D&J Scotland Whisky Tour 2009 travel blog

Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

Michael Russell, Minister of Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution

Corridor at Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

Conference Room at Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

Inner Courtyard at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Mary Queen of Scots Bedchamber, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

The Abbey at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Mary Queen of Scots Bath House, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

We went down for our breakfast today, and saw that it was overcast and gloomy and calling for rain. We packed up our stuff and headed out to the coach; today we are doing some sightseeing in the morning and heading to Glasgow, our last stop on the Whisky Tour, in the afternoon.

Our first stop was to visit the Scottish Parliament Building, and meet with Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, Michael Russell. Scotland formed its first parliament in 290 years in 1997; Scotland had its own parliament until 1707, when the Scottish politicians were bribed to form The Act of Union with England. The building was built especially for the new parliament, at a cost of ₤400,000,000, and is a modern building of concrete, light wood, curved corridors and tiled floors. It looks very different from our parliament building, and it gives a much more accessible impression, not so formal and stuffy and dark. It is bright and airy, although the oddly shaped rooms reminded me a bit of the Ryan Building at LU.

The Minister, who had a former career in broadcasting, was very well spoken, and made the history and function of parliament very interesting. Normally, anything concerning politics or government I find complicated and yawn-inducing, but he had me interested. He also gave a description of the building and the works of art throughout, which I found good as well.

Since this is a purposely built building for parliament, it was much more suited for members of the public and the press, giving them ample access and seating throughout the Parliament chamber.

Obviously, the Minister had done his homework, as he knew we were all from Canada doing a Whisky Tour, and he was familiar with our parliamentary system, including how Quebec relates to the rest of Canada as far as language rights. He said that, when sworn in, members of Parliament could do their oath in any language, and he did his in English, Scots and Gaelic.

After our tour of about an hour, we went outside to go across the road to visit Holyrood Palace. The weather outside was pretty nasty – raining, cold and very windy. Good thing we didn’t have far to walk!

Holyrood Palace is official residence in Scotland, and the Palace was preparing for her visit in a week’s time, and we saw window washers cleaning the outside of the windows in her apartments that overlook an inner courtyard.

I guess they are strict about tour groups visiting the Palace, because Morag could only give us commentary in a few rooms on our tour, but what a magnificent place! High-ceilinged rooms with huge windows with heavy draperies, dark paneling or wallpaper, wall sconces and dark portraits of past monarchs such as Charles I and II, James VI, the Queen Mother, and a portrait in a lovely, wide marble staircase of a young Queen Elizabeth II.

We passed through the apartments of Mary Queen of Scots, and I loved seeing the beautiful canopy beds with their stunning tapestries. We also saw the Queen’s formal dining room, and they had a menu there from a dinner hosted by Princess Anne in January (I think), that had many traditional Scots/English dishes, like venison, haggis, neeps and tatties.

Unfortunately, we could not take any photographs in the Palace. One room that was spectacular was the room that had display cases of royal treasures such as the christening gown of Charles I. Other than being a bit yellowed, it was in remarkably good condition. Other treasurers included miniatures of the royals that were so tiny, about the size of a quarter. There were also some beautiful brooches.

The long portrait gallery was interesting as well. All of the portraits were by Dutchman Jakob de Witt, commissioned by Charles II to paint all of his ancestors. He used about four faces for all of the paintings, not knowing what they would’ve looked like. They all had very long noses!

We then went and toured the ruins of the Abbey adjoining the Palace. Although it was cold and windy and raining, it was worth it to see the grave markers from the middle of the 16th century, worn from centuries of feet, but still a little legible.

After that, we went over to the restaurant on site to have some lunch. It was a self-serve cafeteria, and the seating area was in a nice conservatory that overlooked a courtyard. I had carrot and coriander soup to warm up, then a scone with clotted cream and jam, and Doug and I shared a very decadent fudge brownie.

We hade a poke through the shop before we headed back to the coach, which was parked beside a small stone building on a triangular boulevard. They believe the building used to be the Queen’s bathhouse, but it looked more like a medieval toll booth.

Our journey to Glasgow was about an hour, and I had a little sleep on the way, and felt more refreshed when we got there, to our hotel, which was the Glasgow Thistle (where we had breakfast on our arrival the first day). It is a dull-looking concrete high-rise, and our room was a double on the eighth floor. However, the bed was a small double, so for ₤10 we upgraded to a king-size on the seventh floor. We decided not to do anything that afternoon, and just napped in the room until about an hour before supper.

We went down to the bar to have a drink before dinner, and I was pleased and surprised to find that they had Leffe (delicious Belgian beer) on tap. We sat and chatted with a few other of our tour group before we went in at 7:00 pm for our dinner. Unfortunately, most of the tables were already full up, so we sat at a table for two, and had a very yummy supper.

While we were eating, Morag came around and said that she had secured a meeting room for a final gathering (she said we were having a prayer meeting, so we had to smuggle our bottles in!). A few people sang songs, told jokes, we killed a few “dead soldiers”, and then Ed Patrick gave us a final farewell. It was a good time, but then we said our goodbyes to everyone and headed up to bed.

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