The end of May and beginning of June of 2015 found me in Scotland’s most charming (and most touristy) city. Edinburgh is made up of the Old Town and the New Town, and I can tell you right now the Old Town is where the magic happens. I had a week to make the city my own, but here are the highlights you can do in just a couple of days.
First of all, the Edinburgh Castle is a force of a medieval structure that has presided over the city since 850 BC. Paying for the castle tour is well worth it, especially for the VIEWS. As someone who’s grown up in a 200-year old country, anything that was built before the AD years really gets my goat. To top that off, the castle was built on a 700 MILLION year old extinct volcano. The earth is a crazy place.
And speaking of views, the only point in Edinburgh perhaps more popular than the castle is St. Arthur’s Seat. The hike to the summit is beautiful and green (wear proper shoes though, it’s no joke) and the top delivers sweeping views of both the city and the North Sea. My companions and I did the hike just before sunset, which meant that our descent was just in time for a proper whisky stramash.
Stramash is my favorite word thanks to the Scots, which can mean either a racous uproar, or a whisky tasting. I imagine stramashes often lead to stramashes. We tasted (and straight up drank) plenty of Scotch whisky over that week, and my favorites were the Highland varieties (“women’s Scotch,” one bartender told me. Yeah yeah yeah, I reject your stereotypes but at the same am accept that I fall into them).
Next up on the Scottish alcohol tour: The Jolly Botanist gin bar. Ignorant American that I am, I associated gin with England and not at all with Scotland, but Scottish gin was delicious (and cheap!) I especially loved elderflower gin, and should have brought a whole bottle back but unfortunately they didn’t make carry-on sizes of the flavored varieties. Sometimes, sometimes only bringing carryons can come back to bite you. Never fear, though, plenty of mini bottles of Highland Scotch and un-elderflower gin did make it back.An important thing to note about Edinburgh: restaurants close at around nine pm or so, make sure you eat accordingly. (Bars and pubs will stay open later, but late night food is not readily available outside of Tesco.) This can be especially confusing in the summer, since the sun goes down so late. My internal clock always wanted fish and chips at 10:30 pm, alas.
Edinburgh old town makes for some incredible walking. Streets curve, they’ve got banners, their tops are multicolored. And for Harry Potter fans (ahem, moi), the city is full of fandom gold mines. There’s the Elephant House, where JK Rowling allegedly wrote the first book (it turns out this is one of the cafes where she wrote; the real original doesn’t exist anymore so Elephant House gets to claim the title. It was definitely exciting enough for me to feel the magic when I wrote there.
Around the corner from Elephant House is Greyfriar’s Bobby and the adjoining cemetery where JK filched (see what I did there) a lot of the names of her characters. You’ll find McGonigal and Tom Riddle himself buried in these grounds.
Although I missed this, I’ve heard that haunted tours are Edinburgh are also pretty cool. I’d love to hear if any of you have checked those out! I spent most of my free time exploring whatever I could about the city, inlcuding accidentally making it out to the suburbs. UK suburbs are forever more charming than US ones, though, so it was all groovy.