Surprise! I went to Scotland as a little spontaneous trip by myself. That’s right. I traveled far and wide (mostly just north) all the way to the great capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh (just for your information, it is pronounced Ed-in-burr-uh; as someone corrected me on the pronunciation, I thought I would inform you as well). Wow. What a great city. There is SOOOOOOOOO much to do and see. I spent all day on a bus there Sunday and all day on a bus back to Leicester Wednesday. So I got two full days in Edinburgh and I know I could have done more. Buckle up folks, this is going to be a LONG post as I journaled each day to remember everything I did and saw.
I feel like I barely know where to start. The landscape was beautiful on the way there. Rolling hills (all green I might add, unlike the brown wastelands of America [just kidding, America is beautiful too]), hundreds of sheep, and quaint farms. I was lucky in that each bus I took was fairly empty so I had room to move about and sit sideways in two seats. I took a bus from Leicester to Birmingham (only about an hour) then from Birmingham to Edinburgh (with many, many stops in different cities to pick up and drop off), which was about eight and a half hours. So I do not lie when I say I spent all day on a bus. It was much the same on the way back. Riding a bus all day is utterly exhausting as you can never get comfortable and the bus does not drive smoothly so it is always a little rickety. But who cares about the bus? All that matters is I got to my destination and I returned home.
So upon arrival it was dark out. I had directions to my hostel and I went straight there. I barely saw what buildings I was walking past let alone knew where I was. I arrive at my hostel, Castle Rock Hostel (highly recommend by the way), check in and go to my room. This place is like four stories (two of which are more underground) and each floor has high ceilings. I stayed on the second floor, so underground right? Kind of. My room had a large window which led me to discover that we were located on the side of a hill. So the entrance to my hostel was on the street side whilst the back of the hostel came off the side of the hill and faced the city. The rooms were each named (mine was Whiskey) and each room houses about 12 people. There are bunk beds and lockers to keep your personal belongings in. Each bed has its own reading lamp above the pillow base and plug ins for laptops/phones/etc. The room was very spacious too, lots of walking room. Then there are community-style bathrooms and showers. Individual stalls (completely enclosed by walls and a real door) for toilets, sinks, and stalls for showers (again, completely enclosed and private). This all suited me just fine. Was perfect for a solo traveler. There were some big groups there, some older people (mid-40s) just passing through, school trips, etc. Hostels are literally for anyone! This particular hostel also had activities each night like movie night, Scottish dancing tutorials, game night, etc., but I did not attend any of these. Each morning they had breakfast for a pound-fifty which is about $2 so I had a cheap, but good breakfast every morning consisting of cereal, juice, bread and some fruit! What else could I ask for?
So my first full day in Edinburgh I had no set plans, but I knew there were things to do and I just had to find them. Remember earlier when I said walking to my hostel I didn’t know what buildings I was walking by and couldn’t really see because it was dark? Well, upon walking out the door of my hostel in daylight, directly to my right is a CASTLE. On a hill I might add. It was the Edinburgh Castle so no wonder my hostel was named the Castle Rock Hostel because it was right across the street from a castle sitting on a giant rock. So obviously I decide to go to the castle! I’ll say this right now. I never set any strict plans for myself nor did I ever know what I would be doing next but it ended up being the perfect plan for me.
The Castle of Edinburgh is strictly used for museum purposes now and it is really cool. I got to see the original sword, scepter, and crown used for coronation ceremonies (I was not allowed to take pictures as harsh flashes can be damaging), which are nearly 1,000 years old! If that is not cool to you then we can’t be friends because that is probably the coolest thing I have ever seen! It was all real gold, real pearls, real jewels, and real silver. Absolutely amazing. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the castle because it is well worth the visit and I have photos below for you to see. I also don’t know if my fingers can take all the typing that would entail. But it was very historical, even housed prisoners of war during the first World War (I think, suddenly I’m not sure if that is right). It gave me a great view of the city, great insight to just how old the city was, which made me think of how old the country was and then the world and then I got a headache. But honestly, America is so YOUNG in comparison to the U.K. America is not even three hundred years old whereas Ireland, Scotland, England, Europe are over a thousand years old! Is that not an insane thought? Millions upon millions of feet have walked the same ground that I was walking, on the steps and stones of that castle. The thought gives me goosebumps. Walking around the whole castle took me nearly two hours and I didn’t even stop to read or admire every single plaque or post there but it was absolutely amazing and so historical. Everyone: go to Edinburgh! I ended up having lunch at the castle, which was very delicious and felt super classy. I mean, I ate at a castle! Wow. I can’t believe the experiences I have had here so far. Okay. Can’t get mushy on you on. Moving on!
The street leading directly from the Castle of Edinburgh goes straight to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (I’ll get to that palace later on). The whole stretch is called the Royal Mile because royals would use that stretch of land/road to walk to the castle in procession so it eventually earned the name The Royal Mile. The whole street is filled with restaurants, cafes, gift shops, pubs, more shops, more pubs, more tourist-themed gift shops. It is basically tourist central but there are some really cool shops including the Tartan Weaving Mill and Exhibition. This place was really cool because the basement consisted of the factory where they would make the scarves for the shop. This shop was gigantic! Picture is included. There were bagpipes, pure 100% wool and 100% cashmere scarves all crafted right in the basement from Scottish sheep. Super cool! Literally, scarves on scarves on scarves on scarves. All super warm and soft. There was even a section of swords and weapon made of REAL steel. Ouch! Another cool shop was The Scotch Whisky Experience that housed a restuaraunt, did tours and had a really cool shop FULL of different Scottish whiskies, scotches, scotch-whiskies, anything of that variety all from Scotland. There was one bottle priced at 3,500 pounds, which is about $4,300. Uh, excuse me? Who peed in that bottle to make it worth so much? I mean that’s insane! But I digress. I walked the Royal Mile probably about five times because it led to a lot of different things and brought me back to my hostel.
Everything else I did on Monday can be seen in the photos I’m including with captions. It is so much easier to explain everything I saw with a picture because otherwise this blog post would be a mini novel and I’m not mentally prepared for that.
On to Tuesday! I started Tuesday walking down the Royal Mile because it brought me to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which was directly across the street from Arthur’s Seat! For those of you who don’t know, Arthur’s Seat is a giant hill, or is it a mini mountain? We’ll go with mini mountain. It is a mini mountain that anyone and everyone can climb; there are paths, trails, steps that all lead to the top where once upon a time a man named Arthur sat and . . . I actually do not know the reason it is called Arthur’s Seat. There were no plaques with fun information on them and I have not looked it up yet. So I climbed this mini mountain on what felt like one of the windiest days I have ever experienced. I mean I could not have picked a worse day to climb this thing. Friends back in North Dakota, you know how windy it gets back home? This was WINDIER! Grand Forks has not seen wind like the wind I saw at the top. I was literally at a slant the entire time. Taking one step, literally just lifting my foot a little bit, almost sent me plunging to the ground. It was ridiculous! I was holding on for dear life and could barely stay at the top for more than ten minutes. BUT it was quite the view. I did manage to take some photos although I was scared of the wind knocking my phone out of my hands. Looking back, maybe I should not have climbed Arthur’s Seat, but it was the only chance I had and I was determined. I tried to take a video from a different vantage point and you cannot hear a single word I say. It sounds like white noise; that is how bad the wind was. Again, still absolutely beautiful and photos are included. I hiked around the mini mountain for a bit as there were a lot of different paths and trails. It was a really good way to start my day. Once I was done (nearly three hours later), I crossed the street and went to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. I had no idea what this place was. It turns out, the CURRENT LIVING AND BREATHING Queen of England comes to this palace and resides there each summer. Being that her husband is the Duke of Edinburgh it makes sense. But still, I had no idea! I got to walk through one of the Queen’s homes! You know who else lived at this palace? Mary Queen of Scots! Otherwise known as Bloody Mary! You know that creepy chant you do in the bathroom? You say Bloody Mary three times to see a scary figure in the mirror. That chant is for this queen! I was baffled. I also felt stupid for not knowing any of this ahead of time but I was very pleasantly surprised. The palace still functions as a place of work for the queen so not all floors of the palace were open for visitors, only the 1st floor and the grounds. I was also not allowed to take pictures inside the palace as everything visitors are permitted to see are hundreds and hundreds of years old. I saw the BED Mary Queen of Scots slept in five hundred years ago. There were huge, intricate tapestries in nearly every room and apparently there are about 60 (shoot, or is it 90?) in the entire palace. The rooms are all so well preserved and I was simply speechless. The tour came with audio so each room I got to listen to a different story or explanation of the room. Please do not ask me about each room because there were honestly so many different artifacts, paintings, tapestries, jewels, chairs, carpets, beds, and more to take in that I probably only remember about 70% of everything I saw. It was absolutely insane and so beyond cool. DEFINITELY go there should you ever find yourself in Edinburgh.
What did I do next? Basically walked around the city. I tried to go to the Royal Botanic Gardens, which was on the other side of the city, but there is a story here. So I decide to go the gardens, right? Well, it is quite a journey to get there by foot. I did not want to pay for a taxi or figure out which bus could take me there so I walked. I got lost trying to find this place and literally had to climb over a wall in the process. Don’t ask, it’s just part of the adventure. It also took me nearly an hour to walk to this place! I finally found it aaaaand it was closed. You could say I was disappointed. It took so long to find this place. Bright side I saw more and different parts of the city than other tourists get to see. So I start walking back to the castle (where my hostel is and FOOD), and it started to drizzle. I couldn’t see the gardens and I was getting rained on. Not the highlight of my trip. But I couldn’t be mad. I didn’t look up the times of the gardens to see that it was closed and I didn’t look up the weather for my entire trip. That’s what I get for not doing any planning or research. Oh well. Lesson learned. I spent the rest of the day walking around the city and just roaming. I did SO MUCH WALKING. I’m surprised I’m not a size 2 yet. Just kidding. That’s extreme. But I really did do a lot of walking. My feet killed and it felt so good to fall asleep every night.
I did more than what I have put into my post but I have captioned nearly every picture so you will see nearly everything I saw and know what each picture is. I seriously wish I could have seen more of Scotland, especially the Highlands or the lake where the Loch Ness Monster lives, but I had a wonderful time in Edinburgh. I would definitely go back if someone asked me to. Enjoy the photos and leave whatever comments you would like.
OH! ALSO! I have completely forgotten to include this on my past few blogs, but I have an update for you all. I have decided to try out the vegetarian life! I started February 26th and have kept it up since! Not a single bite of beef, chicken, fish, ham, anything with a face! This will be a struggle to keep up whilst traveling throughout England but I am determined to stick to this new diet! Wish me luck folks. ❤