Archive for October, 2007

Entertainment in Edinburgh

Over the past year, I’ve gotten used to spending my spare time in the New York style: People meet outside of their apartments and go to a musical or the Nerd Nite or the Amato Opera or some other of several hundred options that take place on any given evening. There are so many things you could do that the art is to learn how to live with the fact that you’re missing almost everything.

It’s been a bit of a culture shock to me that Edinburgh style entertainment works very differently. Yes, people go to concerts, such as last week’s RSNO performance (which was not bad, but then I’ve been spoiled by the New York Philharmonic, and the RSNO could have been more expressive). But they also actually have time to go see a movie (such as the fantastic 3:10 to Yuma), or classical sci-fi TV series at Sciffy’s weekly meetings, and they actually visit each other at home to play board games. However, the primary thing that’s done in Edinburgh by way of entertainment is to go hike in the nature. And I’ll admit that this is something that was difficult in New York.

Last weekend, we ended up hiking to Yester Castle, a ruin in East Lothian, perhaps a 45-minute drive and then a one or two hour hike away from Edinburgh. Yester Castle is really cool in that the knight who built it, in 1250 or so, was rumored to be a necromancer, who had summoned creatures build a subterranean vault called “Goblin Ha'”. Apparently, goblins build to last, and thus unlike the rest of the castle, Goblin Ha’ is still pretty much intact:

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It’s really really dark, though, and it took my eyes a few minutes to adjust so I could actually see anything through the barred windows. The ruins are a pretty good place for ghost stories; the surrounding area supports this pretty well too:
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And then there’s a golf course right next to it, and all remaining feelings that Sir Hugo might be watching you are dispelled; the story of the cursed pear he gave his daughter’s husband for safekeeping (the curse being activated several hundred years later) seems quite insubstantial when you have to watch out so you don’t get whacked in the head by a golf ball. That was a pretty cool hike, even though it made me realize that my shoes, which were sufficient for hiking in dry Colorado, are totally not up to the job of trudging through Scottish mud and I need to buy new ones if I want to do this more.

Another feature of outdoors life in Edinburgh that we explored yesterday is Portobello. (Interestingly, there’s a short path on Wikipedia from Portobello via burgh, Five Burghs, and Five Boroughs back to New York.) Portobello is a beach resort which is approximately twenty bike minutes away from my house. Although we had nice and sunny weather yesterday, it’s still October and so you can’t swim in the Firth of Forth because you would freeze to death instantly (I did test the waters with my foot). But apparently it can be used as a real swimming beach in the summer. I don’t think I’ve ever lived this close to a beach in my life! This is what it looks like:
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The main problem is that while the bike route to the beach is extremely scenic — it circles around Arthur’s Seat and offers a number of pretty dramatic views, e.g. of Duddingston Kirk over Duddingston Loch –, it goes up and down and up and down, and mostly up, the entire time. I’m so not in shape, and the way back in particular was terrible in places. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my outing to the beach, and it’s nice to be able to get there in twenty minutes rather than a one-hour subway ride. Entertainment in Edinburgh is different, and I have to adjust, but perhaps it’s not so bad after all.

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