Scotland Part One- Edinburgh

Last Wednesday my friend Michelle and I took off for Scotland for 5 days. We found flights out of Cardiff for 1 pound round trip on Bmibaby.com, adding up to 38 pounds with taxes, a pretty sweet deal. Our plan was to stay in Edinburgh for the first two nights in a hostel, take a two hour bus ride up to St. Andrews and stay with a friend of hers who attends University of St. Andrews the next two nights, and then head back to Edinburgh Sunday night with one more night in a hostel before flying out early Monday morning to get her back for her class at noon, which we did.

So on Wednesday I was in class at one, and four hours, a train and plane ride later I was in the Edinburgh  town centre. The city was absolutely beautiful. My in-flight reading informed me that it is one of four “World Heritage Cities” (My second, along with Bath). Also, that it has been called the Northern Athens, for its spectacular architecture. There were statues, monuments, steeples and cool buildings everywhere. The best thing was the Edinburgh Castle though which stoop on top of an extinct Volcanic mound in the middle of the city.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

So Michelle happens to be OCD about planning, and made an amazing itinerary for us and our trip. She basically had every hour of our trip planned out, and with a few changes, it worked out really well.

After arriving at our hostel, we walked around and took pictures of the different sites in the city, then headed back to the hostel, which had a reception that doubled as a bar/restaurant and got dinner and had a couple pints. We ended up making friends with the people working and they took us out on the town to some bars after they got off work and showed us a good time.

We got up early the next morning to go to the Edinburgh Zoo  (a European zoo mommy!).  We had bought a Edinburgh day pass for 24 pounds which got us in free to everything we did this day, which ended up saving us about 25 pounds. The zoo was quite different then most I’ve been to (and I’ve been to a lot). This zoo seemed to be more about the animals, and not so much about the touristy stuff you find in most American zoos. This meant bigger cages/areas for the animals, and the fact that the zoo was built on the side of a mini-mountain, and it was quite a hike to get all the way up it, something many Americans simply wouldn’t put up with in their zoo visits. Overall, a cool zoo with lots of active animals ( No gators or bears besides the polar though! boo).

After a few hours at the zoo, we got lunch at the Edinburgh Hard Rock Cafe, then headed to the Edinburgh Dungeon. I have found out this is a chain across most European cities. Basically it was a toured show that took us through different rooms and a boat ride, and it had actors and scary things all over trying to freak us out, while informing us about different medieval things such as torture, the plague and had a special exhibit on William Wallace aka Brave heart.  One of the rooms was a medieval Scottish courtroom, and I was called to the stand and forced to plead guilty to cross-dressing in front of everyone. Ironically, my punishment was either a public Hanging or banishment to the “hell-hole that is Wales” haha.

After that and dinner, we took a nigh time walking tour around Edinburgh called the “Ghost and Gore Tour .” This tour was somewhat geared towards a younger audience, and was led by a guy dressed as a vampire/ghost and had a comic relief sidekick chasing us around, scaring us, and acted as the butt of much of the guides jokes, many of which were sexual double entendres to entertain us older folk. They guided us around part of the city, and told us mainly about Edinburgh’s dark history and stories of ghosts, hauntings, the black plague and what not. During this tour, Michelle got called to the front and was accused of being a witch.

Michelle and I wth the first tour guides

Michelle and I wth the first tour guides

Next we went on a midnight walking tour of the city. This one was for 18 year of age or older, so we new this one would be a little more serious/scary. It was called the “Auld Reekie (Edinburgh’s old name) Terror Tour. We started hearing many of the same stories, but which weren’t for children’s ears, meaning more factual, scary, gross and not sugar coated. We then were taken to the Edinburgh Torture museum, and then led to the culmination of the tour, the Edinburgh Vaults. These vaults were hidden for 300 years, until rediscovered a hundred or some years ago. They have been on multiple top 5 lists of most haunted places on earth. We walked through them, and heard stories of how they supposedly became so haunted. I have never been one to believe in ghosts, but I had an experience in these vaults that changed somewhat changed my mind.

We entered the most haunted room with many active poltergeists last, and were warned to turn off all electrical devices because the room often erases memories of things like cell phones and cameras. It was pitch black except for the guides flashlight, and she was telling some very freaky stories about past tours and the poltergeists, and had the sexes separated on different walls of the rooms, which we found out after we did so that the guys can take more so she put us on the more active side. I started to get the chills, and no joke I felt an Ice cold hand on my back. I freaked out and there was no one close enough to touch me, nor was I close enough to the wall. I’ll leave it at that. The vaults were insane. Send me a message if you want to know more.

The next morning we woke up at 6am to hike  to the peak of  “Arthur’s Seat” in Holyrood Park for the sunrise. We climbed about 1,000 feet to the top in about 35 minutes, and the view was astonishing. We could see all of Edinburgh, the castle especially, the rolling hills surrounding the town, and across the bay to where we’d be headed later that day, St. Andrews. As many of you know, I’m not to much of the type of person to wake up that early to “exercise,” but this hike was amazing and totally worth it, and a very good workout. Also we checked out the Queen’s residence in Scotland on our way back.

Towards the beginning of our climb

Towards the beginning of our climb

Not the greatest quality, but our view from the peak of the city and castle

Not the greatest quality, but our view from the peak of the city and castle

After our hike and breakfast we spent the next few hours touring the Edinburgh castle  and learning all about its history. I believe its the only castle in Europe to never have been taken by force. A lot of it did have to be re-built after being destroyed by the King of Scotland some 400 hundred years ago to keep the English from ever capturing it. Weird decision. But the oldest building on it was a chapel almost 1,000 years old! This was all-around a very cool and education experience.

Pic from the Castle of the city and the peak we had climbed that morning.

Pic from the Castle of the city and the peak we had climbed that morning.

Next up was the 3D Loch Ness  Monster Experience. This was something I was really looking forward to, but it kind of disappointed. The 3D sucked, the movie was old and short, and we never saw Nessy! haha. I did learn a lot about the history of the myth/legend. The Loch is huge for one thing, and Nessy was supposedly first spotted by a hotel owner on the Loch, good marketing.

Our last item on the itinerary for Edinburgh was the Scotch Whiskey Tour. This was pretty neat, we got to learn a lot about scotch; how its made, how to drink it and tell apart scotches, its origin and so on. I learned a lot of little tid-bits that will be good party nuggets of knowledge to cast upon people. We got to try some and also got a free scotch glass.

This concluded our day in Edinburgh and we were now off to St. Andrews for the next couple of days. That post will be coming soon. Oh and sorry for the multiple grammatical errors I’m sure there are, no time to be editing, gotta get my school work done before I take off on my next adventure!

Sorry for the lengthy post, I tried holding back too, so if there is anything your more interested in or questions on any of my posts, fbook me or email me at kyle-wick@uiowa.edu

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