl quite often in one area of the rooms… So one day, a psychic was invited to go through the rooms.  She didn’t pick anything up of note…  Had no strange feelings or pulls of any sort… She couldn’t find a single odd feeling anywhere… At this point she was in the room most known for sightings but still, nothing.

She was getting ready to leave when all of a sudden she turned around and saw a little girl in the corner of the room.  Now, mind you, at this point of the story we are all in the room itself and the “corner” where the girl was spotted standing was RIGHT BESIDE ME!!!  Yea, I got a little chill for sure when he pointed only a few inches from me!!  Anyway- the little girl was crying so the psychic asked her what was wrong.  The little girl said that she was sad because her parents had died and that she was also sad because she could not find her favorite toy to keep her company and comfort her!  The psychic was so moved by this that she left the rooms, went shopping for a doll, returned to the room where the young girl was crying and left the doll in there.  From then on, none of the workers ever reported any further sightings or disturbances.

Even now, people from all over having heard of and knowing of this story in advance bring the little girl gifts and toys to play with!  In the room today there is a stack of hundreds and hundreds of little toys and trinkets!  So many are brought in fact that the staff has to sometimes clear toys out to make room for others!!  The original is still there though:)

Needless to say, I would recommend this tour for sure!  Though it was a little on the pricey side for the one hour, it’s definitely worth the fun!!  Oh and sorry for the lack of pictures here… I can’t recall if they weren’t allowed at all, or if I was just too engrossed in the tour to care to take picts…

On to Aberdeen

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Stone of Destiny & Edinburgh Castle

After the tour of the Royal Mile, our guide took us up to the castle and shared lots of fun facts with us about it… My personal favorite is about the Stone of Destiny…

Ironically enough, before going to Scotland I was visiting with my horse trainer, who is like a second family to me, and she was telling me about a movie she saw called the Stone of Destiny.  It took place in Scotland and it is based on the true story about a group of Scottish student nationalists.  The Stone, which was where Scottish Kings were traditionally crowned was stolen by King Edward I of England in 1296 and placed under the throne at Westminster Abbey.  In the 1950’s the group of Scottish student nationalists succeeded in stealing the Stone back from Westminster Abbey and returning it to it’s righful place: Edinburgh castle!!  Quite a fun story to say the least!!  So while I had heard about the Stone of Destiny before I ever went to Scotland, I had of course forgotten exactly where the Stone was…  So needless to say I was quite tickled when I heard that it was indeed in the Edinburgh Castle!!  The Stone, to say the least is quite large and heavy looking and is currently encased in a glass display next to the Crown Jewels.  No pictures were allowed to be taken of it sadly, but it was really cool to at least see it!!

In the pictures below you will see a few of the inside of parts of the castle, and one where there is a plaque in honor of Queen Elizabeth… You will also note the date however that it was in 1993… Why is it that there is a plaque in honor of Queen Elizabeth (seemingly the first Queen Elizabeth since there isn’t a II on the plaque) dated 1993??  It is in fact in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, however, since Scotland never recognized Queen Elizabeth I as their queen, to them, Queen Elizabeth is their first Queen, hence no “II” on the plaque…

The one o’clock gun… I already mentioned this bit in the section of Calton Hill, so I won’t drone on it again… However in this section you can see the pictures of the original cannon that was used to mark 1 o’clock, as well as the cannon used today (shoots blanks) to mark 1 o’clock:)

Ugh!!  And I’m absolutely going to muck this up…  But there was an interesting legend that revolved around St. Margaret… Basically it was a love story…  As the tale goes (hoping I recall it right!) St. Margaret (originally from Hungary) was very much in love with her husband and had earned the respect and adoration as a kind Queen from many of the Scottish people.  However, there was some fallout with some of the Scottish countrymen over religion… She was of one religion (Protestant???) and they another, and well, you know how those religious disputes tend to end in not so great a light… Anyway, St. Margaret was basically shunned over the religious disputes and it got so bad that she wasn’t able to leave the Castle.

While in the castle she got news that her husband died in battle and was to be buried.  Loving her husband as much as she did, she requested that when she died that she be buried along side him.  When she did pass away (not long after he died apparently) those still “on her side” wanted to grant her last wish of being buried by her husband, but those against her refused.  Her body stayed in the chapel of the castle for three days until some people “for” St. Margaret in the middle of the night, snuck her body out of the chapel and to her husbands gravesite where they buried her.  The townspeople “against” St. Margaret heard what had happened and got furious.  They went to the gravesite to dig St. Margaret up, but to their astonishment were unable to actually lift her out of the gravesite!  Her body had somehow become so heavy they were unable to get her back out!  So they had to leave her, despite their best efforts.  So as the legend goes, the townspeople were unable to move her body because her love for her husband was too strong, even in death, to allow them to take her away from him.  Awww…!!!! 🙂

But seriously people, don’t quote me word-for-word on the above legend as I’m sure some bits aren’t quite correct!!  And if any of you happen to hear the legend yourselves, do tell me how it’s supposed to be!  Lol!!

On to The Real Mary King’s Close

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Military Tattoo & Fringe Festival

The Royal Military Tattoo

So, every year in August Scotland has a HUGE celebration known as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  It is basically a festival that now stretches just about the entire month of August and it brings together the worlds best talents of musicians and performers from over 46 countries!!  One of the performing acts of course is the Royal Edinburgh Military.  They play the bagpipes and march in unison and at the very end of the show there is a lone bagpiper who stands at the top of the castle wall.  His performance is followed by the shooting of a cannon and then fireworks.  Guests from all over the world come to see this celebration, which has been going on since 1950 or so, and plan at least a year in advance in order to get tickets for the event at all!!

Needless to say, despite my description above of what the Royal Military Tattoo is, I never actually was able to see the performance while there, lol!!  Alas, the event has been described to me by K&E, and I was able to read a little bit of the history while standing in line waiting (and hoping) that some tickets became available on “the day of” performances.  In addition, during one week of the celebration the event was filmed and it is broadcast on TV worldwide so that all can enjoy it.  I did catch a snippet of the show when I Was in Glasgow weeks later, but didn’t really see the whole thing.

To be honest, and to my embarrassment, I kinda had a teeny little panic meltdown about seeing the show.  Instead of sticking to my usual attitude of “if it’s meant to be it will happen”, after going early and standing in line to get tickets (sometimes people would simply turn their tickets back in for resale due to unforeseen reasons that no longer permitted them to attend) and failing to get tickets yet again, I had a freak out . But thanks to the sound and calming wisdom of E, I was talked off the ledge and what began then was what I’d like to consider the theme of traveling Scotland from then on… “I must leave something to come back for”.  And trust me when I say, there is a TON of stuff to go back to Scotland for (and I’m not just saying that because of the numerous yummy men with their sexy accents living there;)) !!  A month was simply not enough , but rather is was barely enough to just scratch the surface!!

Just a little bit of interesting history on the word “Tattoo”… Basically, the origins of the word Tattoo go back to the 17th century when British troops were fighting in the Low Countries.  At the end of the day the duty officer would go around making sure each post was manned before the sounding of the Last Post.  A few drummers would accompany him for this task and if the soldiers were missing from their post, the ritual beating of the drum would ensue basically signaling to the soldiers (who were in town at the local pubs) that it was time to return to their posts or quarters.  The Dutch innkeepers would then turn off the liquor taps and say “Time’s up!” or in their language: DOE TEN TAP-TOE, basically meaning no more booze for you!  The drummers would continue to drum until all the soldiers made their way back to their posts for the sounding of the Last Post.  Eventually Tap-Toe (last call!) evolved into the word Tattoo!

The Fringe Festival

The Fringe Festival… well honestly I’m not sure of the orgins of this festival, but what I do know is it coincides with the Tattoo for about the entire month of August as well!  So really, tourists are able to experience two separate festivals in only one month if visiting in August!!

The Fringe Festival is basically a huge collection of artists, musicians, actors, performers, magicians, singers, dancers, etc, etc from all over the world who come and perform all along the Royal Mile for several of the “old town” blocks!!  The street is filled from morning till night with tons of performers just every which way you look!  It’s quite an amazing experience and honestly could keep one busy all day every day of the festival just checking out each of the performances!  People filled the streets handing out cards announcing or rather advertising various shows and where the venue was to take place.  Some of the shows were free (aka the ones I attended- but remember “free” is a term for “expected to tip performer at the end!!”) and others were anything from 5-12 pounds a piece.

I ended up attending one solo play about how making good decisions was actually bad for you… sounded interesting but sadly I found it rather dull.  The other venue I attended was for the Man of Steal… This was quite a great performance!!  Very informative to boot!  Basically it’s put on by a professional pick-pocket who works for the police and does these shows to educate the public on how to protect themselves from thieves.  I can’t say much more about it than that as we were all sworn to secrecy about the details of the show, so I will stick by that and leave the description at that:)

By far, however the BEST performance I saw on the streets of the Royal Mile during the Fringe was Joel Grainger… I was just coming out of a building after having bought a ticket for a tour of the Real Mary King’s Close and I had about a half hour to kill.  I walked on the street and was lured by the sound of a voilin.  I love voilin music to begin with, so I walked toward the sound and on a stage erected on the side of the street was Joel Grainger.  He was the only musician present, but due to his technique of “live-looping” he was able to play every note of a song LIVE!  He played “somebody that I used to know” by Gotye and Pachebel’s Canon in D in all their glory!!  I’m not going to be able to describe his technique of live-looping to do him justice, so you are just going to have to check him out for yourself… I know he’s on YouTube, and though I don’t Facebook, I know he is.  If any of you are fans of the violin, you MUST check him out!!  Google “Joel Grainer Fringe” and you will see one of his performances there from this past festival:)

Though I really wasn’t expecting the Fringe to be going on in addition to the Tattoo, it was quite a welcome surprise!  I could spend days on end just going up and down the Mile watching for new acts or collecting thousands of info cards on the various performers.  Quite impressive!!  Not to mention the tons of kiosks that were set up everywhere in town featuring everything from handmade jewelery to paintings to cashmere items, etc, etc!  I highly recommend for all those planning to go to Edinburgh, though it will be a more expensive time of year, make your trip in August!!!  And for goodness sake- learn from me and get your Tattoo tickets in advance!  Or don’t and just figure it’s something to come back for:)

Sadly, my pictures for this section really lack in what they should have been… I was just too engrossed in watching my surroundings and being present for them to take pictures I guess…Sorry!!

On to “Local” Tours

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