Like I mentioned in my blog about England, we’ve found that long bus rides between our destinations are blessings in disguise. The five-hour ride from Liverpool to Edinburgh was… well, peaceful. Lovely. Calming. Andi took a three-hour nap and I watched Netflix and wrote some postcards home. After the busy time we had in England, we both needed the time to relax — especially because we’d be going at full speed once we got to Edinburgh.
Edinburgh: A Recap
This summer, the company I work for is sponsoring me to do random acts of kindness. I’ve been working for Iris Telehealth for about a year and a half now and will be going full-time with them in the fall. They were incredible supportive of this trip and even decided to add a spin to it. I’m partnering with Iris and the Random Acts of Kindness organization to Spread the Love throughout my trip — and that’s how we met Philip. I’m going to write a blog specifically about serendipity and getting to know Philip, but I just wanted to mention him briefly here because he was such a huge part of our trip in Scotland. We met him on the bus from Liverpool to Edinburgh, and when we arrived he walked us to our hostel, which was much appreciated considering it was well past 11 p.m. and we had no idea where we were going.
We’re quickly realizing the importance of down time and rest amidst our busy travel schedule, so the first day in Edinburgh we slept in and took a leisurly morning walking around the city. We walked past a cat cafe, which Andi had to go into. If you’re confused by what that means, let me clearly say we didn’t eat any cats. No, we drank tea and played with about a dozen of them. It was quite relaxing and a unique start to our time in Scotland. Andi took a particular liking to the sphinx cat. I, on the other hand, thought it felt like a warm snake and prefer cats with fur.
We took a few free walking tours that afternoon and evening. The first was a Harry Potter Tour — which, as you might imagine, was exciting for both of us. J.K. Rowling wrote much of the books during the time she lived in Edinburgh, so we saw a lot of the places that inspired the books. Honestly, the moment we got off our bus we felt like we were walking through Diagon Alley.
That night, we went on a Ghost Tour, which was also quite enjoyable. It was kind of a history lesson combined with the potential for the desperate souls stuck between worlds. Our tour guide was an eloquent redhead who had a seemingly endless amount of gory adjectives to describe unspeakable things medeival Scots did.
The next day, we started off by visiting Edinburgh Castle. We got there right as the changing of the guards was happening, which was a happy circumstance. We spent three hours exploring the castle, seeing the Scottish crown jewels, learning about its history, and imagining what it would’ve been like to grow up there. Everything in Edinburgh is fairly close, so we decided to try and walk most places that day. If it was less than a mile and a half away, why not? That’s how we found ourselves walking from the Old Town to the New Town, from the castle to Trinity House Maritime Museum — which was closed by the time we got there. Disappointed, we realized our next walk would be close to 3 miles, so we decided to call an uber since we were able to connect to wifi.
We wound up at Craigmiller Castle about 10 minutes later, which provided a completely different vibe than Edinburgh Castle. The former was in the middle of a ginormous field, essentially deserted, on the opposite side of town, and much smaller. The latter, on the other hand, was smack dab in the middle of the city, overcrowded with tourists, expensive to get into, and about a minute walk from our hostel. It was exciting (and somewhat creepy) to have Craigmiller Castle to ourselves to explore.
The problem with taking an uber there was that we weren’t sure how we’d get back. Like I said, it was in the middle of nowhere. So we tried taking the bus, but got a bit confused and — you guessed it — ended up walking to our next destination: Arthur’s Seat. Situated at the top of a peak nestled in the middle of Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat provides a spectacular view of the city. The hike up to it is understandably steep, so by the time we got to the top, we were pooped. It didn’t help that I decided to take the more adventurous (or in Andi’s words, the more dangerous) way down (see photos below).
By the time we got back to our hostel after that eventful day, we’d walked 10 miles and were starving. On top of that, we’d run out of water well before making it to Arthur’s Seat, so we were parched. Our friend, Philip, met up with us and treated us to a dinner of pizza and Italian appetizers.
Exhausted from another long day, we decided to take it easy the following morning. We explored the city a bit that afternoon, finding other great lookout points including momuments above the city. That night, we hopped on a bus to Glasgow. And of course, I sang “Super Trouper” by Abba the whole way: “I was sick and tired of everything / When I called you last night from Glasgow / All I do is eat and sleep and sing / wishing every show was the last show.”
Glasgow: A Recap
Glasgow and Edinburgh have this odd rivalry, but they’re very different cities. Glasgow is known for its music scene (several of our roommates in the hostel were there for music festivals or concerts). It’s much more metropolitan with surrounding small towns that provide some character.
Our first day in Glasgow, we took the train into the city center. We saw the Cathedral and the oldest house in Scotland, called Provand’s Lordship, before taking a stroll through the city. We were hoping to visit a castle that was about a 40 minute bus ride away, but the bus system wasn’t very tourist friendly. We found ourselves at a little cafe in the city and decided to enjoy a quick rest. We took a train out to a small town called Stirling, which we immediately fell in love with. We saw the Stirling Castle, grabbed an ice cream cone, and headed back to our hostel.
The next morning, Philip met up with us and took us to the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. We spent a few hours there and even stayed for a bit to listen to an organ recital. Philip took us into the city, where we stopped at a pub and watched a bit of the Scottish Cup Final before heading back home.
We enjoyed Scotland quite a bit, but I’m sure you can tell Edinburgh had more to offer us. Still, there are things we learned and added to our “Return” lists that I’d like to share with you.
Things I’ve Learned
- Always. Keep. Your. Tickets. We learned this the hard way. We got off the train in Stirling, threw away our tickets, then realized we needed our tickets to exit the train station. So, like a couple of hobos, we went fishing in the trash can and found our tickets so we could leave.
- At some point, the big cities blur together. Seeing the small towns really helps to understand the country and the culture more.
- When you stop eating real meals for a while to save money, any sort of meal will fill you up quickly.
- Public transportation is a wonderful thing if you can figure it out.
- Edinburgh is not pronounced like “Pittsburgh.” It’s pronounced like Edinburra.
- One miniscule act of kindness can turn into a friendship, and maybe even a free meal in an attempt to pay it forward.
- Some things are just going to be too expensive this time around, and that’s OK. On that list this time were Loch Lomond and Loch Ness.
Tips for Travel in Scotland
- Take day trips outside of the big cities. Or stay in a smaller city nearby (like Stirling) and take a day trip into the big city (like Glasgow).
- Talk to the people. They’re incredibly friendly.
- Make sure to see the attractions that are off the beaten path because they’re worth it (like Craigmiller Castle).
- Do the free walking tours!!!! Seriously. They are so fun and FREE.
- And of course, my “When I Return” list: Go to Loch Ness and Loch Lomond, stay a night or two in Stirling, go to the Isle of Skye and other surrounding islands