Edinburgh & Scottish Islands

Beautiful Streets of Edinburgh

One of our half term vacation was a 4 day trip to the wonderful city of Edinburgh and a day trip to Scottish Highlands by road. We took the Virgin train to Edinburgh from King’s Cross, London. The ride was 5 hours long but we did not feel the strain of that long a journey due to lush green countryside that whizzed past the train window during the entire time of the journey. I carried a book to keep me occupied during the train journey (both for onward and return) but never got to read even a single page as the beauty of Scotland was mesmerising.

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and is home to the Scottish Parliament and the seat of the monarchy in Scotland. It has been the centre of education (specifically in the fields of medicine, Scots Law, sciences & engineering.). The city’s historical and cultural attractions have made it the United Kingdom’s second most popular tourist destination after London, attracting over one million overseas visitors each year. It is Scotland’s second most populous city despite which the beauty and the decorum of the city is well maintained. The Old town and the New town of Edinburgh are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is being managed by Edinburgh World Heritage since 1999[1].

Scotland being a country of islands and mountain wilderness, it has in abundance of lakes (lochs as the Scottish call them), beautiful and picturesque valleys and highlands. “Scotland” comes from Scoti, the Latin name for the Gaels, by extension, Scotia was used to refer to the Gaelic-speaking Scotland, north of River Forth[2].

Dorm @ Stay Central

Hubby dearest had booked The Dorm @ Stay Central situated just beside the well known pub The Three Sisters. This room could accommodate 9 people and had bunker beds. We were only 6 of us and had a gala time in this room for three days. It is just 10 minutes walk from the Waverly Station and is in the heart of Edinburgh. All the prominent tourist spots are just a stone’s throw away from this lodging. The day we landed in Edinburgh, we decided to do an evening walk of the high street and visit of the common touristy spots.

Castle of Edinburgh & other prominent monuments

The first monument you notice as soon as you step out of the Edinburgh Waverly train station (named after the Scott’s Waverly novels), you notice that the highlight on the Skyline is the Crown Steeple of the St. Giles’ Cathedral with it very unique and breathtaking design. The other prominent landmark that stands out is the Scott Monument (the black tower). It is the largest monument for a writer in the world.

Day 2 was the day we visited the Castle of Edinburgh, located atop a small hill. The breathtaking view of Edinburgh from the castle is to be enjoyed for sure in addition to learning the history of the castle and the ritual of the 1 ‘0 clock gun that is followed till date. After taking in the beauty of the view and the splendour of the castle and the Scottish Culture and tradition, we visited Dynamic Earth — an interactive 4D experience on earth and its existence starting from the BIG BANG till now. You can feel the experience of volcanic eruptions/earthquakes, touch and feel an iceberg, or peep into the ocean depths through a periscope. This was a big hit with our children aged 10 & 6.

Streets of Callander

We had planned for a day tour by road to the Highlands on our third day — the Loch Ness tour arranged by the Go Travel Scotland company. It is a 12 hour road trip on a luxury coach. Though the time seems too long, the trip was not. We started the day with a visit to the a small village town of Callander — a picture perfect town with a beautiful High Street with lush green mountains on either side and low floating clouds adding to the already scenic beauty of the town.

Lochs & Valleys enroute

The sights that we got see enroute was absolutely breathtaking. The locations that we saw, were live representations of the the words from books (like Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings series) and movies (like Brave Heart, Gladiator). Untouched natural beauty of the various Lochs (lakes) (Loch Tulla, Loch Lochy, Loch Ness), mountains and valleys was mesmerising to watch through the day. We also enjoyed a Loch Ness cruise from Fort Agustus, which also had the Caledonian canal. It was interesting to see the functioning of the canal and the operation of the moving road bridge.

Loch Ness and its monster

Thinking about that day brings back fond memories of each and every photo spot that we saw right in front of my eyes vividly, including the Lochness Monster ;-) and the Scottish man wearing the Kilt. This was one day I did not want to come to the end of. I wanted to get lost in the wilderness if the Highlands. The day tour ended with a visit to the Commando Memorial on our way back to the city.

Of course, being Indians and having our older generation visiting us from back home, we could not entirely eat only continental food. We absolutely needed to have Indian or asian food for at least one of the meals in a day. Thankfully, Edinburgh had a wide variety of choices to offer including door delivered yummy hot Indian meal from Shri Bheemas. In all, this was one trip that was a welcome break for all of us and much cherished and enjoyed by every age group that was part of the vacation trip.

I would recommend this itinerary for families with young children or senior citizes alike who would love to be with nature. Prefered time for visit would be between April and August if you wish to enjoy some bright sunshine.