Last weekend, Katie, Alice, and I went to Edinburgh :D
We took the “Megabus Gold” (think Harry Potter Knight Bus) to get from London to Edinburgh. It was ~ an 8 hour ride, so this was definitely the way to do it. We got to sleep in beds on the ride there, and we didn’t have to worry about a hostel or anything. Fyi – if you ever plan on travelling this way, choose the lower level (it’s double-decker) and the top bunk for the best sleep :)
The 1st night we had a couple hours to kill in London, so we walked from VCS to Trafalgar Sq and back. I was surprised to see we had walked 7 miles in that time period.
Edinburgh was so much better than I could have expected. The landscape and architecture (and the weather!) combined to make the city perfectly Scottish.
Afterwards, we went on a walking tour. We did these first in both Dublin and Edinburgh, and I would recommend them highly. They flood you with information about the city, and you gain a sense of direction as you follow someone who knows their way around.
It was frigid, to say the least. Everyone was huddled into themselves trying to keep warm. Umbrellas usually did no good, unless you were good at using them inside-out. As our tour guide stated, “If you’re not up for the rain or the cold, then this is not the tour *OR THE COUNTRY* for you.” Luckily we’d all acclimatized to the English weather with relative success, so the Scottish weather wasn’t too terrible. It gave us an excuse to duck inside a café from time to time for a hot tea!
Edinburgh, like, it seems, all heavily populated areas, was not a pleasant place to live during its early days. Twice a day, the citizens would all dump their chamber pots out their windows. Not a time you wanted to be walking around, but apparently the drunks frequently…had quite the misfortune. And thus was created the expression “S***faced-drunk.”
Those who could afford it had bars put afford it had bars put over their graves. This prevented their bodies from being robbed and sold to the university for science (signing up to donate one’s body to science ante-mortem didn’t happen till later). If a person couldn’t afford the bars, friends / family would watch over the grave at night. So was born “Working the graveyard shift.”
After the walking tour ended, we stopped by “Voldemort’s Grave” just for kicks. Because it’s such a high-traffic area, there is NO grass…just a ton of mud!
We were originally going to go to the Elephant House (famous for being frequented by J.K. Rowling, but apparently she helped them out by allowing them to claim that she’d spent more time there than she really did. Spoon Café was owned by her brother-in-law, so in her poorer days, it was a place that she could stay and work essentially for free (you learn all sorts of things on these walking tours!)
The restaurant was very quirky and intriguing. It was easy to see how the place had influenced her, and brought to mind things she’d created for HP. It definitely had a warm, friendly atmosphere evocative of the Three Broomsticks, and the lack of uniformity reminded my of Luna Lovegood.
Then, we did a bit of aimless wandering and discovering the university, finally making it to Edinburgh Castle. Which, by the way, isn’t on a hill, it’s on an extinct volcano (the whole island was near the equator millions of years ago).
For dinner, we met one of Alice’s friends, Chet from her home uni. He’s studying abroad in Edinburgh, so he took us to an on-campus pub called “The Library” (notice the bookshelves everywhere). The atmosphere was really quite cool, and it was interesting to see parts another UK university.
Alice spent the most of the next day with Chet, so Katie and I travelled around together. She wanted to explore town some more though, so I went to tour the castle that morning. It was a bit pricey, but I’m very glad I went. While I was there, I ran into Rachel and Lee, who also happened to be in Edinburgh at the time, so we toured the castle together.
It (if you can even tell what it is haha) just looks like a stone, but it’s the coronation stone. In 1296, the stone was taken by Edward I as spoils of war and put under the English coronation chair in Westminster Abbey. Despite the fact that England agreed to return the stone in 1328, it wasn’t actually done. So, in 1950 (they waited a long time), a group of 4 Scottish students decided to steal the stone back, returning it to its rightful country. However, in no time at all, the stone was back in Westminster Abbey. Not until 1996 was the stone returned to Scotland!
The Doctor Who-style police boxes are really rare, but are most common in Scotland. Even so, many of them are actually twice as wide as they are in the show – this box-thing is too but I took the photo from the end ;) I did my best :)
After I finished touring the castle, I rejoined Katie and we took a bus to Leith. I originally wanted to go simply because of the Proclaimers’ song “500 miles” from “Sunshine on Leith.” It turned out to be a little gem of a town though, and we were glad we got to see something other than simply Edinburgh (not that Edinburgh’s not wonderful!)
Dinner was absolutely fantastic. We went to a hole-in-the-wall Turkish restaurant that we’d noticed on the way down to Ocean Terminal of Leith. For something as simple as a grilled wrap, the meal was one of the best I’ve had in my life. For dessert we got coconut-dusted Turkish Delight in honor of the Chronicles of Narnia. We forgive Edmund.
Afterwards, we wandered around town some more. We went to New Town and wandered until all the shops closed and we couldn’t keep popping in anywhere to get warm.
Afterwards, we hung out at the bar of a pub (which played Elton John the whole time we were there!) until Alice was able to meet up with us and then caught the Megabus Gold back to London.