Our plane landed safely in Edinburgh (pronounced Edinburra by the locals) and we were off to our new place to stay for four nights. We arrived in the late afternoon, so our chances of getting out to explore were slim. Luckily, our shuttle bus dropped us off in the center of the city and we were able to catch our first glimpses of the Capital of Scotland. The Scots have an interesting history with the English. They always seem to be the little brother who can’t quite separate themselves from the family. They voted to become an independent nation from the UK in the early 2000s. Their votes came back at around 55% to 45% in favor of staying in the United Kingdom. However, the votes were slightly skewed, as many Scots were unable to vote in the election because of citizenship issues that restricted those voters. In reality, the popular vote was to become independent, but the legality in London said otherwise. Overall, the Scots still feel like
they are their own nation, with their own government, laws, taxes, and international sport representation (like the Olympics). Abby and I both felt like we were in another country; one where the English spoken was thick with accents, the sound of bagpipes lingers in your ears throughout the day, the Scotch warms up your tummy and the nationalism of being Scottish was certainly intoxicating.
Our AirB&B was located in Leith, a small suburb on the eastern side that was its own village before the massive growth of the capital city. However, it was only a twenty minute walk to the Royal Mile, the main street of the old town. We popped in to a pub called The Safari to grab some dinner near our place. It was very friendly, with live music playing and dogs welcomed (we played with several puppies that were freely wandering around bar). After relaxing with some supper and drinks, we were tired and ready to rest up for our first day to explore Edinburgh.
The first day we walked the town we fell in love. The old architecture, with its dark stones, high peaks and arches, and narrow alley ways (called a “close”) was very
fun to explore. I quickly noticed why I loved this old city. Not only was it beautiful and historic, but it felt like I was wandering down Diagon Alley and about to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy. J.K. Rowling wrote her first two books of the Harry Potter series in this city, and the inspiration for her amazing books is all around the town (more on that later). Abby and I had a great time exploring, popping in to pubs, and slowly feeling very Scottish. We ended the night by taking advice from our AirB&B host and going to Whistling Binkies, a pub that is known for having live music nightly with cheap pints of ale. We had a great time singing along with the crowd to the one-man band playing Americano classics.
On Friday we set out with one goal in mind: warm clothes. We were warned that Scotland could be quite chilly and rains often. We were lucky enough to only get the chilly fall weather, and it was great having some sunshine. We found some great deals, bought some new “jumpers” (English don’t wear sweaters, they’re jumpers), thermals and stocking hats. We saw advertisements for a free Edinburgh Haunted Ghost Tour that would begin at dark that night, so we planned on taking our first tour. Being October, we couldn’t resist! Beforehand, we popped in to a small pub in a close called The Half-Way House. It was a classic pub, big enough for barely 20 people, and we sat down for some supper and drinks. We ordered some sausages and mashed potatoes, or bangers and mash as they call them. A few pints later and a couple hours past, we realized we were a bit tipsy for our ghost tour. The free tours are always worth it, and this one was no different. We wandered haunted pubs and closes, and even crossed paths with a black cat at one of our cemetery stops. One of my favorite fun-facts from the tour was when we were wandering a close, that was narrow enough for me to stretch out and touch the walls on both sides. During medieval times, the wealthy tenants in the upper stories of the buildings were advised to dump their chamber-pots (toilets) into the alleys at a certain time each night. This time of night, coincidentally, was also when most of the pubs were forced to close their doors and lock up for the evening (the Scots are known to love their pints!). When these poor drunk fellows would stumble into the closes after closing time, if they were too drunk to know it, SPLAT! They would be dumped in waste
and become “shitfaced.” The tour was great, spooky, and ended early enough to go to a pub for some drinks before bed. Lucky for me, the six hour time change benefited me and I was able to hop on my cell phone at the pub, log on to their WiFi, and watch my little cousin play in his football game…right there in the pub, drink in hand, in Scotland! Technology is a great thing.
Saturday came a bit too soon, as the day before ended a lot later than we had planned. We caught some lunch and made plans to do a free tour in the early afternoon. The tour was more historical, taking us to several stops, from the castle, the Royal Mile, the Grass Market and another cemetery. This cemetery wasn’t as spooky, being day light. However, there was something I absolutely loved about this cemetery: Harry Potter. The cemetery was a public park (kind of strange), but it was a place J.K. Rowling would go for walks, or search for some inspiration. Right there, buried in the cemetery, is Lord Voldemort himself! Well, Tom Riddle, anyways. It was pretty neat to be in the spot of the Dark Lord, or at least where Rowling would wander around while writing my favorite book series of all time. The tour ended a couple hour before 5 o’clock, which gave us time to explore one of the free museums in Edinburgh: the National Scottish Museum. We had a blast! It was full of fun experiments, games, very hands-on, and had an exhibit on just about anything scientific or nature related that you could imagine. We almost didn’t go to it, but sure were glad we did in the end. We ended our night by hitting some significant pubs of Edinburgh, including Maggie Dickson’s, Finnegan’s, Scottish Castle Arms (where we had some Scottish traditional haggish for supper), and Jinglin’ Geordie’s.
All Harry Potterisms aside, Edinburgh jumped near to the top of our list for favorite places. The history, the charm, the architecture, and the experiences overall were one of the best times we have had on this trip. The city feels like you are walking down the streets of a fairy tale, with a castle sitting high above the city, magnificent buildings along every horizon with green parks and rolling hills surrounding you. Although the sound
of bagpipes may still be ringing in my ears, we left Edinburgh feeling a little more Scottish with some hope that we will one day be back again.