This morning we set off on a journey to country #2: Scotland! This is only the second big city stop of the trip so it was a little jarring showing up here. To put it simply: Edinburgh is just harsher than London. Its less “Hey there tourist! We love you! Let us help you!” and more “This is Edinburgh. Have fun figuring out where you’re going…”
It started with getting in to the train station and realizing this wasn’t the one we had directions from listed on our card. We figured out quick that we just had to go one station more on almost any train. So after paying 30 pence to go to the bathroom (I don’t like a world where I have to pay to go to the bathroom!) we were off to the right spot. There are a lot of roads with a lot of names here in Edinburgh but with a little extra wandering and the help of two nice ladies on the street we found our hostel. It’s a nice building on the inside, a bit cramped in space but it will do for 2 nights.
We wandered looking for the cafes where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books. One of them doesn’t seem to exist anymore (or Google Maps gave us the wrong location) but we did find The Elephant House. This is where Jo wrote the majority of the first 3 books! We had a hot beverage and a treat and just took in the atmosphere…this is where Harry Potter was born! The guy next to us was on his laptop writing and we couldn’t help but wonder if he was channeling JKR’s creative spirit and was writing a book that would define the next generation. Or perhaps he, like us, was just writing in his blog about how cool it was to be there. Justine suggested that The Elephant was where Kristin should work on her novel.
Edinburgh started to grow on us as we continues to wander. It’s Festival here this week, which Justine research to discover it is 4 different festivals all running simultaneously. The only one we have really noticed much of so far is the Fringe. The Edinburgh Fringe is the worlds largest arts festival, so it’s kind of hard to miss. As we walked the Royal Mile (the stretch that runs from the palace up to the castle) we were bombarded with free displays of talent and about a million leaflets for different shows. It was really neat to see! Kind of blows Edmonton’s Fringe out of the water…
The Edinburgh castle dominates the skyline of the city, sitting high upon an old volcano, looking like an ominous fortress. It was originally built a very long time ago but has since been rebuilt in the past 600 years. The oldest building is a small chapel dating back to the 1200’s. Just our luck there was a tour of the castle starting just 5 minutes before we entered! This is becoming our style, joint tours once they’ve already started. Our tour guide was a very informative woman with a very Scottish accent…brilliant!
Up at the top of the castle we saw where Mary Queen of Scots hid while under attack from the English and where she gave birth to James VI, future King who united the English and Scottish thrones. We also saw the Scottish Crown Jewels, which were kinda anticlimactic after the English Crown Jewels. We did get to see the Stone of Destiny, really just a large rock, but a large rock which all the Scottish monarchs were crowned on. Now during coronations it is slid onto a shelf in the bottom of the coronation chair to show the monarch is ruling over England and Scotland.
The castle is still used by the Scottish military. There are many museums throughout the castle showing the history of the Scottish army (we didn’t have time to go to them). We did see the exhibit on prisoners of war. After the castle was no longer a royal residence it became a prison and army barracks during the American revolution, French revolution, Napoleonic wars and even up to the First World War.
We took many photos of the views from the top. We could see everything!
For supper we stopped at another pub. It was difficult finding somewhere that wasn’t packed (with festival going on the city it positively buzzing) and as it was we ended up sharing a table with a nice Scottish couple who offered us their 2 open seats. Justine was the first to have a meat pie! Kristin was tempted to follow but just couldn’t pass up the sausages and mash. Everything was delicious once again!
On the way home we stopped at a really cool graveyard at the foot of the hill the castle stands on. This is a Padget family oddity: love of cool graveyards! It had really old and really huge graves in it.
We spent the rest of the evening just chilling at the hostel. Eventually all of our roommates came home and let’s just say we had no idea what cramped meant when we first got there.
– Scotland is not quite as tourist friendly as Britain was…there aren’t maps every 10ft…
What we Learned Today:
– Scotland actually has history worth learning…
Highlights of the Day:
1. The Castle and actually learning something about Scotland.
2. Supper! Delicious!
Love, Luck & Large Rocks,