The stories of Highland clans and whisky and kilts and friendly people came to my attention throughout the years so I decided to visit Scotland. I spent a week in Scotland in July 2012. Since I like primarily to visit the capital of a country and then explore a bit more (if time permits) I made a plan for my Scottish week which included Edinburgh and Glasgow and Stirling. Maybe not the obvious choices apart from Edinburgh, but I travelled with my boyfriend (now my hubby) and he offered a few suggestions that I took. He wanted to see Glasgow because of its football clubs Celtic and Rangers and he knew about Stirling because of William Wallace aka Mel Gibson in the Braveheart movie. Yup! I was an awesome girlfriend then and I’m now an even more awesome wife so not only did we visit Glasgow but we actually went to Celtic’s football stadium and he took a photo of its manager! I looked up Stirling in a guide book and was very happy to visit it. But the highlight of the trip was definitely Edinburgh. But I’m jumping ahead, so let’s rewind back to the beginning and start this story properly.
Of course, we flew to London Stansted and then had a few hours to spare at the airport before boarding our flight to Edinburgh. My first encounter with Scottish hospitality happened on the plane when a lady sitting next to me started chatting with me and gave me lots of tips. One of those was to visit the Edinburgh ZOO but we just didn’t have enough time for that. When we landed it was rainy and foggy and more or less remained that way during the entire week. Thus, unfortunately I don’t have a lot of beautiful photos due to bad weather even though it was July. Nevertheless, we had a wonderful time in Scotland.
We stayed at a hostel in a street just off the Royal Mile. The location couldn’t have been better but our dorm room was small and smelly. Actually, that was the last time we had stayed at a hostel. Anyway after checking-in we went for a walk up and down the Royal Mile. It was so foggy and cold that everything looked spooky and yet so beautiful. If you didn’t know Edinburgh is divided into Old Town and New Town; both being pretty old and beautiful and both being UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Royal Mile is the main street of the Old Town leading downwards from the Edinburgh Castle at one end to the Holyrood Palace at the other end. So we walked to the entrance of the Edinburgh Castle and then retraced our steps back towards our hostel and then we walked a bit further down when we came across the World’s End pub. I drank whisky (well, when in Scotland…) and my boyfriend had their beer.
He tried different beers during our stay but he said afterwards that the beers from this pub were the best. Before that I stopped in front of a souvenir shop to look at the window display and a woman sitting there on the steps started talking to us. She informed us of tomorrow’s Queen’s procession. So what’s Queen doing here? Well, the Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh is her official residence in Scotland and she usually spends a part of summer there. It was pure luck that our visit coincided with her stay!:)
The next morning we first walked down the Royal Mile past the World’s End pub towards the Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament which is a very modern building that in my opinion looks like an eyesore among other historical buildings. Again, when shopping for some souvenirs we got chatted up and basically wherever we came people asked us where are we from and were very polite and often offered some advice considering our visit. I also saw a Christmas shop still opened in the summer!
Edinburgh is said to be built on seven hills (like Rome) and in fact there are three major hills in the center. The Edinburgh Castle is built on an old volcano and there are two other gorgeous viewpoints: Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat ( we didn’t do this one because I didn’t have my wellies or hiking boots). Arthur’s Seat rises almost immediately above the Scottish parliament and the Royal Palace.
There weren’t that many people in the streets awaiting the Queen’s procession. We walked back towards St. Giles’ Cathedral and stood there waiting to see the Royal Family. And there they were, passing by in their cars towards the cathedral where Prince William was accepted in the Order of the Thistle ( I heard later). We got to see briefly the Queen and her husband and William and Kate. Then we saw some traditional dancing troupes performing some Scottish dances and we heard and saw bagpipe bands. Lots of them! We were also given some plastic Scottish flags and we saw the Scottish Prime Minister too. There were also some people protesting against the Union and for Republic. A few years later on the Scottish Referendum the Scottish people voted to stay in the United Kingdom much to everyone’s surprise.
After the procession we went to visit the Edinburgh Castle. We came just in time to see the Changing of the Guards. We also got to see a demonstration of the use of different medieval weapons. The Castle is really huge and I was getting very hungry and slightly nervous so I skipped a few exhibits and waited for my boyfriend. As I’ve already said it was rainy and cloudy so we didn’t get to see the magnificent views from the castle. But I did see the Scottish Royal Crowns and jewelry and lots and lots of weapons and swords. There’s even a small dog’s cemetery on the castle grounds.
With a rumbling stomach we went to the Cathedral which has the most amazing ceiling. I also popped in the Scottish whisky center ( I only bought a very small bottle later due to only carrying hand luggage). Finally, at around 5 pm we had lunch in the Royal Mile Tavern. My boyfriend was brave enough to order the traditional Scottish delicacy of haggis while I went for a safe choice of bangers & mash 🙂
After a quick respite in the hostel we decided to join a pub crawl that evening. Together with a few other people from our hostel we went to another hostel where we were joined by a bigger group of young people ( I think we were the only couple and probably among the oldest ones). The pub crawl was free; you only had to pay for the drinks. Perhaps we wouldn’t have seen some of the streets (Grassmarket area) that we did on this crawl if we hadn’t joined. They took us to mainly Irish and Australian pubs that were half-empty and much later when it was time to go to clubs we called it a night and went back to our hostel. We still had much more to discover in Edinburgh and of course there was also our day trip to Stirling and a visit to Glasgow.
P.S. I’ll be posting more about this Scottish trip so stay tuned!:)
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