Week 10: Edinburgh

I’m not sure what I was expecting before I arrived, but I was immediately impressed. As we rode the tram from the airport, I admired the grand architecture of the city. Then we passed the Edinburgh Castle, somehow huge, green, isolated, and in the middle of the city. Next there was a long street filled with Christmas decorations and little stands. We finally arrived in the center of the city and stepped out into the 32 degree weather.

One of the first things we noticed was how popular skirts were. Half of the women were wearing skirts, often business skirts, and underneath wearing thin tights or nothing at all. My legs were shaking from the cold in my warm leggings, and I could not imagine how they might have felt.

It was 9am and we were running on two hours of sleep from the night before, but we still couldn’t check into our hostel. We decided to go to the Elephant House, or “the birthplace of Harry Potter.” J.K. Rowling was said to have written much of her first books in the cute cafe. We came at a good time because most tourists that make it too busy weren’t awake by this time. At 9am it was quaint, quiet, and unique — I could completely understand the appeal of writing a book in this coffee shop. In fact, I’m writing this journal entry here in the Elephant House.

There’s a small part dedicated to J.K. Rowling with pictures of her at the Elephant House, but for the most part they kept it the same…except for the bathroom. Every inch of the girls bathroom is filled wit graffiti of fans quoting Harry Potter or thanking J.K. Rowling.

After a couple of hours spent enjoying the ambiance of The Elephant House, we braced ourselves for the cold and explored the city. Over the course of the weekend, we saw the National Monument of Scotland, the Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Palace and the National Museum of Scotland.

National Monument of Scotland

At sunset we hiked Arthur’s Seat (we actually discovered the place about an hour before sunset so we ended up running to the top to try and catch the sunset, and barely made it). Arthur’s Seat is a large hill in the very middle of Edinburgh allowing you to look over the entire city and the ocean when you’re on top. It reminded me a lot of Bishop’s Peak in San Luis Obispo — it was about the same length and difficulty of a hike and it looked over Edinburgh much like Bishop’s Peak looks over SLO.

Arthur’s Seat

That night we ended up taking a ghost tour of the city. We learned all about the darkest corners of Edinburgh and the awful conditions that the poor lived in long ago along with all the locations of mass graves. We explored the vaults where the poorest would squeeze into to try to stay warm, and our guide gave us detailed descriptions of their living situations. He told us ghost stories of things that had happened on his own tour and others in the past. Unfortunately, nobody in our group actually saw any ghosts.

On our last day we went on a tour of Loch Ness. We stopped at some beautiful sites along the way. We were probably on the bus for about 8 hours in total and the driver (who was also our tour guide) wouldn’t stop talking for even a minute. When he ran out of things to say about the sites we saw he’d summarize works that took place in Scotland like Braveheart or MacBeth. When he ran out of that, he’d start talking about excursions he took with his ex-girlfriend or his opinions on Trump. We didn’t get a break.

Part of the day tour we took included a whiskey tour, which was the first thing we went to. He showed us where it was made and stored, as well as how. I was surprised to find out that by the time it was aged enoug hto sell, only a small amount of whiskey was left in every barrel because much of it evaporated over time. When the tour was finished we learned that it is illegal in Scotland to drink before 10am, so we had to wait patiently for 15minutes before getting our taste test.

We then stopped to get a view of Glencoe.

We took a boat tour of Loch Ness. IT was still, black, and beautiful. The water speed record was actually broken on Lock Ness as it’s still and thirty miles long. It was black due to some minerals in the water, and it made it beautifully reflect the colorful autumn trees.

By the end of the tour, I believed the Lochness monster existed. The loch is 750 feet deep and very unexplored. They’ve found prehistoric like fish that have survived in the loch probably since the ice age. The fish are unnaturally large and not found anywhere else. Very few people have ever made it to the bottom of the loch — less than the amount that have made it to the moon. Our tour guide showed us strange pictures, and explained how they knew there was something very large living in the loch because it appeared on their equipment — evidence of something larger than a Great White.

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