For me, there have been a coupe places where I’ve just stepped off a plane and immediately felt at home. To name a few: Galway, London, Lucerne, and today’s Travel Tuesday spotlight… Edinburgh!
I actually travelled to Edinburgh in the same weekend as my trip to Lucerne. It was a bank holiday weekend in Ireland… basically meaning that we got Monday off with minimal explanation. I was okay with it, though!
^would it even be Scotland if there were't bagpipes?^
Because I was squeezing these two trips together, though, my travel plans were a bit nuts. I was close to tears when we landed in Dublin after midnight and Juliette got to go home to her bed while I had a looming night in the airport's McDonald’s ahead of me… The things we do for cool life experiences, amirite?!
^wicked haunted, used to be an outdoor prison?!^
^the original Hogwarts! Well, combined with the castle, I think?^
This trip to Scotland was my first planning and traveling by myself. I got a hostel rec from my Galway roommate but, because I’m me, that was pretty much the extent of my planning! Luckily, hostels usually have pamphlets in abundance and very knowledgeable staff who are well-used to the wide-eyed college traveller and the world-weathered pro alike.
^hi to Voldy? This two poor dead men had the misfortune of having their names stolen by the Dark Lord, and aparently people spit on their eternal resting place now sooo^
^MOST important. Someone made Sirius Black a grave marker in the same graveyard where JK Rowling got the names for Dumbledore, McGonagall, and (boo, hiss) Voldemort^
^this little guy is a local hero! The actual dog was awarded the keys to the city after his owner died (way back when) because strays were killed, but not if they were key-holders! Look up the story or request it in the comments, it's very cute^
I actually ended up taking two walking tours of Edinburgh- one free and one paid. The free one was during daylight hours through a company that offers similar tours in cities throughout Europe.
^apparently in the spring, the castle looks like it's floating on leaves... hence, Hogwarts has the lake that the first year's boat in on!^
I would honestly use this same company in every location if there was a guarantee that my guide would be as wonderful as the one I followed around Edinburgh! She was full of hilarious stories (like the origin of the phrase “shit faced” and the real-life inspiration for Jekyll and Hyde) and local legends (many of which took place in the graveyard… which is simultaneously severely haunted AND the #1 first date destination in the city. Who knew?). Her tour really gave me a sense of where I was and how to get around- absolutely KEY in a new city, especially when traveling alone! She also made a TON of Harry Potter references- because Edinburgh is very proudly “the birthplace of Harry Potter”- which makes her good in my book!
The paid tour I went on was a ghost walk through Edinburgh at night. Luckily, I was able to meet up with two of my friends from Galway for this portion, or I probably wouldn’t have done it! After some Scottish Whisky liquid courage (it weirds me out that there’s no “e…” anyone else?), we followed a Matt Smith look-alike through the dark and damp (everything was damp, welcome to Scotland, I guess) streets, stopping at places where people had been killed creatively and hearing the stories of their hauntings. We even got to go into some old underground areas, which was both cool and SUPER creepy.
Day two of my Scottish adventure led to some hiking with my Galway Gals! We had decided the night before (post getting our creep on) that we wanted to climb up to Arthur’s Seat to see the panoramic views of Edinburgh and the surrounding area.
^sneakiest pic pf the crown jewels and Stone of Destiny (which is literally just a rock)^
After some fortifying Starbucks (yes, they are everywhere), we headed out… only to get distracted by some really cool little inlet-garden-type-things! Edinburgh is FILLED with little alleyways and narrow staircases, and apparently they are filled with cool greenery and mazes. But, THEN we climbed up a bajillion steps and some less structured areas on our way to Arthur’s Seat.
The view? Yeah, it is SO worth the hike (and the getting lapped by Scotsmen sprinting up the side of the hill). You can see for miles in every direction and it is absolutely breathtaking- cliche, but there is no other word for it! I actually liked our hike down better than the hike up- we took a creative route to the bottom, weaving between rocks and bushes and stopping to take epic selfies with a selfie stick! All that adventuring made us ravenous, so we stopped at an authentic-looking (read: old, but cute) Scottish pub for some Fish n’ Chips (because I need to create a definitive ranking of Fish and Chips throughout regions that claim them as a local food group).
^all that the light touches, and that whole shebang^
^super mega windy^
We also wandered through the best of Edinburgh’s museums: the literary museum, the Castle, and the National museum! Each had their own awesome tie-ins to my tour the day before, so I really felt like I was learning (and holding on to!) some fun facts (like the murders which inspired Sherlock Holmes, that the Castle is the oldest building of its type that still houses military personnel, and how the stone of destiny was stolen/liberated- depending on who you ask).
- Of course, I had to stop by the Elephant House (where Queen JK wrote HP!) for the world’s most magical hot cocoa! I also followed in the footsteps of potterheads before me and left a message on the bathroom walls!
- There was a market up the sides of the main street when I first arrived. I killed some time before my tour checking out some gorgeous rings (I bought my Scottish marble beauty here!) and buying a golden snitch locket/pocket watch for my roomie!
- There’s this little shop front off the main drag that literally only makes baked potatoes… and it’s pretty much the greatest thing ever!
^there is no cute way to eat a fried Mars Bar (...at least, not for me)^
World's smallest pub- HOW CUTE?!?
^YAY for Hot Toddies, aka acceptable day drinking?!?!^
... there were dress up stations in the museum...
- Sour Patch Kids are not the same in Europe as they are in America! I bought a bag for munching on top of Arthur’s Seat and now I have trust issues. I’ve ranted about this to Laura several times… basically, they’re just wrong.
- To warm up after the wind chill and general damp-ness, my Scottish tour guide suggested we all get Hot Toddies, which are some sort of magical combination of tea (maybe?), hot water, whisky, and lemon/honey/cloves. It tastes like a hug wrapped in dryer-warm blankets feels.
- We tried Fried Mars Bars! It’s basically the love child of a warm, melty, Milky Way and fried dough. I don’t know if it’s actually a Scottish delicacy, or if they’re just hoping to make alllll the tourists try something that is essentially a heart attack in physical form.
- BONUS: Instead of, like, “sexy firemen” calendars, Scotland has “shirtless men in Kilts” calendars. You’re welcome.
I feel like all of these Travel Tuesday installments are going to be complete and utter doozies! That’s what I get for not writing these up sooner, huh? I hope you guys enjoyed this little whirlwind tour of Edinburgh! Let me know if you want to stories behind any of my little parentheticals/side notes- I’m sure some of them can be built out into their own posts!
Much love and I will see you from somewhere else in the world next Tuesday!