Oh Look a Castle!: Arriving in Edinburgh
Here we go again.
Sarah, the madness to my mayhem who you may remember from such trips as Costa Rica and Las Vegas, used her two weeks off work this month to come visit me here in London. Once my work contract finished up on the 31st, she and I had a trip to Scotland planned. I use the word “planned” in the looses sense of the word. We had been talking about this trip since I told her I was moving to the UK, but on the morning of the 1st all we actually had organized was the flights. We had the vague idea that we wanted to go up to the Isle of Skye, but the actual logistics of that were not exactly in place.
We booked the hostel in Edinburgh on the train to Stansted Airport, and the rental car in the airport bar. Around the time we were throwing back that pre-flight pint, I decided that I was just not going to be the planner/organizer on this trip. I’d been to Edinburgh before (way back in 2004), but this was Sarah’s first go and it was a bucket list destination for her. As such, she’d been super keen on making plans. By the time we touched down in Edinburgh, our semblance of a plan looked like this: We’d spend one full day in Edinburgh and then pick up the car the next day to drive the long way around to Skye. We’d only have one full day on Skye because it would take the better part of the next day to drive the car back to Edinburgh where I would be flying out of the following morning. I’d fly back to London and Sarah would catch the train to Glasgow where her flight home was out of.
We didn’t get to our hostel until later in the evening, so our first “day” in Edinburgh was a bit of a write off. We just had some dinner, walked about on the Royal Mile. A pint was had in the bar before calling it a night. A quick note about our hostel. We were staying at the St. Christopher’s Inn, which is located just beside the Waverly train station and just one block off the Royal Mile. Essentially, a perfect location to whatever you want to do in Edinburgh. I’d stayed in a St. Christopher’s in Camden when I first got to London, so I knew what I was getting into. They’re not fancy but they’re clean, and are connected to a pub called Belushi’s (which does quite good food at quite reasonable prices). The location is second to none, prices are great, and the staff is super friendly and helpful.
Our one and only full day in Edinburgh started with a walk back up the Royal Mile–essentially the walk we’d done the night before, just in daylight and with more people about. We headed up to the top of the Mile to Edinburgh Castle. Pro tip: buy your tickets online before you get to the castle. There is nearly no line to go print off pre-purchased tickets, but there is a hell of a long line up to buy tickets when you get there. We got so fed up with waiting in the line that we bought tickets online while in the queue and then jumped out to go print them instead.
One of the coolest things to see in Edinburgh Castle is the Scottish Crown Jewels. This place also holds a special place in my family’s lore from the last time we visited. My brother and I had waited, extremely patiently, in the queue to get into the jewel house. As we are about to leave a group of septuagenarians wander in through the exit door. They stopped, looked around, and one proclaims, “Look Blanche, the Crown Jewels!” Seriously. This time, no such tourists, but I did take a photo through the exit door, captioned with the above phrase, so send to my brother.
From the medieval Edinburgh Castle we then hiked down the Royal Mile to it’s other end, which is Holyrood Palace. As we are walking up to the palace we see all the people trying to climb the not just a hill but not quite a mountain that is Aurthur’s Seat, and had a good laugh at them. Upon hearing we would have to pay to get into this palace too, we decided we’d rather do something free. This lead to the decision that we should go join those people we just laughed at hiking up the not quite a mountain. I think the terrible idea was mine, but Sarah went with it, so I’m going to say it was mutually crazy decision.
That being said, the view is worth the hike.
If you are going to attempt that hike, I do recommend proper shoes for the trip. Having the wrong shoes on would become a theme for me on this trip and I started off strong, wearing my Converse high tops on this hike. Though a great shoe for wandering a city, there isn’t enough sole or tread for climbing rocks and slippery ground. Though I made it to the top with little incident, I found trying to get back down in some parts was a bit perilous as I couldn’t get any stability on the loose gravel. Had a couple of heart stopping slides. Oh yeah, remember I’m afraid of heights too? Yeah, not so fun on narrow ledges.
Back to the hostel for an early dinner because we were joining a ghost walk at 8:30. There are a lot of companies offering a lot of different ghost walk options. Some are more historical and some are more to the side of pure ghost story. Know what you like and choose accordingly, but either way, a ghost walk is an experience worth having in Edinburgh. The first time I visited the city I did one that was more historical (which i love), and this one was all ghost story (which scared the hell out of me). We were with City of the Dead Tours, on the Double Dead trip. I enjoyed it so much that I plan to go again the next time I’m in Edinburgh and will drag friends with me. It was really that good.
A couple pints at the bar but another early night for us. We had to pick up the car early the next morning, and we knew it was going to be a long drive day up to the Isle of Skye.