Enda Mullen discovers a beautiful city which fully lives up to its reputation.
It’s not often you go into a national art gallery and see a painting by one of your ancestors.
Strictly speaking it wasn’t one of mine, though three of our family could lay claim to being a descendant of Danish Golden Age painter Martinus Rorbye.
My eagle-eyed wife spotted the work in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh - a 19th century painting of boy fishermen in Italy - by her great, great, great, great uncle and almost immediately the sightseeing fatigue of our nine and ten-year-old youngsters was alleviated by the discovery.
It was more impressive still when one considers some of the legendary artists whose work is exhibited there, with works on display by Raphael, El Greco, Velázquez,
Rubens, Van Gogh, Monet, Cézanne, Degas and Gauguin. It’s certainly an impressive collection when one considers the size of Scotland and a great place to while away a few hours.
One of the joys about visiting Edinburgh is that there always seems to be something new to discover.
It helps that it’s a city with a truly international character as well as the sort of history and heritage to die for. Having stayed in all manner of places there previously - from B&Bs to plush hotels and even a convent - this visit represented a new experience with a stay in an apart-hotel, which combined the best of both worlds.
The Knight Residence, which has 28 apartments, had all the freedom of self-catering yet we also enjoyed benefits a hotel might offer such as a daily cleaning service as well as clean towels when required. There was also a reception area with a mini library of books to borrow, DVDs for hire, vending machines selling drinks and snacks and a whole host of tourist information leaflets. I particularly liked the hot drink machine that was free at certain times of the day. Not only that but a secure car park at the rear offered impressively easy access to the accommodation.
The Knight Residence proved perfectly located too, within sight of the majestic castle that defines Edinburgh and close to the buzzing Grassmarket area with its pubs, cafes and shops. There was also a supermarket right across the street for all essential shopping needs as well as a variety of bars, restaurants and takeaways nearby.
The apartments were nicely appointed and a great place to unwind after a busy day on the sightseeing trail. Ours came with satellite TV too, which meant relaxing was enhanced by the chance to watch some football.
Our three-night stay went far too quickly – a sure sign you’re having a good time – and kicked off with a foray on the Harry Potter trail. As if Edinburgh didn’t have enough attractions already the fact JK Rowling lived and wrote here has added a new dimension. We started off exploring the Greyfriars Tolbooth and Highland Kirk graveyard where we’d been informed the author took inspiration for the names of some of the famous Harry Potter characters. The cemetery is, of course, more famous for being the site where the famously loyal dog Greyfriars Bobby stood watch by his master’s grave for many years.
Like many old cemeteries it’s an interesting spot anyway and after a thorough exploration and a sense of satisfaction after finding at least a couple of Harry Potter-related names we sojourned to the Elephant House cafe nearby where an impoverished JK Rowling sat and wrote. Several foreign Potter fans popped in and out during our visit - presumably just to say they’d been there.