At the end of this month it will be 5 years since I moved to the UK. In all this time I haven’t had a chance to nip over to Scotland, which is a crying shame. This beautiful country, just an hour’s flight away from London, dazed me with its grandeur and charm. Trust me when I say, it’s absolutely worth the trip!
After taking a bit too long at breakfast (and almost missing our flight), the chap and I arrived in Edinburgh. Still aware of how close we had come to not actually making it there, we were keen to get on with our tour. We dropped our bags at the hotel and made our way through the winding streets under the gentle drizzle. Perched atop an extinct volcano and overlooking the historic buildings and parks, is the city’s crowning splendour, and most popular tourist attraction – Edinburgh Castle.
After a bit of a steep climb you finally find yourself at the entrance. As you might expect, the extra exercise is worth it, especially for that panorama!Tall, imposing buildings, with stones turned black by the centuries… Many of the local tour guides will offer to take you around haunted houses in the city, and tell you ghost stories to make your blood freeze, but this really felt like an actual haunted castle. The wind came in gusts, threatening to throw us off the battlements, and the whole castle was dominated by a definitively spooky vibe … it was brilliant!
^ I’m literally being swept off my feet here.
After being properly creeped out by this story which definitely went a long way to fuel our imagination, we were treated to another history lesson, this time brought to life through the use of some beautiful artwork.
We descended into the vaults which were used as military prison cells for French prisoners in the 18th century. It was quite spooky seeing the messages that the prisoners had carved in the walls to keep their spirits up during the time of their containment.Our tour of the Castle finished in the 15th century Palace, where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI. You can now see Scotland’s Stone of Destiny and the Crown Jewels in this very building, but photography is not allowed, so you’d have to check them out for yourself!
Having endured excessive amounts of intensive wind and rain, we decided it was time to stop for some nourishment. I had the Haggis, neeps and tatties, washed down with a selection of three different local ales.
If you’ve read a few of my previous posts, you would know that I am a fool for markets. I like the colourful chaos and the exuberant charm of the busy stalls, and the one we came across was absolutely exceptional, owing to the fact it was housed inside an old church.
Having had our fun around the stalls selling anything from vinyl records to vintage jewellery, we headed back up the hill towards Edinburgh Castle for some more traditional activities, namely whisky tasting at the Scotch Whisky Experience!
After we were acquainted with the methods of making whisky, we were presented with a choice of four regional single malt whiskies to taste, plus a blended alternative. Our tour ended in a room holding positively the biggest and most expensive collection of whiskies that I have ever laid my eyes upon. Not only were they great in number, but they were also of varying sizes, shapes and forms. ^ My personal favourite, the headless monk whisky bottles.^ The oldest pieces in the collection.
In the evening we decided to delve deeper into Edinburgh’s secrets. We picked a guided tour of the city’s Hidden and Haunted underground vaults, which was good fun with some quality storytelling.
Our plan for the next day was nothing if not ambitious. We made our way to the coast half expecting to arrive at a gloomy, grey and pebbly beach. Instead, we were greeted by a brilliant blue sky hanging over a lively promenade, where kids were running around chasing balls, and families were playing cricket on the sand.
There was a considerable amount of wildlife to observe as well, and I even managed to capture an episode of crab cannibalism. See if you can spot it! After a quick stop for drinks in one of Edinburgh’s numerous charming little alleyways (you are bound to come across a few of these while strolling along the Royal Mile), we decided it was time we braved another dormant volcano, namely Arthur’s seat.
We underestimated its height, so we didn’t really manage to climb to the very top, but even so, the view of the city was great.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is located right at the foot of the hill, so this was our next stop. The Royal Apartments are used by the Queen whenever she visits Scotland, but historically the Palace is known for being the scene of the gruesome murder of the lover of Mary Queen of Scots, which she supposedly witnessed.
The chap and I made our way through the sunny gardens for the weekend’s last ascent. Calton Hill was probably my favourite out of all the places I visited in Edinburgh, as it offered a 360 degree view of the city, and a lovely, romantic sunset once the late-night hour drew near.
As much as I love my escapades around the continent, I had an amazing time in Edinburgh, so I promise you all, and myself, to travel more a bit closer to home, and discover the hidden gems in the UK.