A Travellerspoint blog

Day 3: Thrifting, Scotch and Victorian Kitsch!

in which your author finally begins to admit to himself he's only here to visit pubs

rain 45 °F

Out quite late the previous night, late night Facebook checking, catching up with what I’ve missed about the interminable GOP race, and actually being smart and booking a ticket for a Highlands bus tour Saturday (the initial plan was to do this Friday but I smartly opted to not try to get up at 7 after getting to sleep by 4am!)… all of this led me to decide that Day 3 would start out with no pretense of getting up early. I would get up when I woke up, and this turned out to be about 12:15pm. Have I mentioned how infuriating it would be for another person to travel with me in this manner?

I also opted, in the interest of time, to skip writing about the previous day. I have less free time (typically, traveling on trains) on my hands here than in my 2010 trip, so I’m better off prioritizing seeing things rather than writing. (I write this from a bus in the Highlands heading back toward Edinburgh, so this is a nice mix of gorgeous scenery and writing time!)

A light, cold drizzle accompanied me as I walked back toward Shelter, the shop where I had met George the previous night; I wanted to buy the shirt I had seen in the window, but surprisingly it had already been sold that morning! I rummaged through and satified my shopping urges with a few other clothing selections: a terrific blue sweater, a funky button-up shirt, a smooth gray blazer, an LP of traditional Scottish song and a tough-to-find double LP of Mahler 6 with Rafael Kubelik and Fischer-Dieskau singing the Ruckert Lieder.

[Note: It’s funny when you write these things and you tune out your present surroundings… I wrote the three preceding paragraphs on a bus, and I pick up the story at Edinburgh Airport, finish it on the plane to Amsterdam, and I'm not actually posting it until now when I'm in my room there! Anyway. Carry on.]


I walk around in the drizzle and come upon the famous statue of “Greyfriars Bobby,” a terrier who was so loyal to his master that he allegedly went to his master’s grave every day for 14 years after the fellow’s passing. (I guess that was before they put the “No Dogs” sign up?) I took a bunch of photos and got all bleary eyed thinking about my Fenway, another loyal terrier who my gorgeous, amazing, awesome girlfriend and (equally so!) roommate are doing a fine job hanging out with in my absence.


I then took another (!) cemetery stroll through Greyfriars Kirkyard, the drizzly gray of the day fitting the scenery, passing by Bobby the dog's grave, reserved for the front garden.


I walked back to the flat and dropped off my purchases, then made it the short distance to Edinburgh Books, which came highly recommended as a place to lose track of time! It’s a terrific, multi-level bookstore and I ended up buying some sheet music, a book on Mahler (shocking) and some Scottish history items including a Robert Burns commemorative pamphlet from the 1950s. I have a nice conversation with the man closing the shop, telling him of my ancestral roots in Barra, a tiny island in the lower Hebrides; somewhat shockingly, he says he happened to be there during 9/11, and that it was difficult to get news!


Quite hungry now, I make my first stop into The Cloisters, a traditional pub recommended for their wide beer selection, great food and helpful staff. It’s now 6:30pm on a Friday night and the place is packed, and they’re no longer serving food; I order a scotch at the bar anyway and chat up a nice fellow named Albert who quaffs a half pint while waiting for his bus. (I believe I've happened upon my new scotch discovery of the trip – Benromach, which was sold at The Cloisters as their "malt of the moment" – many pubs have this, and they're typically only under 3 pounds, about US $5. Any similar scotch would be close to $10 in the US, surely.) The helpful bartender recommends another tavern with pub food not far away called The Golf Tavern, and I make my way there, greatly assisted by the wifi signal that I pick up outside of an old church. (Also, I must mention that absolutely everyone on the streets of Edinburgh seems to be helpful when you ask for directions!) Note: I thought he had said "gulf" – if I had known it was "golf" I probably would've looked elsewhere! :)


I order a veggie burger and peruse the scotch list, and take a seat at an old common table close to the bar where a few architecture students are conversing. After a bit they welcome me into their conversation and they’re really friendly; a few are from England and one from Norway. We chat for a while about architecture and traveling, and they strongly advise me to get to an ancient pub called Canny Man’s, about a mile away. Are there any unfriendly people in this town? If so I haven't come across them. See you on Facebook, lads!


I take their advice to hop in a cab and make it to one of the most visually impressive spaces, never mind pubs, I’ve ever seen. The Golf Tavern fellows had hyped it a great deal, and I was slightly worried I wouldn’t be allowed in wearing sneakers, which I had changed into due to the rain. (They call them “trainers” here.) But I ended up having more fine scotch (the prices were higher here) and getting welcomed in by two young women who work in advertising, one of whom was a former employee.


Old brass instruments hanging from the ceilings, signs which appeared to have been placed in the mid-19th century, cartoons on the bathroom wall dated from 100 years ago, room after room of kitsch Victorian splendor. Signs were posted all around saying “no cameras, no cell phones” so I dared not tempt fate; I was later told it was only because so may local dignitaries like to drink there, they don’t want their faces showing up on random photographs! There’s a short Indian man wearing a light blue sweater at the bar drunkenly trying to start singalongs; I’m surprised to hear he’s a regular! I did manage to grab one photo before leaving; by this time I was lounging around with one of the bartenders and the bar area had emptied out so I felt it was safe. (Also, get a load of the rather 'politicized' scotch list.) What a place.


I trek it back to my flat and get to sleep laaaate. Fun fun fun!

Posted by coolmcjazz 18:48 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland edinburgh

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