Of all the countries I’ve been to since I got here, Scotland is the only one that I’ve been to twice. I love it. Gorgeous countryside, great history and guys in kilts with hot accents – what more do you need?
So I thought I’d chat a bit about Edinburgh, my third favourite city in the world (behind London and Sydney respectively). It’s a green and sandstone paradise – dark, yet stunning. Full of twisted and fucked up history – you’ll hear the story of Burke & Hare about a billion times from tour guides – yet chilled out.
My first trip to Scotland was as part of my Oxford/Dublin/Edinburgh trip last year in July, and it began with me landing in Edinburgh after thoroughly hating my time in Dublin. It was just getting dark as I boarded the bus into town from the airport, and I remember when I first saw Edinburgh Castle looming over the city in the twilight. I had been there about 20 minutes and I was already in love. Now perhaps call me uneducated, I knew after all Edinburgh had a castle, but what I didn’t realise was that it’s in the MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING CITY. I’m not kidding. It’s so beautiful. The old town is about 1000 years old, and the new town is only about 300, which is still older than the entire country of Australia (well the British occupation anyway).
I stayed at one of the few hostels I’ve actually liked, The Baxter. It wasn’t the cheapest in Edinburgh, but it had been so highly recommended to me by the girl I met in Oxford that I had changed my booking and I was so glad I did. It was only small, but it was clean, fairly new and beautifully kitted out. I felt very safe staying there and they even cook you breakfast in the mornings when you come out to the kitchen. Just don’t let the entryway dissuade you, there is a hostel above it that has really crappy artworks in the outside corridor and stairway. It’s also in a handy location in the new town, right near the train station and easy walking distance from everywhere else.
My first order of business was to do a free walking tour – something I recommend everyone does in a new city because it gives you a great overview of things to do without costing a fortune. Because of the city’s links with JK Rowling and Harry Potter, our guide was decked out in Hufflepuff gear (which vaguely amused my Ravenclaw self). She was super enthusiastic, and very informative – turns out I knew almost nothing about the city.
After the tour I wandered around the new town and checked out several of the free museums, before having lunch at a haunted tavern. Then I walked up to the top of Calton Hill and chilled on the National Monument, before walking the royal mile up to the castle itself, checking out the giant whisky store on my way there.
The following day I went on a day trip to Loch Ness, which took us through the highlands. It was so stunning driving through there, I was even inspired to go hiking through the hills and that’s saying a lot. Seriously though, I would hire a car and spend a few days driving around there in a heartbeat, especially around Glen Coe. Loch Ness itself was beautiful, but legends aside it was no different than the ten other lochs we passed on the way up there.
On my third day I teamed up with two of the girls in my dorm and we caught the bus to Leith, a suburb by the water, to do a bit of exploring and try some whisky and haggis. The girls didn’t like their whisky (so I drank theirs), but the haggis was surprisingly delicious.
Finally on my last day I had a surprise catch up with my old boss Sonia, who was also in town visiting relatives. After a couple of months on my own in the UK it was nice to see a familiar face.
My second trip to Edinburgh was for the Easter long weekend this year, and I went with the girls to visit Lauren’s friend Bec who was working as a nanny in the countryside.
After an extremely expensive and uncomfortable train trip – apparently paying over £100 for a ticket still won’t guarantee you a seat (fuck you Virgin trains), we got to Edinburgh and met up with Bec at our hotel. We wandered around the old town, then had dinner with a friend of Annabelle’s, then drinks with some friends of Bec and Lauren’s. I piked early (as I’m boring that way) and headed back to the hotel and crashed while the girl’s went out dancing.
The next day we headed to Arthur’s Seat, greatly underestimating just how steep it actually is. I suspect the man we asked for directions (after we emphasised that we wanted to take the easy route) actually gave us the wrong (aka steep) directions on purpose. Dick. Anyway Annabelle powered up the hard route and we took the easier detour (which was still super fucking hard). After nearly dying of exhaustion, we went to The Sheep Heid Inn, a 600 year old pub, for lunch and a much needed drink.
We then drove to Bec’s place in the Scottish countryside. Her boss was loaded, so she had her very own wing of the house to live in, and they very kindly invited us to stay there for the night and to have Easter lunch with them. That night the weather was rubbish, so we sat by the fire with cheese and wine and chilled.
The next morning while everyone was at church I had the house to myself so I pretended to be rich for a couple of hours. Lunch was delicious (Bec is an amazing cook), then Annabelle and I caught the bus back to Edinburgh to leave Bec and Lauren to catch up properly.
We checked back into the same hotel we’d stayed at the day before. After the discovery of some money under one of the beds, which made me seriously question the hotel’s cleaning abilities, we had a moral dilemma as to what to do with it. Eventually we did the right thing and returned it to reception.
That night we had an AMAZING dinner at a little restaurant that was actually right across the road from our hotel called The Gardener’s Cottage. They only use local, home grown produce and the menu changes every day. You can see the courses in the photos, it was delicious (and pretty well priced for six courses).
After dinner we walked off our food and caught up with some of Annabelle’s friends at a cool bar call Panda and Sons – an underground speakeasy that you have to go through a fake bookcase to get to. I love that sort of thing. It was obviously ridiculously overpriced, but the atmosphere was very cool.
The next day we had a quick brekkie, then caught the train back to London. I definitely need to go back…
Listening to: Biffy Clyro
Shows this week: The Threepenny Opera (National Theatre) and The Entertainer (Garrick Theatre)
Reading: The Three Musketeers
Current man-crush: Kenneth Branagh