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Erasmus Shenanigans "Not all those who wander are lost"

27 hours in Edinburgh

UNITED KINGDOM | Thursday, 17 September 2020 | Views [89]

Day 1 

The Avanti West Coast zoomed from Euston to Edinburgh Waverly, every tilt synonymous with a turn in my stomach. Sydney, my friend from UEA and I were going on our second trip; the first being Budapest in 2017. The 5.5 hour-long train journey was spent chatting, watching The Social Dilemma (thought-provoking!) and playing Go Fish with a deck of cards I had bought in Gothenburg last year. We felt the dip in temperature as soon as we leaped onto the platform, but we didn’t mind – it was our first time in Edinburgh and my first time in Scotland! 

The blackened, gothic buildings caught our attention. Sydney pointed out the sky-blue Scottish flags proudly hoisted upon numerous buildings in the city centre. I pointed wide-eyed at the trams, reminiscing my days in Brno. We were stereotypical tourists reverberating with excitement, bar the face masks. Sydney’s friend recommended ‘The Bon Vivant’ for lunch. This will forever be remembered as the restaurant in which we ate haggis for the first time! The dark meat was served as a deep-fried ball with spicy tomato salsa – and it tasted good! The second Scottish delicacy I tried was a venison pasty, a heavier light-bite than the haggis.

We dropped our bags off in Cityroomz Hotel in the heart of Edinburgh and started exploring. Our first, unplanned, stop was Princes Street Gardens. We were on our way to Edinburgh Castle, which stood atop volcanic rock behind the Gardens, when were drawn in by a majestic turquoise and gold fountain in the centre of the Gardens. Even The Trevi Fountain in Rome was just plain white! Our calf-burning ascent to the castle brought us to The Royal Mile; a mile-long street scattered with medieval churches, tourist attractions like Camera Obscura and The Whiskey Experience, and kilt-clad Scottish men playing Scotland the Brave on their bagpipes. 

The 917-year-old Edinburgh Castle was once home to Mary, Queen of Scots. Her story is covered by the Netflix show ‘Reign’ if you like period dramas. Today, a quick Google search tells me that no-one lives there, but it’s still worth the visit for the view of the surrounding city. We walked to the other end of The Royal Mile which ends at the Palace of Holyroodhouse – the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh! This excited me slightly more than the castle, despite the Queen not being there. Our final stop of the day was Calton Hill. We were astonished by what we found; an observatory, a 360-degree view restaurant, and most striking to me, a random Greek Temple. But, the best thing about Calton Hill was easily the panoramic view of the North Sea, Arthur’s Seat and the city. We certainly saved the best for last.

 

 Day 2

‘Good morning Swathi, it’s 6.30 am’ announced my phone alarm. Hike day! A quick shower and breakfast later and we were in an Uber to the base of Arthur’s Seat. We asked our Uber driver to drop us off at the easiest route. He confidently stopped the car and boasted ‘On this route, you can run, walk, whatever you want!’. Sure enough, people whizzed past us on cycles and joggers kept going despite the incline. We passed by swans peacefully gliding on a mountain lake and after 10 minutes realized the road had started to descend. Sydney spotted steep stairs made of large slabs of stone shoved into the side of the mountain. This was to be our treacherous route up. I barely looked behind me for fear of vertigo and did not tear my eyes away from my feet – the next loose rock could be the last I stepped on. This may sound dramatic, but the higher we climbed, the windier it got. The wind soon reached such a strong level that it forced us to pause frequently, lest we fall. After a premature celebration, we reached the base of the final peak. This was the trickiest by far as the steps faded into rubble half-way up. Sydney and I chose our own paths up. Each woman for herself! Finally, with our hair painfully whipping our faces and our eyes streaming tears from the gale-force winds, our hands touched the viewfinder rock at the top of Arthur’s Seat. In one and a half hours, we’d climbed the 250 m to Edinburgh’s finest city view.

 We checked out of our hotel and left our bags at the railway station for the day. I tried another Scottish dish at 'The Scottish Café & Restaurant' within the Scottish National Gallery. Crowpie was a type of herbed soft cheese served atop a scone. It reminded me of Boursin Cheese. Next, another must-try when in Scotland – whiskey tasting! For this, Sydney had booked us a place at the ‘Whiski Rooms’ where I tried Cullen Skink (fish chowder) along with whiskeys from four different regions of Scotland. Sydney’s favourite was a Glenfarclas 10 Year Old whiskey from the most popular whiskey region, Speyside. My preferred whiskey was the 12 Year Old Aberfeldy from the Highland. My take-home message from the whiskey tasting was that I did not like whiskey.

 Finally, it was time for the Harry Potter tour! My favourite book and movie series, I am somewhat of a Harry Potter nerd. I’m thankful to Sydney, who is not a Harry Potter nerd, for allowing herself to be dragged along. The tour guide asked us questions for House Points (I represented Ravenclaw) and I eagerly answered, fuelled by the Scottish whiskey running through my system. The funniest part of the tour was when he made us cast a spell ‘Rossio Lumos!’ on a traffic light to make the pedestrian crossing turn green in the middle of a busy road. Some gems that were covered were the real-life Tom Riddell’s grave, Diagon Alley and the cafes in which J. K. Rowling wrote parts of the series. When the tour ended, Sydney and I dined at ‘The Elephant House’ where Joanne wrote The Prisoner of Azkaban, the Goblet of Fire and the Order of the Phoenix. The walls of the restrooms were covered from roof to floor with Harry Potter references, but the café itself was Elephant/African themed. I also tried my final Scottish dish, Cranachan which resembled granola. We took the LNER train back to London Kings Cross (4.5 hours) which gave us a scenic view of the East coast. We were content with a weekend-trip gone well.

 

Overall

WE LOVED EDINBURGH! The city offers the best of nature; a sea, lakes, mountains, even a volcano! The Scottish people were nothing but friendly and helpful, and we are big fans of the Scottish accent (can someone please volunteer to help me perfect it?). 10/10 would recommend visiting Scotland, especially Edinburgh!

Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat

Tags: edinburgh, haggis, hike, scotland, volcano, whiskey

 

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