We are indeed sorry this morning, and after breakfast, we decide to drag our sorry selves up to Arthur’s Seat, the pinnacle of a rugged volcanic formation that overlooks all of Edinburgh. Remarkably, after a little exertion, we all feel pretty good. Ron is twelve years younger than I, and Bob is older, but he skis all winter and bikes all summer; I have been meaning to ride the stationary bike at home all summer, but it has been too damn hot.... Well, that’s my excuse for lagging behind. Slow and steady. Slow, anyway.
The summit is only 825 feet above sea level, but the view is great. It’s also very windy, just as it had been at Herma Ness and Esha Ness. I find Ron and Bob huddled in the lee of the crag atop which is perched an Ordnance Survey trig point. We take turns virtually crawling up the crag in the stiff wind and hugging the little obelisk for dear life, in fear of being blown off like Mallory on Everest.
Back on the low ground, we marvel at the hideous new Scottish Parliament building at the foot of the Royal Mile. Reputedly the interior is marvelous, beautiful and functional both, but the exterior is just formless and ugly. As well, it is pasted all over with a cryptic motif that looks to me like a Black & Decker cordless drill. We probably ought to go inside to see for ourselves the worthiness of the building, but we decide to catch a bus tour instead. We peek briefly into the Cadenheads shop, not yet open for the day, on the lower Mile before getting on the bus.
The tour is not great, but it gives us a chance to see a fair bit of the core city while sitting down. As we pass by the parliament building again, the guide notes the peculiar motif, saying that it resembles a hand-held hair dryer, and no one knows what it is. The architect died before the building was completed, and the secret died with him.
We get off near the top of the mile and visit the Castle. I take the audio guide, but Bob and Ron are content just to look around. The last time I visited here, some years ago, the audio guide was obviously a sealed CD player; now it’s more of an iPod thingy. At every point of interest, there is a small number marker. Punch the number into the audio guide, and you hear all about the site. Usually there is an option to hear more in-depth information after that, sometimes three or four more units’ worth. We only stay an hour, but I’ll bet that, if you listened to everything on the guide, you’d be there all day.
In the gift shop, we are offered a taste of a G&M Mortlach 15. It’s a fine heavily-sherried dram, as good as any Macallan in my limited experience.
We have a very nice lunch in a little Italian café tucked into one of the many closes leading off the Mile, and shop idly along the street. There are tartan and tweed shops, and Royal Mile Whiskies, of course. I drag the lads down to the Coda music shop, a tiny place crammed full of great folk music. I pick up four or five CDs.
It’s not too late in the afternoon when we decide we’ve had enough, and retire to the Bow for a pre-dinner pint or two. We are just beginning to consider our evening meal when a gentleman in suit and tie leans over our table and says, “Are you Mr Tattie Heid?” To my delight, it is none other than the estimable Mr Nick B. I know Nick from Whisky Magazine’s online forums, where we have sparred over the merits, particularly, of Bruichladdich, and Nick’s perception of that distillery’s abuse of Gaelic and over-the-top marketing. I’ve posted my intended whereabouts on the forum, in the hope of meeting some of the participants. Nick promptly buys us a round; we are sticking to pints before dinner, but he has a dram. When it is my turn to reciprocate, I ask him what he wants, and he answers, “Surprise me.” I resist the temptation to get him a Bruichladdich–there isn’t a really good one here, anyway–and get him a Clynelish instead, which he professes to quite enjoy, never having had one before. We have a nice blether about Edinburgh, and whisky, and the forum, before shaking hands and parting ways. I am extremely pleased to have met Nick, and doubt I shall ever be able to direct a cross word at him again.
The Black Bull in the Grassmarket provides us with a decent pub meal, along with a pint of Deuchars, and it isn’t long before we are settled back in at the Bow. We have barely sat down with our pints when another fellow leans over the table and says, “Are you Tattie Heid?” This time it is Kenny, known to us on the forum as Crieftan. Nick is a soft-spoken Englishman, originally from Kent; by contrast, Kenny is a true Scot, robustly built, and a real salt-of-the-earth type. He stays the rest of the evening with us, and we have a wonderful time with lots of laughter.
Cheers to Nick and Kenny both, and cheers to the Whisky Mag Forum.