You catch up on the first part of our European adventure here.
The next morning, we had a 6:30 flight to Edinburgh, so we were up very early. It was a quick flight, and by 8:30, we had left the airport by bus and were walking to our hotel amongst the morning commuters making their way to work for the day. That was an interesting process with crowded sidewalks and us with two suitcases on wheels, but we made it, dropped our bags off at our hotel, and headed out to experience Edinburgh.
After a quick bite to eat at a cute restaurant near our hotel called Two Thin Laddies, we decided to make our way to Holyrood Park to climb Arthur's Seat.
Sean and I both agree that Edinburgh was our favorite leg of our trip, especially because of this particular day. Edinburgh is a big city, built on top of what was once a volcano. Holyrood Park just kind of pops up in the middle of all the buildings and streets, a huge green mass of trees, plants, grass, and hills to climb. Well, it really is more of a mountain than hills once you get to the top, you'll see. Our climb took us to the left side of the photo above to start.
Some friends of ours had been to Edinburgh before and warned us that Arthur's Seat was not an easy climb. I think it ended up being about five miles total... but that's my best guess. Anyway, the photo above is how it starts out. Slight incline, flat path, easy. I thought, "Surely our friends must have been exaggerating..."
Looking around, however, there were plenty of other people taking breaks headed up to the top, so I felt a little less out of shape.
I immediately put my sweater and coat back on once we got to the top as it was instantly cold and windy. We were actually scooting around on our hands and bums to get through a few parts because it was hard to stay standing otherwise.
We wandered down a few streets and I gasped when I saw the name of this restaurant. The Elephant House, I knew from prior research about Edinburgh, was were J.K. Rowling started writing the Harry Potter series (as they obviously now capitalize on from the sign in the window!) I told Sean we MUST eat here, so we headed into the crowd and ordered some panini. (foreshadowing: this is not where my obsession with Harry Potter ends on this Europe trip...)
Panini plus, ham and English mustard potato chips. If there's anything I love about traveling it's testing out new foods, and this, though packaged and processed as opposed to locally cooked, had to have been one of my top experiences. They sound gross, I know, but I was feeling adventurous, and these chips definitely delivered. Something I also noticed about Scotland was that the tomatoes at every restaurant we visited were excellent. I don't know if that's always true or if we were just there at the right time of year, but I have never had such delicious tomatoes before or since.
I took a quick trip to the bathroom at the end of the meal, and I was floored to see that every last inch of every wall was covered in graffiti. But not just any graffiti. Harry Potter graffiti. My favorite from this little chunk I was able to capture in one corner is "I suspect the nargles are behind it ~ Luna Lovegood." So much fun to see just how many fans those books really captured.
After lunch we decided to keep moving and headed over to Edinburgh Castle. The castle is built on top of one of the highest points in the city (also part of the extinct volcano) so we had more climbing to do to get there.
But the climb (and the entrance fee) was totally worth it. We learned a lot about Scotland that we didn't know, including lots of history of Mary Queen of Scots, who actually lived in Edinburgh Castle. I don't need to give you the entire history lesson, so you can read more about the Castle here.
This isn't the best photo above but I wanted to share it as I was amazed at the size of the fireplaces in the castle. The armor on either side is probably 7.5-8 feet tall from the floor to the tops of their heads.
We were admiring the giant fireplace above when a couple of castle employees asked us if we would be a part of a promotional video for their website. We were asked to look at a guidebook, then look up at the fireplace in awe. Simple right? Well, they didn't like our first take, so we did another. I've checked the castle's website since, and there's definitely another guy doing the same thing we were asked to in one of their videos, but we're nowhere to be seen. I guess our "looking in awe" skills just weren't up to par.
So after packing all of that into a single day, we were ready to check into our hotel. Then we grabbed some dinner, and headed back early to go to sleep. The next day, we headed to the free Museum of Scotland. You could easily spend an entire weekend inside this museum and never get through it all; it's absolutely huge. We stuck to a lot of Scottish history. And of course, the one touristy thing that drew me in in the first place:
Dolly! I was only about ten when Dolly's whole cloning process went down, and at the time I didn't even realized it had anything to do with Scotland. But you bet as soon as I started researching Edinburgh and found out Dolly had been preserved after her death to be displayed in the museum... I had to see it. It was super cheesy, she's inside this rotating glass box with spotlights on her from every direction. But it totally satisfied my touristy needs.
Then we headed across the street for a tour at the Scotch Whisky Experience. The tour involved a short ride in a giant whisky barrel that led us through the process of making whisky, and then to the room you see above for a tasting. I do not enjoy whisky so I took half a sip and gave the rest to Sean. The museum houses the largest whisky collection in the world, and the photo above shows only about 1/8 of all the bottles in the collection. It was really cool to see, with some of the bottles dating back to the 1800's.
We wrapped up our second day in Edinburgh with a taste of some haggis, tatties, and neeps (which really weren't bad at all, though we think they may have overcooked the haggis) and a Ghost Tour with a fellow dressed up as a dead William Burke... which was entertaining, but thankfully, free.
Up next, we head to London for the final stop on our European adventure.