Cheers mates! It’s been a while.
What have I been up to, you ask? Oh, a little of this, a little of that. Lots of fun, as well as lots of work. You know there’s this thing called school? Apparently it requires work. Go figure.
In the middle of all that work, however, I took a little weekend trip with some friends to the beautiful and fun city of Edinburgh, Scotland! It was well worth it. Scotland blew me away. Can I just live there, please? Apparently there aren’t enough people there. Did you know that Scotland has twice as many sheep than people? Yep. There are close to 10 million sheep, and only around 5 million people. On the rather lengthy coach ride, we passed many a field that was covered with adorable and fluffy little sheep. Look!
Scotland truly is a beautiful country. This hill that the sheep are grazing on is just one small hill out of thousands (probably even millions) of rolling hills, craggy moors, and beautiful mountains. As much as I wanted to sleep on the coach, it was hard to stay asleep for long. I just wanted to take in the scenery!
Even in the middle of a large metropolitan city, there is still great scenery.
See that? That’s what they call “Arthur’s Seat,” like the legendary King Arthur. No one exactly knows why it is called that, although it might possibly come from the Gaelic words Àrd-na-Said, implying the “Height of Arrows”, which over the years became Arthur’s Seat (perhaps via “Archer’s Seat”). In any case, it’s an absolutely beautiful hill and it’s a popular place for tourists to climb because it’s a relatively easy walk. I didn’t actually climb it, however.
I did climb all the way to the top of the Scott Monument, named after Sir Walter Scott, who made Scotland famous through his writings. The memorial has a series of viewing walkways, with the highest platform being 287 steps up a very claustrophobic spiral staircase. It was totally worth it, however
The Scott Monument
View from inside the staircase–almost there!
View from the very top, looking at Edinburgh Castle
We also saw the breathtaking Castle of Edinburgh, with parts of it dating back to the 11th century. I swear I could have spent all day in the castle. It was fantastic. We were able to see rooms from the old royal palace, and stand in the room where King James I was born, successor to both Mary Queen of Scotts and Queen Elizabeth I (also the first British king to be born in Scotland and rule over both Scotland and England as a united kingdom). We saw the actual Crown Jewels of Scotland too!! They are not only the oldest complete set of crown jewels in all of Europe (with the oldest part of the set, the scepter, dating back to 1496), but along with the crown jewels was a large rock known as the Stone of Destiny. Sound like an overly dramatic name? It is. It was originally called the Stone of Scone (named after a monastery, where the stone used to sit), and it is known as the metaphorical cornerstone of Scotland. It was renamed by the Victorians, who apparently just liked to make everything prettier and more dramatic. In any case, that giant rock is where all the kings of Scotland have sat when they were coronated, and is actually still used today. Or rather, it will be used whenever Prince Charles becomes king. It is placed under the throne during British coronations. Pretty interesting, huh? It’s just a giant piece of rock, but it contains so much significance. Of course, no one’s really sure if it’s the real Stone of Scone, but that’s another story. In any case, the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny (Scone) were so heavily guarded and protected that no photographs were allowed. I may have taken lots of “illegal” pictures in other parts of the city, but I wasn’t about to mess with this one. So here’s a sculpture of the crown, designed so that someone who is blind can read about it and feel what it looks like!
While in Edinburgh we also took a quick look around St. Giles Cathedral before it closed for the day (where I may have gotten a few photos I wasn’t supposed to take . . . oh well. No regrets. I’ll go to confession), we saw the fantastic National Museum of Scotland (which is on the “Top 100 Museums to See Before You Die”), and did a little shopping along the historic Royal Mile (where I bought myself a plaid 100% Scottish wool scarf). I was even brave enough to get a meal of haggis for lunch!
Probably my favorite parts of the trip, however, were going on a ghost tour of the city at night and then passing The Elephant Café where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. Both experiences were pretty epic. While I didn’t meet any ghosts (or JK Rowling either), we still had a really great time. And we saw lots of boys wearing kilts. Which is slightly disturbing thought because of a long-standing Scottish tradition . . . but let’s not go there.
Overall it was a fantastic trip. I got to spend time with some really great people (one of them being a DG sister!!) and somewhere along the line I fell in love with Scotland. I know, I say this about everywhere that I visit here, but truly Scotland has a special place in my heart. Be it bagpipe music, Scottish hills, or the rich history that comes with the land, there’s something wonderful about Scotland. So . . .
“Here’s tae the health, the hill and the heather,
The bonnet, the plaid, the kilt and the feather!”