Today, we’re hopping on a short flight for the puddle jump from Dublin to Edinburgh.
Scotland’s capital city boasts many museums, is the fictional home of Ian Rankin’s, Rebus, and two castles at either end of the Royal Mile. Edinburgh Castle (seen below) sits atop an extinct volcano.
At the opposite end of the street stands the Palace of Holyrood House, the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh.
But the city has a dark side. Deacon Brodie, a mild-mannered well-respected businessman by day, thief by night. He was the inspiration for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
There are also the notorious grave robbers, William Burke and William Hare. They dug up the dearly-departed and sold the corpses to Doctor Robert Knox. When they couldn’t get enough already dead bodies, they resorted to murder to fill the quota.
No trip to Scotland is complete without a trip to this vibrant city.
Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.
DI Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city and he needs to find the source but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course. Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taught crime thriller.
Erin Kelly – author of psychological thrillers including ‘Broadchurch’ and ‘The Poison Tree’
“A gripping debut novel about power, politics and the importance – and danger – of family ties. Hunter Wilson is a compelling new detective and Val Penny is an author to watch.”
Stuart Gibbon – Former Murder Squad DCI & co-author of ‘The Crime Writer’s Casebook’
“A cracking read featuring the unforgettable DI Hunter Wilson.”
Kate Bendelow – author of ‘The Real CSI: A Forensic Handbook for Crime Writers’
“An exciting debut – a police procedural that is refreshing, gripping and witty. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait for the next one.”
Michael Jecks – author of unmissable historical mysteries including the ‘Jack Blackjack’ crime series including ‘Rebellion’s Message’ and the ‘Knights Templar’ mysteries including ‘The Last Templar’ and the contemporary spy novel ‘Act of Vengeance’
“This tartan noire book is a real coffee-cooler. I had three cups of coffee that went cold, forgotten while reading. Val Penny created a cast of characters I want to see in another book as soon as possible.
This is a truly astonishing debut from a writer to watch for the future.
Believable characters, gut-wrenching scenes, and a plot that sizzles along. A taut police procedural that is up there with Ian Rankin, Alex Gray and Quintin Jardine.”
About Val Penny
Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballet dancer or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her first crime novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ set in Edinburgh, Scotland will be published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018. She is now writing the sequel, ‘Hunter’s Revenge’.
I booked our return train tickets long before we went to Scotland. When I knew the train and our seats, I immediately contacted my friend, Chris Longmuir, with the carriage and seat numbers so she could book a seat with us.
The bus stop was close to the hotel, so we walked there and boarded the #5 and told the driver we were going to the Dundee Railway Station. Two return tickets in hand, we settled in for the ride.
When we reached the Nethergate (Stop 1), the driver exited his driving compartment and told us this was the best stop for the train station. We were both impressed that he remembered us and our destination.
A short walk to the train station and we redeemed our tickets at one of the self-serve kiosks before heading to the platform to await our Virgin East Coast train to Edinburgh.
Anxious and excited to spend the day in the city with Chris, it was hard to settle on the train. We chatted about publishing print books and ebooks and changes that needed to be made or which version of the document to use. I’d done it before and had no problems but the current (I’ll call it WIP) gave me grief… hence the request for advice.
The Edinburgh train crossed over the Forth Bridge. This has been on my bucket list for a long time. The bridge looks like it was constructed from a Meccano set.
The train windows were dirty so that didn’t help the picture. In the background, you can see the current Forth Road Bridge and the new, still under construction, crossing.
Before we left the station, we stopped at the bathrooms. 30p to use the toilets but they were clean and the attendant made sure the lines of patiently waiting customers moved smoothly.
I had booked us on a tour of “The Real Mary King’s Close” for about an hour after we arrived in Edinburgh. The printed ticket confirmation said we needed to be there about 30 minutes before the tour started.
Having taken the train into Edinburgh Waverley on more than one occasion, I didn’t realize there was a way from there to the Royal Mile that didn’t require walking up a steep hill. Chris took us on an alternate route, although a bit longer and out of the way, required less effort and on reasonably level ground.
After we checked in at the ticket office and were told we had plenty of time, we decided to look in the nearby whisky shop to see if they stocked 18 year-old Cardhu. They did stock a 21 year-old. For a mere £350.00 we could buy it. On this day, the Bank of Canada exchange rate from UK pounds to CAN dollars was $1.7059 so a bottle of whisky would have cost us $597.00!!! Yikes!!! We knew we could get the age we wanted from the distillery and we had free time on the next day (not meeting my cousins until 7:30 for dinner) so decided rather than traipse around Edinburgh all day looking for what we wanted, we’d wait and make a distillery run on Saturday.
While Chris picked up a few Christmas presents in the shop, I went out and took a few pictures.
How appropriate… Writers’ Court. Chris and I are both writers – just different genres.
And, no the Tattoo Office has nothing to do with marking your skin (permanently or temporarily with henna).
Because Mary King’s Close is under the City Chambers, you’re not permitted to take photographs. *sigh*
Our guide, Paula, was a hoot! Knowledgeable, friendly, and funny. Even though I don’t have photographs of my own to remember the tour, I do have a guidebook and a few other mementos.
Back on Princes Street, we waited at the bus for the #22 that would take us to Ocean Terminal (a waterfront mall and ticket office for the Royal Yacht Britannia).
There’s the #29 headed in the opposite direction.
When our bus arrived, we bought two day passes which would also get us on the trams.
The tour of the Royal Yacht Britanniais completely self-guided. You’re provided with an audio guide (looks like an overgrown cellphone) which is available in a number of languages. They also have a guide in Braille for visually impaired visitors.
We had a late lunch/snack in the Royal Deck Tea Room. I had coffee and fruit scones, Don had chocolate cake, and Chris had a bowl of Carrot and something soup.
Here in the Verge Inn, you have the chance to take “Corgi selfies” (see the wee guy on the left of the photo) or take selfies wearing these hats. No, the beer isn’t real. It’s resin coloured to look like beer with a light foam head on top.
After departing the yacht and Ocean Terminal, we boarded the #22 and returned to Princes St where our next adventure began… a ride on the Edinburgh trams!
We had to walk to one of the stations in the middle of Princes St so that Chris could buy a ticket. Her Angus council bus pass didn’t count for nowt here. Now that we were all legal, we boarded the next tram and rode it to Murrayfield Stadium. Out here the main railway line and the tram line aren’t too far apart.
On our way back to the city centre, Don struck up a conversation with a guy stood near where Chris and I sat. Said guy was reading a Stephen Booth novel. Don told him that Chris also wrote crime fiction (embarrassing her) but she pulled our her stash of book postcards and gave them to him.
The tram ride was another thing crossed off a bucket list (not mine). My next thing was a pint at the Oxford Bar, Ian Rankin’s local. Seeing how Chris was with us I hoped he wouldn’t think I was a pyscho Canadian stalker… LOL!
By now, it was getting later in the day. The next train back to Dundee that stopped in the town Chris lives in departed from Edinburgh Waverley at 7:30. We still needed to get a bite to eat to get us through until tomorrow.
I settled for a photo so I could say, “I’ve been there” but I’ll definitely be back again and have an IPA or something before leaving.
Over supper, still thinking we had to be back at Waverley for the 7:30 train, I checked our tickets. We were locked in to a Virgin East Coast return or pay a fee to change it.
Chris checked her train schedule that she carries with her and luckily for us, that happened to be the 8:30 train. We could have stopped for a quick drink before stopping in at TGI Fridays on Castle Street. Oh well. It did give us some more time for evening photo ops.
When I visited with my cousin, Eric, a few days ago, he mentioned climbing to the top of the Scott Monument with his father back in the day. He claims they carved their initials in the wall at the top level. Must climb up sometime (oh my aching knees) and see if they’re still visible.
When we arrived back at the railway station, we still had some time before we needed to be at the platform. Where else does a writer go but a bookstore?
And look who I found! Fellow loveahappyending author, Sheryl Browne, and her novel The Rest of My Life. She’s in some pretty good company there with Stuart MacBride and Kathy Reichs.
All too soon, our wonderful day came to an end. We were getting off the train in Dundee and Chris was carrying on up the line to her stop. At least the turnstiles in Dundee were open so I got to keep our tickets as souvenirs.
It finally started to rain and drizzled as we made our way back up to Nethergate and a bus stop to catch our return bus to Broughty Ferry.
After we returned to the hotel and deposited our things in the room, we went to the bar for a drink. Whilst chatting with the young barman, we found out that he’d come to Canada on a hockey scholarship. Then we narrowed it down to Ontario (most people wouldn’t have a clue where our city is in the grand scheme of things). Come to find out, he stayed in Cornwall! That’s only a little over an hour away from us. And he played some hockey in Brockville, too.
Tomorrow, in addition to supper with the clan, we have a “side trip” to the distillery. Another adventure.
Jeff, our host at Duncan House, and his black lab joined the group of folks in the dining room. He apologized profusely for not remembering me (actually, putting the name with the face). With the number of people who stay in his wonderful Georgian B&B, I’m not surprised, nor was I offended.
After a hearty breakfast, including porridge, we set out. Shortly before we left home for Scotland, we received an email telling us that Craigmillar Castle would be closed until Sept 20th. The picture of the property included in the Historic Scotland email intrigued me and it being after the 20th, and the castle being close to (if not in the ‘burbs of Edinburgh) so en route to Broughty Ferry, the satnav was programmed to take us there.
I ended up driving Monty further into the city than I wanted thanks to roadworks (as in a humungous hole) in Craigmillar Castle Road. So I had to drive by that end of the road, follow the diversion signs … AND ignore Satnav Sally.
Two school buses (not like our North American ones) parked back to back on opposite sides of the car park. No way on earth Monty would fit between their snouts.
I parked sort of on the edge of the road and we strode to the ticket office/gift shop. “One concession (aka senior), one adult and toilets,” was the buzz phrase of the day. He stamped our “zero charge” receipt with the combination we needed to gain access to the facilities and off we went.
My favourite place! I’ll even do the spiral stairs to get there… 😉
Years later, the windows have been filled in but the fireplace remains.
The school children were amazed that in two different towers of the castle there were bathrooms. One group called over to the other, “we’ve got a loo!” and the other replied “So do we! We have a loo, too!”
The view from the castle ramparts is amazing. The clear weather made it easy to see and recognize North Berwick Law (we’d seen it last year on our way to Dunbar and on the train to Edinburgh).
Driving towards Craigmillar Castle, we had spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat but no place to pull over for a photo op. I was chuffed to bits to get this view from Craigmillar’s ramparts.
As we approached the Forth Road Bridge, the first of many signs for Scotland’s Secret Bunker popped up. It had been a possibility on previous trips and we happened to have the time, so decided to make it a reality this trip. Canada has the Diefenbunker (which we’ve visited) so we needed to compare the two locations.
Imagine a Cold War Shelter capable of running the country from under an innocuous farm house? Now that the cold war threat is over (or is it) things aren’t so secret anymore.
Unfortunately, the roads leading to it aren’t so smooth, so again the buzz phrase when we bought our tickets was “One concession, one adult and toilets” but this time I added “and not necessarily in that order”.
Finally, we reached our destination for the night. When I booked, I thought we’d get the same room as last year but this time we got one on the ground floor at the front of the hotel (corner of Queen Street and Claypotts/Westfield Road). Finally, a place where we didn’t have to lug everything up at least one flight of stairs!
Tomorrow morning, we’re catching the train in Dundee to Edinburgh where we’ll spend the day with our good friend (fellow author and crime writer), Chris Longmuir.
Today we’re off to Edinburgh. Return train fare from Dunbar to Edinburgh, Waverly was £24.40 well worth every pence when it meant not driving in the city or trying to find parking. And I had haggis with my bacon and eggs with my breakfast!
Unlike Aberdeen and Dundee where we had taken the train earlier in our vacation, we didn’t have to put our ticket into the machine to get through the turnstile to exit the station.
The first order of business was for me to find a new purse. My black, cross-body bag wasn’t going to be big enough to take some things home in (iPad, paperback, etc) rather than put them in the checked bags and they were perfectly acceptable to take in carry-on.
Primark, H&M, Marks & Spencer, BHS, we hit them all along Princes Street. I had seen a few girls carrying purses that I really liked when we were in Dundee – black suede, fringed – but couldn’t find any. However, I did find one that I instantly fell in love with at Debehams.
Isn’t it gorgeous? I love it! And it’s got room for all the stuff I need to carry in it… and then some. The girl on cash took the tags off it so I could carry it even though it was empty. It made no sense to get a back to carry a ‘handbag’ in. It came with a black cloth bag large enough to put the suede beauty in and some air-filled pillows filled up the rest of the space so it looked like I was carrying a normal purse.
As we were approaching the crosswalk to Princes Gardens, one of the guys trying to sign up new customers outside the Vodaphone store approached saying he could get us a good deal on our monthly mobile phone bill. His face dropped when we said we were from Canada. Mind you, after the experience with the EE sim and top-up card, Vodaphone is looking better all the time.
Where does a writer go in Edinburgh? This writer went to the Writers’ Museum.
Works by and personal effects that belonged to Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott are all on display – each with a full floor of the building dedicated to them.
Someone had a sense of humour at one time mounting the back end of a cow onto one of the buildings on the street. But then the street is called The Cowgate. Can we say “Udderly hilarious?”
Another place we visited was the Royal Oak Pub. I’m positive I’d seen on a website that it was a famous Edinburgh author’s local. I got the wrong end of the stick but now that I know, I’ll be prepared for next time. 🙂
No authors other than me (well, at least well-known that I would recognize), but some great characters and a pub filled with charm.
After a pint and a pee we walked to Grayfriars Kirkyard.
If these monuments look like they’re attached to the houses, you’d be right… they are! Well, if your house backs onto a graveyard, at least those neighbours are quiet.
I love this bus! The sign on the front shows “Holyrood Herse, St Andrew Square, and National Ghoulery”. The one on the back shows “Calton Hell, George Scare, and Deadinburgh Castle”. I think this is something to check out for future trips to Edinburgh.
By now, we were getting hungry. According to the Edinburgh map we picked up at or near the Writers’ Museum, there was an Indian Restaurant on Rose Street. Since we both like Indian, it was perfect. We made sure we started our trek on Rose Street close enough to Waverly Station so we could walk by Robertsons on the way for our curry.
There aren’t a lot of trains that stop in Dunbar so we didn’t want to be stuck waiting until late to get a train, but we had purchased ‘cheap same day return’ tickets which normally restricts you from riding the train at rush hour hence eating a bit earlier than we normally would.
Well wouldn’t you know. The Indian restaurant was closed! They didn’t open until later. After the ‘rented’ ale at the Royal Oak, we both needed a loo – badly. Thankfully, TGI Fridays was across the street so we legged it there for a meal… and the toilet.
We must have asked half a dozen ScotRail employees what the earliest train was we could get back to Dunbar with the tickets we had. Finally, we got to the right employees and as luck would have it, we could get the next one. Because there aren’t many trains that stop in Dunbar, the rush hour restriction is lifted and you can travel on any train which is good to know for future train travels.
We’re not sure what the delay was, but when we got close to Dunbar the train stopped and we waited for about fifteen minutes before moving again. When we did get to our stop, it seemed that everyone else on the train (well at least one carriage) got off. Obviously, a lot of people commute to Edinburgh for work.
Come on Tour with Sophie and Dan… Visit where the story began: Edinburgh – Sophie’s Run Blogtour 2013
Her famous star remains her rock while life takes her on a little detour…
Who says that the road towards true love is straight and even? Sophie is certainly discovering that it is anything but.
So she has finally found the man of her dreams! Well… she knows who he is, even though she hasn’t actually quite met him yet. But she misses her opportunity, and then her life goes crazy. Rock star and ex-fiancé, Dan, keeps getting in the way of her new romance—even if he is just trying to be helpful. A fire, an impromptu mini-trip with Dan, and a dreaded wedding later, Sophie is still struggling to meet the love of her life. Then, just as she is getting it together with her perfect man, best friend Rachel commits an act of unspeakable betrayal.
Sophie has had enough. Confused and distraught, she decides that it is time for radical change. Surprising herself and shocking her friends, she embarks on a secret journey and eventually gets her life back on track.
Hi, Melanie! *waves* Whoop, the day is finally here. I know you were super excited about hosting this feature today, given your own love for all things Scottish. *happy dance*
But I’m getting carried away already. Sorry, you must forgive me. I’m just so over the moon to be here; thank you for having me! Perhaps, though, I should introduce myself properly to your readers. *clears throat*
Hello, you! My name is Sophie Penhalligan and I am the heroine in the Rock Star Romance Trilogy by Nicky Wells. I’ve been on this blog before and you might have stumbled across me then but in case we’re new acquaintances: it’s very nice to meet you! *waves again*
Today, Melanie is helping us celebrate the launch of Book 2, Sophie’s Run. ‘Her famous star remains her rock while life takes her on a little detour…’ Detour, indeed. My goodness, it’s been a rollercoaster ride and I can’t wait to share it all with you. In the meantime, however, I’d like to take you on tour. More specifically, I’d like to take you to the place where the story began, many years ago.
The train pulled into Edinburgh Waverley station and I panicked. What on earth was I doing? I lowered the window, awkwardly fumbling outside to reach the door handle, and let myself off the train. I was traveling light. My tiny rucksack carried only my purse and the barest of overnight essentials. I wasn’t planning to stay the night, really. But what was I planning? What had I been thinking when I got on that train, going after four blokes ten years older than my humble nineteen years? Well, in truth, I was only interested in one of them, but even that was a completely one-sided matter at this time.
It was five o’clock in the afternoon, and I had about two hours or so to get to wherever I needed to go. But, of course, I still needed to find out where they were playing tonight… (Excerpt from Sophie’s Turn)
If you’ve read the first book, you’ll know that I did meet my favorite rock band, Tuscq, that night and that I nearly got very up-close-and-personal with Dan Hunter, the lead singer. Nearly! Later on in the story, Dan and I go back to Edinburgh and it’s very romantic. Somehow, fate seems to draw me back to this amazing city, and I get to visit again in Sophie’s Run, if only in passing this time:
The train journey to Edinburgh was relatively uneventful. However, halfway across the country, the sunshine vanished and grey skies loomed.
Trying to lighten the atmosphere, I declared loudly and brightly, “Never fear, the weather is meant to be really changeable in these parts, I’m sure it’ll be fine and sunny tomorrow.”
“Och, it’s a wee bit o’ Scotch mist, lassie,” a passing passenger chipped in. “It winna fash ye. The thing to watch oot for is the midges, they’re fair ferocious this time o’ year.”
I didn’t have a clue what he had said, but I was too embarrassed to show myself up as a total Sassenach so I smiled apologetically and shrugged.(Excerpt from Sophie’s Run)
Uh-huh, another train journey to Edinburgh. I believe this is quite a deliberate echo of the first book, but you’ll have to read for yourself to find out who I’m going with this time and why. ☺ For now, I’d like to show you some of my favorite vistas and hang outs. You ready?
First of all, Princes Street. I’ll never forget walking down there on the way to that fateful gig… I’m standing on the corner looking down into Lothian Road (see photo), absorbing the atmosphere and barely containing my excitement at seeing Tuscq very soon.
And here’s the Castle at Night! I’m still on Princes Street on the corner with Hanover Street, just looking in a different direction. Isn’t it amazing?
Of course, I did see some of Edinburgh by day, too. Not on my first visit, but the second time round. I checked out the Tollcross…
…and the old town! Take a look at Goose Pie House in Ramsay Gardens…
One final, panoramic look at the Castle and Waverley Station…
*sighs* Ah, so many memories. What a fabulous city. Have you ever been? Well, if you do go, or if you’re just dreaming about it, don’t forget to take me with you, and Sophie’s Run! Thank you for joining me on my trip today and… rock on!
Wait, wait, wait, there’s more: Introducing the Sophie’s Run Give Away!
Sophie’s Run GIVEAWAYS
1) Standard Giveaway
Nicky Wells is giving away one delicious chocolate gift to a lucky winner in the UK or North America!
The small print: This Gift prize is a product of Unique Chocolate. The Gift prize is subject to availability in your country. If the Gift prize is not available in your country, Nicky Wells reserves the right to offer a substitute gift prize of a similar nature at her discretion. Nicky Wells will require the winner’s postal address for shipping purposes.
Nicky Wells offers a giveaway of one Amazon gift voucher worth $20/£15 for one lucky winner. To enter, simply share your thoughts on Sophie’s Run with Nicky. Email your comment to firstname.lastname@example.org and your name will be entered into the draw. Competition closes 1 May 2013.
About Nicky Wells: Romance that Rocks Your World!
Rock On! Nicky Wells writes fun and glamorous contemporary romance featuring a rock star and the girl next door. A signed author with U.S. publisher, Sapphire Star Publishing, Nicky is in the throes of publishing her Rock Star Romance Trilogy. Nicky loves rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, Nicky is a wife, mother, and occasional teaching assistant.
Originally born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993, and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys. In a previous professional life, Nicky worked as a researcher and project manager for an international Human Resources research firm based in London and Washington, D.C.
I’ve been rather quiet here at Celtic Connexions since posting about going to my first live curling event.
If you follow the Goodreads widgets on my sidebar, you’ll see I’ve spent a lot of time in this young year with my face stuck in books. Crime fiction, short stories, YA, and true crime. And I’ve currently got my face stuck in another book of crime fiction.
Yeah, I know, if I’m doing all this reading, I’m not getting any writing done. You’re right, but in order to be a good writer, one has to read and read lots.
The crime fiction I’ve read and am reading could almost be classed as research. I can see you shaking your heads and wondering if I’ve gone completely doolally. Well, peeps, I haven’t. You see, the authors of this genre I’ve been reading are both Scottish authors – Ian Rankin and Stuart MacBride.
While reading about places in Scotland isn’t quite the same as being there, I have been to Edinburgh where Ian sets his novels
and Aberdeen, the home of Stuart’s. Reading their books brings the sights, sounds and smells back to me. And I’ve discovered a few things along the way that I didn’t know before. See why I say my reading could almost be classed as research?
What will the next book on my TBR pile to move onto my currently reading list? Any suggestions?
What authors/genres do you like to read? Leave a comment and tell me.
My Scottish roots and writing by Melanie Robertson-King