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Lucy Travels

After our big day in Glasgow, we decided to stay a bit closer to Edinburgh on Sunday. My friend Alasdair offered to drive me and Claire around, an offer we happily accepted. Although many tourist spots outside of Edinburgh are accessible by bus, it usually takes much longer to get there and it can be a pain to figure out bus schedules (as we learned at Hadrian’s Wall). So a willing tour guide with a car was a godsend!

We met up at the Stockbridge Sunday Market, conveniently just down the road from our apartment. It was tiny but well-curated — I had some incredible dumplings (both Japanese and Swiss) and even a “raw Snickers,” a tasty bar with nuts, fruit, caramel and chocolate.

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We hopped in the car and went south. It took a little maneuvering with all the construction going on, but we made it to Rosslyn Chapel. While it doesn’t seem like much on the outside, inside is where it gets interesting. Sadly, it’s also where you can’t take photos.

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The chapel was built in around 1470 by the aristocratic Sinclair family (who Claire vows to marry into, in order to become Claire Sinclair). Yeah yeah, rich guy builds a church, big deal. However, it’s famous as being a major site for the Knights Templar, a rumor the church capitalizes on with Masonic tchotchkes in the gift shop. This is all thanks to the Da Vinci Code, which helped raise the number of annual visitors from 30,000 to 150,000. Dan Brown aside, the chapel is also interesting due to its amazing stonework. There are thousands of intricate carvings all over the walls and ceilings of the building. Nearly every one has its own story, such as the Apprentice Column, a piece so beautiful it sent the master into a jealous and murderous rage when he saw his own work had been outdone. Other stories seem like even more of a stretch, such as the New World “corn” or “aloe vera” plants carved into arches which predate Columbus’ arrival into the Americas. I wasn’t convinced.

A short walk away from the chapel is the abandoned castle of the Sinclair family. The rain began to fall as we walked around the crumbling walls, it just added another layer of Scottish mystique.

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The rain was falling in earnest by the time we ran back to the car. One other thing I wanted to see was the Firth of Forth and the famous bridges that ran over it. We drove to Queensferry, so named for the days when the only way across the water was by ferry.

The view of the bridges was spectacular, even in the heavy mist. The two cable bridges are the old and new road bridges (the new one has yet to be completed) and the red one is the rail bridge. The Forth Bridge is so unusual looking due to the fact that it was built with far more buttresses and girders than necessary. This cautious engineering choice was made for a reason: the Tay Bridge Disaster. A rail bridge was built over the Firth of Tay in 1878 and in 1879, just a year after its completion, the Tay Rail Bridge collapsed — taking a full passenger train down with it. (I learned later that this was memorialized in a terrible poem by William McGonagall.) The man who designed the Tay Bridge was set to build the Forth Bridge as well, but thankfully they sacked him.

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We enjoyed a light dinner in the cafe across the road built entirely for bridge tourists, many of whom were loudly abseiling off the bridge as we ate. There were murals all over the walls of the restaurant detailing the history of the construction, and even a model train that ran the length of a replica Forth Bridge.

Today we stayed even closer to home and walked along the Water of Leith to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Along the way we walked through Dean Village, a picturesque little slice of history along the water’s edge.

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The gallery was housed in two buildings, plus a very fun surrealist playground that Claire and I enjoyed far too much. The museum had an impressive collection of modern art which included local artists as well as Picasso, Dali and Magritte.

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For our evening we walked some more, this time along the canal that neither Claire and I even knew existed before this trip! We had a little watching party for the season finale of Game of Thrones with some friends and food, and for a little while I forgot that I didn’t actually live here.

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Tomorrow is our last full day in Edinburgh!

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