I’ve been in the UK for just over a month and have finally gone outside England. This past Saturday, I went on a Don’t Be A Tourist trip to Edinburgh Scotland! Firstly, I need to note that I booked this trip hoping to see Edinburgh not as a tourist, considering the company is called Don’t Be A Tourist. This was not the case. Although it was a lot of fun, it was full of touristy tours and attractions. Maybe that is a good thing though, because I was able to learn some of the history of Edinburgh as well.
The drive to Edinburgh was about 5 hours by bus. We did get to stop at the border and take some photos.
We arrived in Edinburgh ahead of schedule and were rewarded with some free time to explore the city. Most of us were starving and used the time to have lunch. On our first exploration of the city, we found a street performer playing bagpipes!
After lunch we got our free tour of the city. We saw many things and learned a lot about Edinburgh and the history of the country. As part of the tour, we visited a graveyard that was particularly special. Before, I mention why, it is important to know that in Europe, people treat graveyards like parks. It is not uncommon to find someone enjoying the rare sunny days by reading a book in a cemetery. It just so happens that this cemetery was a favourite spot for a famous person. J.K. Rowling would spend time in this graveyard picking out names for the characters of her book. There is one more notable gravestone here. The name on this gravestone is Thomas Riddle. For those who have read Harry Potter, you will understand the significance to this name. This graveyard was actually famous before J.K. Rowling used it for inspiration. This graveyard is also wear Bobby, a guard dog, is buried. It is difficult to explain who Bobby is, so if you’re interested, you can read more about him http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greyfriars_Bobby.
On the tour, we also learned that the national animal of Scotland is the Unicorn. They picked this when they gained freedom to show the world that they could not be tamed. When they were made part of the United Kingdom, their crest was changed to also contain the Lion of England. The Scots approved of the crest before realizing the Unicorn was chained and the Lion was holding the chain. This was England showing the Scots that they had defeated them. Now if you view the crest in Scotland, they have removed the chain, but it can be seen everywhere else in the UK.
After our tour, Barbora, Julia, and I did some more exploring. We took a walk through the city and a hike to some of the monuments in Edinburgh. These monuments include a replica of the Parthenon that was never completed. Today it is called the shame of Edinburgh. We just thought it was a fun place to take photos. Some other things we saw included St. Giles Cathedral, the National Museum of Scotland, and the Holyroad Palace (where the Queen stays when she visits Scotland.) The day came to a perfect end as we were standing on a hill full of monuments watching the sun set over Edinburgh and the ocean.
On our way back to the city centre of Edinburgh, we visited the Sir Walter Scott monument and the Hard Rock Cafe. This party of the city was more metropolitan. There people everywhere going in and out of large department stores. It made me feel a little bit at home. If you disregarded the view of ancient buildings and a castle.
That evening we joined the rest of the Don’t Be a Tourist group for dinner. I chickened out of getting the haggis and opted for a mac’n'cheese. I did end up tasting someone’s Haggis and it turned out to be delicious. My macaroni and cheese was not quite as satisfying. It was much too soupy. I guess my mac’n'cheese standards are set a little too high.
After dinner we went on a toured Pub Crawl. The plan was to stop at four pubs. My friends and I gave up after the third. We had an early morning we didn’t want to spoil by staying up too late. One of the pub’s was called Dropkick Murphy’s. It turns out there was no relation between the pub and the Celtic band. The pub crawl was so much fun. At one point a pineapple showed up from no where and someone decided to begin eating it. It was one of those great nights where you make a ton of friends, and it lives forever in your memory.
The next day, I continued my tradition of setting out alone to find the personality of the city. While I was doing this, my companions took a hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat. This is a volcano that looks much more like a hill. From the top you get a windburn, very cold, and a view of the city. I was not interested in sacrificing warmth and energy for a good view. Instead I wandered the streets in search of book shops, and I was successful. I was able to see editions of my favourite books dating back hundreds of year. I even found a copy of Evelina by Fanny Burney that was printed somewhere between 1909 and 1950.
I quite enjoyed wandering around the city for a few hours. I saw many cute shops and the Edinburgh castle. I also bought a souvenir, a lamb’s wool Scottish clan scarf. It will make it’s début in the pictures of Liverpool. Here are some of the views from my walk.
After my walk, I joined up with the girls again for some tea at a rather new landmark of Edinburgh, the Elephant House. This is known as the birthplace of Harry Potter. When J.K. Rowling first moved to Edinburgh as a poor single mother, she would spend her mornings sitting in this cafe writing. The table at which she regularly sat was against a window with a spectacular view. Outside the window is the Edinburgh castle. This is where she was inspired to write about Hogwarts and where she completed the first four books. Today much of the cafe is dedicated to Rowling, including the bathrooms where hundreds of people from around the world have written grateful messages to her.
After tea we walked a bit more, took in the sites on last time, and gathered our luggage. The return home was long and tiresome, but filled with post excitement. This trip marked a lot of firsts that I will be continuing while in Europe, including my first night in a hostel. Scotland is a beautiful country, and hopefully I will be able to see more of it while I am here.