Posted by: ramblinrobert | May 10, 2008

Edinburgh: One classic tourist photo, one rare treat

Our tour group made a brief stop in Edinburgh. We were there just for an afternoon and part of a morning. I was fine with this, as I planned to return and spend a few days on my own after the tour, and our time there gave me a chance to orient myself to the city.

There is something that many, if not most, tourists do in Edinburgh. One statue is reputed to be more photographed than any other statue in the city. It is, of course, the statue of Greyfriars Bobby. Greyfriars BobbyIf I was going to play tourist in Edinburgh, visiting the statue and getting my picture taken beside the statue of Bobby seemed like a good way to do it. Bobby’s story is touching, especially to dog lovers like me.

I also had an opportunity to do something very few tourists would even know about–I wouldn’t have known about it myself if Margaret, one of our tour members, wasn’t learning to play the Uillean pipes. Nigel RichardIt was only a few years ago that I learned that “bagpipe” doesn’t refer just to that big loud Scottish instrument that some of us love and some of us hate. I now know that those are the Highland or War pipes. There are many other kinds of pipes, some of which, like the Uillean (or Irish) pipes, aren’t blown into at all. The bag is inflated by a small bellows held under the arm and pumped by steadily moving the elbow in and out. The border pipes and small pipes are inflated in the same way.

Margaret knew of a pipe maker, Nigel Richard of Garvie Bagpipes, one of the top makers in the world of border and small pipes. When she said she was going to try to find his shop I jumped at the chance and joined her. We were in luck and in for a treat. Nigel was there and generously took the time to show us his shop, some of the woods he uses in his pipes and samples of his pipes. He played two different sets of pipes for us to show us the differences in how they sounded. Nigels handiworkDespite the differences in fingering from what she is used to, Margaret even took a crack at playing the chanter for one of the pipes. Margaret trying the chanterThis was a real privilege, to be able to talk with Nigel and learn about this craft that he has dedicated himself to. If you’re interested in pipes, check out the samples of music on his website.



  1. You mean there are other reasons to visit Edinburgh besides Bobby? 😉 What a great photo!

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