Cloé and I spent this past weekend in Edinburgh. It was the last of my travels until I finish classes and head to London, Paris, and Prague with my family. Scotland has one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. I hope to go back someday and spend some time exploring the Highlands.
We arrived on a coach in Edinburgh on Friday evening. The ride was nearly nine hours long so we were ready to get out and explore when we arrived. We checked into our hostel and set out for the Scotch Whiskey Experience, which taught us the intricate process of making Scotch. It was very interesting, especially the time it takes. By law, the whiskey has to mature in barrels for three years to be sold, but the really, really good stuff matures for 40 or 50 years. We also got to see the world’s largest collection of Scotch Whiskey. There was a bottle being sold in the gift shop for 18,500 Pounds, about 29,000 US Dollars. After the tour, we had dinner at a local pub before setting out for Arthur’s Seat, a hill towering over Edinburgh. It was very dark but we thought it would be a beautiful view of the city lights. When we reached the bottom of the hill, I was apprehensive. It looked like something you would see in a horror film. The top was barely visible amidst the fog. After a few minutes of debate, all common sense went out the window and we started up anyways. It was slightly damp so everything was slippery, but we found a path and made it to the top. The fog was pretty dense but the view was still amazing. Not surprisingly, we were the only two people on the entire hill. The trip down was a bit more interesting. Somehow we lost the path and ended up sliding in the mud and grass most of the way to the bottom. It made for a funny and interesting night.
The next morning, we woke up early and headed for a cafe called the Elephant House. It’s the place where J.K. Rowling wrote some of Harry Potter, as she lives in Edinburgh. We then headed to the Holyrood Palace, the residence of the Royal family when they’re in Scotland. It was very interesting, especially the ruins of the Holyrood Abbey. Next, we went to the Edinburgh Castle, which was also very interesting. We grabbed lunch and headed for the Rosslyn Chapel, my favorite part of the weekend. It’s a hidden gem that most tourists don’t venture to, about a 45 minute bus ride outside of Edinburgh. We arrived as the sun was setting, so there was a beautiful pink hue to the sky. The village of Roslin is nestled in the hills in a quiet, peaceful area. The outside of the chapel showed its age; about 560 years. When we entered the chapel, the first thing that caught my attention was the intricate carvings throughout. Every inch of the ceiling and many of the pillars had unique designs, each handcrafted in the sandstone. The most famous is the “Apprentice Pillar.” The legend goes that the master mason left the country for inspiration for the design of the pillars inside the chapel. When he returned, his young apprentice had completed a pillar beautifully. The master mason was so jealous and angry that he struck the apprentice with a mallet, killing him. As punishment for the murder, the mason’s face was carved into the opposite corner of the chapel so he would be forced to stare at the apprentice’s pillar for eternity. There were only a few rows of pews, as the founder passed away before the whole chapel could be completed. We learned about the chapel’s history, finding out that it has suffered a great deal over the years and is still being restored. After spending some time at the chapel, we headed back to the city for dinner and a ghost tour. The tour took us in some vaults inside of the South Bridge. When homelessness was deemed illegal in Edinburgh, thousands of people lived in the vaults to remain hidden, resulting in death and disease due to the poor living conditions. The bridge was never waterproofed and the vaults haven’t seen the sunlight in well over 200 years so they were pretty spooky. Though I’ve never bought into it, many have reported paranormal experiences within the vaults as well. After the tour, we explored the Christmas markets. The lights glowed around the crowd, laughter and Christmas music could be heard, and delicious smells filled the air, reminding me how close the holiday is and how fast time has passed this fall.
On our last day, we headed for the Black Medicine Coffee Company, another cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote parts of Harry Potter. We also visited Greyfriars Kirkyard, where there is a grave that belongs to a man by the name of Thomas Riddell, the real life inspiration for Thomas Riddle (Lord Voldemort) in the Harry Potter series. We also visited J.K. Rowling’s handprints in the sidewalk where she won the Edinburgh Award in 2008. We then hopped on a bus tour to hear about some of the history of Edinburgh. My favorite was the story of Greyfriars Bobby, a little terrier whose owner passed away and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby guarded his owner’s grave every single day for 14 years until he himself passed away and was buried in the same graveyard, not far from his owner. There is a life-size statue honoring the dog, which I looked at through blurry eyes with a lump in my throat. I’m always a sucker for animal stories (and animals in general, as most of you know). We had some lunch and finished the bus tour, checked out of our hostel, and hit the road back to Leicester.
This is going to be another busy week, as I am finishing up my essays. Next weekend is also the last one of the semester, so I’m planning to spend it in Leicester with the girls who have been my family this semester. The following Friday (December 12th), my mom, aunt, and cousin arrive in London where I’m meeting them so I’m getting really excited for that. I’m starting to feel a bit sad as the semester draws to a close, but I intend to make the most of the last couple weeks. I knew this time would fly by, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Thanks for reading!
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”