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  • Writer's pictureSElliott

Panda’s, Castles and Ice Skating Vicars

Day 01 – 29th April 2023

Arrived in Edinburgh last night and walked to the hotel – not a walk that I would recommend if you have a big suitcase! This morning it was up at a reasonable time and breakfasted before catching the bus to Edinburgh Zoo. We arrived at the Zoo just after it opened at 10am and joined the queue to get in. The queue was moving quite quickly so we got in in no time.

Edinburgh Zoo is on a hill and we were recommended to walk up the left hand side and then down on the right hand side. The first enclosure as you leave the ticket office is that of the meerkats (no Wombats!). They came out just as we reached them and one immediately went on sentry duty. They look a bit squat and fat when they’re running about on all fours but when standing upright they slim out nicely!

Picture 1 - Meerkats

We then took the path through the Pelican enclosure, however this was abundantly pelican-less as, due to avian flu, they had been quarantined. We finished by the Red River Hog enclosure and African Aviary.

The next place we visited was Penguin Rock, ready for the Penguin Parade….which had been cancelled due to avian flu. There were penguins however! A lot of them were sitting on their stone nests and we saw one hard-working penguin gathering some stones for his/her nest. There are currently 55 eggs in the nests. However, those building the nests have to be careful – some unscrupulous penguins would rather live a life of crime than work hard and steal eggs rather than go out to collect them!! In fact, one poor couple had not one, but two thieves stealing from their list – one from each side!

There were some penguins in the water – they move a lot quicker and gracefully when swimming. The one we watched was doing jumps and everything!

Picture 2 - Penguins

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t the best today. It wasn’t raining (thankfully) but it was cold and grey. You could feel the wetness in the air. This meant that a lot of the animals were staying cosy and warm in their houses – a bit like a duvet day for us! Not that I blame them as I would do the same.

The Rhino was one such animal, we went to see him twice and he had moved…he turned over!

Picture 3 - Rhino

After a visit to the Wee Beasties house (which was warm so our hands warmed up), we went past the Otter and Pygmy Hippo enclosures. Whilst the Otters were out and playing, the Pygmy Hippo was enjoying the warmth of his house.

Picture 4 - Otters

Picture 5 - Pygmy Hippo

We continued past the Cassowary (a flightless birds native to New Guinea and Australia) and the Sun Bear enclosure (who were also having a lie-in) before heading round, past the Visayan Deer and Warty Pig enclosures to the Wildcat enclosure. There were two wildcats hiding in their houses – however, one left his tail out (which was very careless of him) and the other was looking out at the world! You’d think, being native to Scotland, they’d be used to the weather here.

Picture 6 - Wildcats

As time was passing and we came specifically to visit the Panda’s before they returned home to China, we decided to stop our meandering and continued straight to the Panda enclosure.

Picture 7 – Entering the Panda Enclosure

There are two Panda’s here – Yang Guang (Sunshine) and Tian Tian (Sweetie). When we visited, Tian Tian was sleeping – she looked as if she was tuckered out and had collapsed on her desk, a bit how I feel after a long day at work! Yang Guang was eating……as usual….it was a bit difficult getting pictures as the glass was reflecting light but I got some lovely videos of him.

Pictures 8 and 9 - Pandas

From the Panda’s we continued up the hill to the Zebra enclosure. Their stripes look to be more brown than black. I got some lovely pictures, one Zebra was quite close and was showing off for the cameras.

Picture 10 - Zebras

The next area we walked through was full of DINOSAURS! Ok, they were only mechanical models but some of them moved. I used to know a lot about dinosaurs when I was younger but I’ve forgotten a lot. I’ll need to refresh my knowledge when I get the chance. There was a wide array of dinosaurs including the most well-known ones like Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, and my all-time favourite, Stegosaurus!

From the dinosaurs we headed down to the Tiger Trail where there were some Sumatran Tigers. Although we did see one Tiger, he was looking away from us. We continued along the Tiger Trail and emerged close to where the Pandas were….so we decided to visit them again!

They were both snoozing, so after taking some pictures, we decided to leave them for their nap.

Pictures 11 and 12 - Panda photos

The next area we visited was the Asiatic Lions. On the way we passed the Gelada Baboons, they looked really cold and miserable, all huddled together. Apart from one who was making a break for freedom by climbing the fence!

Picture 13 - Gelada Baboons

There were no lions out and about when we passed their enclosure. As the path led past the Tiger enclosure we decided to go and see if they were more energetic than previously. They were! There were two tigers, both were pacing around. One was in his/her house pacing and smiling every time they came past the glass, it was if they were posing for the cameras! The second one, who we had originally seen, was also pacing back and forth infront of the viewing platform. They weren’t posing that the first one was. The reason for their restlessness soon came apparent – it was feeding time! As they aren’t fed every day we got really lucky!

Pictures 14, 15 and 16 - Tigers

At feeding time the keepers hide big joints of meat (the size of a full goats leg) in the enclosure before they let the tigers in. So we got to see the tiger enter the enclosure and go looking for the meat! We had a lovely view

Picture 17 - Tigers

We then returned to our walk round to the Giraffe house, our next port of call. On the way we found that we could look into the lion enclosure from the opposite side that we had walked up. On the side we had walked up there were a number of people gathered looking at something (with their phones out), we then heard a lions roar! So we decided to return to that side. On the way, however, we passed through the lions’ house were two lions were snoozing away happily.

Picture 18 - Snoozing Lions

We reached to other side of the lion enclosure to find that one had left their house and was pacing around. As I was taking a video, one of the very friendly local robins came to say hello – he was so close I could have reached out and touched him. Needless to say, the lion was forgotten by everyone in the vicinity as they coo-d over they robin! They are lovely birds.

Picture 19 - Pacing Lion

Picture 20 - Robin

Once Robin had flown off, we retraced our steps and continued to the Giraffe enclosure, passing the Giant Anteater enclosure on the way.

Picture 21 - Giant Anteater

Finally, after a number of detours, we made it to the Giraffe enclosure, as with many of the other animals, the Giraffes had decided to stay inside their house. There were two viewing areas within the Giraffe house, one at the Giraffe’s head height and the other on the ground. There were less people here so we got some good view. One of the Giraffes sat down to pose for pictures!

Pictures 22 and 23 - Giraffes

It was now lunchtime so we walked down the hill to The Gannet Fish Bar for some fish and chips. On the way we stopped by the Porcupine house, the porcupine was awake now (earlier in the day when we passed it was fast asleep) and having breakfast. It used its front paws to hold the food it was eating – so cute! I wouldn’t want to cuddle one however, unless it was wrapped in a very thick blanket!

After Lunch we returned to the Giraffe house as there was going to be a short talk about them. There are 5 giraffes at Edinburgh Zoo, they are all teenage males which would replicate what is in the wild. This is because generally, in the wild, the giraffes stay in same-sex groups. Also, each giraffes markings are unique so they can be identified, although this can be challenging since they keep moving! We also found out that, contrary to what many think, giraffes only travel in search of mates, food or if there is danger. Otherwise they prefer to stay in the same area.

After the Giraffe talk, we returned (again) to the Panda House where there was going to be a talk about….you guessed it…Pandas!! When we arrived Tian Tian was absent from her house. She returned a few minutes later and I got a wonderful video of her prowling around! Yang Guang was….as always….eating! Although, he did go outside for a brief spell – maybe to have an al fresco pudding – before returning to have a snooze!

Pictures 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 - Pandas

After the Panda talk, Mum and I walked down through the Wallaby and Kangaroo enclosure and past the Koala enclosure (they were all sleeping). These areas weren’t as special as the Tiger, Panda and Meerkats as we have seen them in the wild in Australia.

Picture 29 - Koalas

We paused for an ice cream at the Pygmy Hippo enclosure. This was made infront of us on big freezing “plates” – really interesting seeing them make it. Whilst we enjoyed the ice cream we wandered around the Physic Garden. This showcases different plants which have medicinal properties – out of all the plants in the world, about 5,500 are used as food, but over 17,000 have medicinal properties!

We carried on meandering through the Magic Forest, which is a walk through a rainforest with some of the small rainforest animals, before entering the Sloth and Armadillo house. This was lovely and warm – especially after the cold outdoors. The Sloth had just had his meal so he was hanging out enjoying a post-peranual nap – he didn’t look that comfortable to me. I don’t know how his arms weren’t getting tired!

Picture 30 - Sloth

Our next stop was the Chimp house, there were a lot of chimpanzees engages in social grooming whilst two were outside having a race on the giant jungle gym!

Picture 31 - Chimps

We finished our visit by visiting the Lemur enclosure (completed with a “hug pile” of lemurs) and the red panda enclosure (who were hiding) before leaving – thoroughly tuckered out and several inches shorter due to the walking we’d done!

Day 02 – April 30th 2023

Today we took the bus into Princes Street. Our plan was to visit Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland. The castle was really busy with foreign tours. The castle has many military museums as well as the Scottish Crown Jewels. There are also the Royal Residence and Great Hall to see. If we had visited during the week we could have watched the One O’clock Gun being fired. Unfortunately it doesn’t get fired on Sundays.

The museums’ have a lot of information about the role Scotland, and the Scottish, have played over the years. There is too much information to take in really. However, thankfully we are both members of the Scottish Heritage – so we can always revisit for free!

We managed to sneak into see the Scottish Crown Jewels just infront of a tour group. The Stone of Destiny, an ancient symbol of Scotland’s monarchy, was missing as it is currently en-route to Westminster for the Coronation of King Charles III.

Pictures 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 and 37 - Edinburgh Castle

We left the Castle and walked down the Royal Mile to Gladstone’s Land. This is a tenement building that was built over 500 years ago. Inside are three floors that show the history of the building in the early-17th, mid-18th and early 19th centuries. The first floor has some lovely painted wooden ceilings, although they aren’t as spectacular as those in Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire.

Pictures 38 and 39 – Gladstone’s Land

From Gladstone’s Land we walked along George IV Bridge to the National Museum of Scotland. On the way we passed the statue of Greyfriars Bobby. There was a queue of people waiting to rub his nose (for luck). He has a very shiny nose!

Picture 40 - Greyfriars Bobby

This free museum shows, not only the history of Scotland, but has exhibitions on the animal world, textiles and ceramics. We started at the Tower Entrance and the exhibition showing the history of Scotland the Kingdom of the Scots (900AD – late 17th century) when Scotland was independent from England, through the industrial revolution of Scotland (18th, 19th and early 20th centuries) and ending at the modern day Scotland.

There is a lot of information in the museum so we had a wander and perused whatever peeked our interest.

Pictures 41, 42, 43, 44 and 45 – Museum Exhibits

Once we had finished in the History of Scotland part of the museum we crossed into the older building where the general exhibitions were. The café was really busy due to it being lunchtime so we decided to go round the third floor and let the rush calm down a bit before heading for a coffee and a cake.

Pictures 46 and 47 – Museum Exhibits

Once we had finished lunch we headed round the rest of the museum, as the museums in Edinburgh Castle, there is too much information to take in! By the time we got to the ground floor, Mum and I were museum-ed out!

We left the museum and headed back down the mound (after a quick toe-rub of the statue of David Hume for good luck with my exams) and back to Princes Street, the bus stop and finally the hotel.

Day 03 – 1st May 2023

Today is our last day in Edinburgh. My plane leaves in the early evening so we have the morning in Edinburgh. We returned to Princes Street and visited the Art Gallery. This is comprised of several different galleries, some which are free and others that you have to pay to enter.

Art isn’t really my thing but I enjoy looking at landscapes, I find that portraits, unless you know the subject, are largely uninteresting. The good thing about the Scottish National Gallery of Art is that it’s free. There are a number of smaller rooms, each covering a certain period of art. There are some lovely pictures, including The Monarch of the Glen, the Ice Skating Vicar and a landscape of Dunoter Castle.

Picture 48, 49 & 50 – Monarch of the Glen, Ice Skating Vicar & Dunoter Castle

From the art gallery we meandered our way through Princes Street Gardens, past the Scott Monument and then up and through the new town, along George Street, to Charlotte Square where The Georgian House is located.

The Georgian House is located next to Bute House, the Edinburgh Residence of the First Minister of Scotland. In fact, when Nicola Sturgeon left after she resigned, she waved to the volunteers, staff and visitors of the Georgian House on her way to her car! The Georgian House is familiar to me as I spent 5yrs volunteering there when I was at university. It was nice to visit the house again, some things had changed whilst others had stayed the same. Since I left the 2nd floor has been opened up and visitors can now visit the Housekeepers room. They’ve also moved the shop – I got lost!

From the Georgian House we wandered back up Rose Street before return down Princes Street to the Waterstones at the Haymarket end. This bookstore has always been a favourite of ours – it’s four floors and has a café overlooking Princes Street Gardens. Here we had coffee and cake before heading back to the hotel and from there home.

Picture 51 – Princes Street Gardens

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