Edinburgh – 35mm

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CNV0000182 Edinburgh   35mm

Edinburgh and Glasgow are so close in distance, yet so far apart in many other ways.

The Scottish capital is undeniably beautiful. As soon as you step off of the train you are greeted with steep stairwells, winding cobbled streets, and wee nooks and crannies filled with strange places to be explored.

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Ask any Glaswegian, and they’re bound to say something along the lines of: ‘Aye, Edinburgh’s pretty to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.’

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Glasgow is somewhere that you need to stick around for a few days to sink into the soul of the place, whereas Edinburgh is bursting with character on the surface. Despite the contrasts, both are great places, and I’m glad they are in Scotland… even if I’m glad I live here rather than there.

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Despite having been to the city loads of times, I’ve never actually spent more than a night in Edinburgh. With Grace moving over from the States, it seemed like a good excuse to go through for 4 or 5 days, and do all of the things that those from the West coast never really seem to get around to doing – like the Castle, the Camera Obscura, Calton Hill, the Parliament… and aw that.

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Grace wasn’t quite as enthralled by the Parliament tour as I was, but that’s understandable, as she doesn’t have the same emotional investment into it. Despite having visited before in high school as part of Modern Studies, it was pretty interesting to see around the areas that are normally restricted for Parliament business. The last time I was here, the controversy of the building was fresh, and there was a sort of hesitation surrounding what this whole devolution thing was going to mean.

Now, Scotland is much more self-assured, and comfortable in its own skin. Irrespective of your political stance, we may be facing the future with uncertainty, but with a lot more confidence than might have been envisaged in the first few years of this Parliament’s conception. To say it was inspiring to visit would be the wrong word… but it certainly had an exciting feel about it. It’s free to go, and I’d recommend it to anybody who has an interest in the identity of Scotland – present or future.

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Wee details like this are what make Edinburgh great:

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We visited Greyfriars Kirk – home of the legendary Greyfriars Bobby. If you’re not familiar with the tale you should look it up.

You should then look up the Australian tale of the ‘dog on the tuckerbox’. Spot the similarities, and work out who stole what from who.

You can draw your own conclusions on that one.

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There were a lot of unusual designs in the graveyard, with a heavy use of skulls.

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I think we shy away from skulls too readily in contemporary graveyards.

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You might be able to just make out what this gravestone says, but it’s pretty tough due to the type of stone that’s been used – even in person.

If you can’t, then it’s the stone of Bobby himself.

See Australia, our dog was actually real. ;)

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Perhaps the best bit of the graveyard wasn’t the skulls, or the weird people, or seeing Bobby’s headstone though.

At the main entrance there is one of those standard, council-issued signs detailing what sort of behaviour is deemed unacceptable in the grounds. At the very bottom there was a stipulation that no dogs were to be allowed in.

No dogs, in Greyfriars Kirkyard? An outrage!

I was just formulating a plan to protest in my mind – something involving Twitter and dirty demonstrations – when I was reassured to see that I was not the only one to feel consternation about this injustice.

In dodgy handwriting, somebody had scratched a line through the offending rule, and written underneath: “EXCEPT BOBBY”.

Aye Edinburgh, ye can be awright sometimes.

(although I bet it was done by a Glaswegian)

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Edinburgh’s a funny place. It’s the capital of Scotland, yet you’d be lucky to meet more than a handful of Scottish people without going outside of the city centre. Old people openly and unashamedly wear kilts to go shopping, yet nobody understands your Glaswegian accent, and bar staff ask if you want ice in your 21 year old single malt.

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In Glasgow we are quietly proud about not selling out to the postcard version of Scotland – hawking pish, flimsy fake kilts to loud Americans who are trying to make some spurious claim of ancestry, along with whatever six other nations they’ve picked from history to identify with.

The thing is though, we can afford to take the high ground simply because we don’t have to deal with the sheer volume of tourists that the capital does. The role of Glasgow isn’t to live up to the stereotypical expectations of international travellers, and so it’s a lot easier for a gritty, ‘authentic’ social culture to develop in the centre. If anything, we’re happy for Edinburgh to put on the kilt and entertain Scotland’s guests, because it lets us get on with things on the other side of the country. The fact is… despite all of the friendly rivalry and mockery that goes on, Glasgow needs Edinburgh, and Edinburgh needs Glasgow.

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All of that said…

Edinburgh’s a great place to visit, but I’m glad I live in Glasgow.

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