Hello! I am finally back to sharing more about my trip!
My second major stop on my tour this summer was the beautiful Edinburgh. I was thrilled to make Scotland the first place I traveled for the start of my solo tour because, as many of you probably know, Scotland holds a special place in my heart. I studied abroad at the University of Glasgow, and so Scotland feels like a second home to me. And it is also the country where I, one day, plan to live.
And I sort of needed to start in a place I was comfortable with because I needed that confidence booster to stop letting everyone’s comments from back home get to me. And this really ended up being the perfect way to handle things.
Edinburgh (pronounced Eden-bra) is such a handsome, historical, and hilly city. And unlike many other parts of Scotland, you will actually be able to understand the English spoken here!
Similar to Ireland, this area of Scotland is a great place for new travelers, because culturally, things are not so different from those back in America, and as a very tourist geared city, you will always be able to find many comforts from home.
Top tourist attractions include hiking up to Arthur’s seat, visiting Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny both in the castle, the monuments on Calton Hill, the famous Greyfriars Kirkyard, and more! There are such diverse attractions in this city to appeal to athletes, historians, the royal family fans, foodies, and those who love to shop––all within walking distance of one another!
Navigation around the city is a breeze with the city compact enough that I was able to walk everywhere I wanted to go, even to the hiking trails, but the hills and stairs can be quite exhausting. (Learn from my mistakes: pack plenty of food and water in your day pack before trying to conquer Arthur’s seat.) Public transportation is available to and from the airport and runs 24/7 with tickets available to purchase at the bus terminal at the airport. It was super convenient purchasing my ticket ahead of time, so I could just board the bus when I was ready to leave.
As a part of the UK, Scotland’s currency is the Pound sterling (£) which is generally, consistently, stronger than the USD. So the prices in the store are not the prices that it would actually cost to an American, when every £1 would cost about $1.31. (And it is not always fun doing that math on the fly. I managed with help from a conversion app.)
And this is sort of the basics of what travelers should know and what they will learn during their time here.
Sightseeing over the summer was an incredible experience, and one that I cannot wait to repeat in the future.
My last visit to Edinburgh was during all of the excitement of the Christmas markets during the height of the holiday shopping season (and the low point on the thermometer). But I was also exploring with my flatmates after living with them for a whole semester.
So my visit in June was very different. Still pretty cold, even relative to Ireland, but much quieter and at much more of a relaxed pace, thanks to not needing to rush to catch a train at the end of the day. I very much enjoyed getting to explore another city in Scotland at my own pace with an itinerary that I did not have to compromise with anyone. I got to wake up early and take a full day to tour the Edinburgh Castle spending hours wandering the halls, walk all the way down the royal mile to see the Queen’s Gallery and stop in for a cup of tea, wherever I pleased.
The most rewarding part of my trip was getting to finally explore the Edinburgh Castle, something that I put off for most of my study abroad, until I returned to America without ever seeing it, so this was something that was at the very top of my list of things I needed to do before returning home.
And after doing much research, I made my way up to the castle early in the morning to make sure I could get a ticket, and I had my student ID handy, like I did for most of my trip, to make sure that I could get all of the student discounts on all of my museum visits. Especially since, at this point, I did not know how far I would need to make my money stretch. And solo visits to the museums, I feel, are so much more rewarding than going with someone, or with a group of people. I was able to take it all in, and at my own pace. Things like waiting on a line to see the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny (used at the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953), would probably not be something that I would subject others to doing, but it was something that I felt was worth the wait. And what a breathtaking site (even if photos were not allowed).
And if anyone is interested in a brief history of these Honours of Scotland, the Visit Scotland website is a perfect help.
Some other highlights from the castle were taste-testing Scottish Whiskey right on the grounds, which was incredible, btw, and even visiting St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, that remains from the 12th Century. It is such a small building with small windows (a late add on) which is probably the reason for lasting so long.
And a stay in Scotland in never complete without visiting a historical site while there is a wedding going on. I will never forget the feeling of awe (and jealousy) in seeing couples get married in the most beautiful places, which are during this trip to the Edinburgh Castle, to later on in my trip where I almost accidentally interrupted a wedding procession in Cinque Terre, to all of the weddings we passed in Glasgow at my university or at Oran Mor––the church/bar on the way to my university. They were the most incredible, and accidental events I have stumbled on and ones that inspire my own future wedding plans––hope my future husband is on board.
Another major highlight of my trip, was the day I spend hiking up to Arthur’s seat, an ancient volcano visible even from the city center. (Which actually just went up in a blaze two days ago, so I hope that everything will be okay there!) The hike lead to extraordinary views of the city, especially because I just happened to go on a clear day, and I was able to meet some of my fellow hikers at the top of the hills who helped me take some of my favorite pictures from my trip.
The very same day, before or after my hike (I forget the order), I also was able to visit and sit in on some Parliament discussions, as I just happened to be passing by while it was in session.
And another highlight, that I won’t go into too much detail about because I have written much about it in the past, was my visit to Greyfriars Kirkyard, most recently known to house the inspiration to JK Rowling’s character names, but it is also well known for Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye Terrier who guarded the grave of his owner for 14 years in the kirkyard, and who now can be seen in the statue in front of the entrance.
Aside from all of my sightseeing, perhaps the most memorable part of my visit to Edinburgh is all of the incredible friends that I made there.
I met up with an Australian lady from Girls Love Travel Facebook group at a cafe in town, and learned all about her life, and how she is on her year abroad, looking for work and to travel. Then in my hostel, I made so many friends from Canada, Columbia, and Germany who would all meet down at the hostel pub to share travel stories from like-minded travelers and drink together. And discuss Harry Potter, too! And my very last night in Scotland (for this trip) we all went on a pub crawl together and had a blast before I made my way to the airport, headed for Italy.
My next stop: Bologna.