Unfortunately my cold took longer to clear up than I had originally hoped so sadly the Munro tally has not increased from 25 since completing Ben Challum on 13th December. The weather has also caused us logistical and technical problems, particularly the issue of the water tanks freezing, which does inhibit us “wild camping” for longer periods.
Having left the Ardartan campsite we headed for the Edinburgh Caravan site, which has been experiencing its own problems with snow and ice. We had been forewarned that the site was treacherous but drivable with care.
As these severe wintry conditions are very unusual for this area the site, therefore, does not possess a snow-plough and so the snow had simply become compacted and turned to ice due to the sustained sub-zero temperatures. This had not allowed the site staff to clear the majority of the paths. We were grateful, however, that the site had plenty of hot water for showers and washing dishes as our ‘van’s water tanks were still frozen!
We spent the next few days sightseeing round Edinburgh: visiting The National Gallery of Scotland, The National Museum of Scotland, the Christmas market-stalls, doing some Christmas shopping and catching up with Cameron’s brother, David, his wife, Barbara and their family (Dowell and Jo).
- The National Galleries of Scotland (http://www.nationalgalleries.org)
The collection of Scottish and international art spans three sites across Edinburgh – The National Gallery Complex, the Modern Art Galleries, and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The National Gallery of Scotland was designed by William Henry Playfair (1790-1857) and was opened in 1859. We spent an hour or so wandering round the National Gallery Complex, which comprises a collection of art masterpieces spanning from the early Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. The collection of Scottish and international art is claimed to be among the best in the world. It is a beautiful building and the quality of detail in the paintings was quite incredible. The entrance to the building overlooks Princes Street Gardens where the Christmas market-stalls and festivities were sited.
- National Museum of Scotland (http://www.nms.ac.uk/scotland)
This magnificent building opened in 1998 and is currently undergoing further enhancements that are due for completion in 2011. We strolled around the various exhibitions for about 3 hours, which is certainly not long enough to see everything.
There was a “special exhibition”, which is on show until 3 April 2011, entitled “Shining Lights – The Story of Scotland’s Lighthouses”. This was a fascinating insight into the amazing engineering feat of the Stevenson family who built most of Scotland’s lighthouses. The lighthouses are all automated nowadays but it was incredibly touching to watch interviews from past lighthouse keepers of their endearing passion for their way of life and their sadness when their role was no longer required. It was a hard, sometimes lonely life, not just for the lighthouse keepers but also their families. That said, it was the camaraderie of their fellow workers that they enjoyed and miss even after all these years. The main exhibitions in the museum displayed the journey through Scotland’s past, including such famous events as the Jacobite uprisings, the industrial revolution, the immigration (often forced) of Scots abroad as part of the Highland Clearances, the innovations and technologies right the way through to the modern issues that people face today. They say you should learn at least one new thing every day, well I learnt more than my fair share. Now, can I remember it all? I am sure Cameron will ask the odd the question or two just to check.
It was great catching up with David, Barbara (who we had not seen for 2 years!), Dowell and Jo. We went to see a live band before heading off to the “Mother India” restaurant for a curry. The menu was “tapas” style, which allowed us to try different types of curries. The food was delicious but we could have done with hot plates to keep the food warm as there were quite a few dishes to sample. Afterwards, we headed to a bar but unfortunately (or fortunately for some!) my throat was getting sore and I was coughing quite a lot and losing my voice. I had to call it a day. We had planned to meet up the next day but due to the heavy fall of snow on Saturday night we had to forego our plan. Honestly Barbara, we’ll bring the homemade jam for you when we come to up to visit you in John O’Groats! Dowell, we’ll bring your wee birthday present and the ones for the girls next time we catch up, which hopefully will be early next year.
We had such a lovely time in Edinburgh and thoroughly enjoyed the snowy sights and Christmas atmosphere of the Capital. Tomorrow, we are heading up to Fort William for Christmas – weather permitting!!