We began our voyage through the British Isles in Edinburgh, cultural capital of Caledonia. After a brief introduction to the ship we toured the town. We saw the homes of two of Edinburgh's literary giants - Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott.
The Royal Mile, Edinburgh's most famous street, runs from the ancient castle that houses Scotland's crown jewels down to Holyrood House, now the royal residence in Scotland. Today this medieval road is lined with pubs and shops selling tweed and woolen plaids.
We ascended Calton Hill for an overview. Besides another look at many cultural sites, we had a good look at Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags. Both of these prominent landmarks are testimony to volcanic activity in Edinburgh 350 million years ago. Millions of years of erosion have since stripped away the overlying deposits and exposed the very core of the volcanoes. Arthur's Seat was formerly a volcanic pipe that once served as the conduit for lava, ash, and other volcanic debris.
Returning to the ship, we were surprised to find a Scottish musical greeting. No other instrument so typifies Scottish pride and culture as the highland bagpipes. As the ship eventually pulled away from the dock, the visceral sound of the pipes could be heard from a great distance. It was easy to understand how Scottish warriors of by-gone days could be inspired by the powerful sound and emotion of the pipes while charging into battle.