Once again, it is a cloudy, dreary morning at Harlaxton. However, the weather is somewhat pleasant compared to the cold, unpredictable weather of Edinburgh. From my last post, you were aware that I was ecstatic about taking the trek across the border to Scotland, the "Motherland." I must admit that Edinburgh is my favorite city I have visited thus far, though New York City is definitely my favorite in the States.
My long weekend began early Friday morning when all twenty of us boarded the coach. It rained intermittently over the course of the six-hour drive from Grantham to Edinburgh, but the views were truly breathtaking. Once we reached the English-Scottish border, the hills became much larger and steeper. Sheep dotted the vibrant green pastures and fields were no longer separated by wood and wire but by mossy stones. Bubbling streams seemed to slice through nearly angle of the landscape. Although I am not a botanist and unsure of this particular plant's name, there were rusty yellow shrubs that grew near every stream and contrasted greatly with the rolling green pastures. I could not believe I had crossed the border and was driving through the land of my ancestors! It was an indescribable feeling!
We reached Edinburgh about 2:30 that afternoon and after hopping off the coach, we were greeted with the sound of blaring bagpipes in the distance. Though bagpipes are iconic Scottish instruments, this greeting was very ironic. After dropping off our luggage at our hotel on Princes Street, a few girls and I went exploring Princes Park and the Royal Mile. The Sir Walter Scott memorial happened to be right across the street from our hotel. Though it was constructed in the nineteenth century, it is a very gothic structure with a steeple spire. A very pensive statue of the author of Ivanhoe and other famous works sits under the spiral. From the monument, we walked through the park, catching a beautiful glimpse of Edinburgh Castle and the city skyline. After passing the National Gallery of Scotland, we walked towards the Royal Mile. This is the street that Scottish kings would parade down once they were crowned at Holyrood Abbey.
If you ever visit Edinburgh, just follow the Royal Mile and you will see nearly every famous site the city has to offer. We wandered aimlessly through some touristy shops, claiming they had legitimate clan tartans. However, we also visited an exhibit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the National Library and explored St. Giles Cathedral. By the time we left St. Giles, it was pouring outside, and we ducked into Deacon Brodie's Tavern to shield ourselves from the rain as well as grab some dinner. The atmosphere was very family-like, but also had a pub feel to it. The tavern was constructed near the spot where Deacon Brodie, a clever thief, was hanged in the mid-18th century. This man supposedly influenced the writing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
After getting dinner, we were completely exhausted, so we headed back to the hotel for the night. However, the next morning, we arose early to climb to the top of Arthur's Seat. Though we were lost for about 45 minutes and asked for directions three times, we finally found the steep hill. We took a very scenic route to Arthur's Seat, passing by Calton Hill, Scottish Parliament, and Holyrood Palace, the residence of the Queen when she visits Edinburgh. The walk was tremendously difficult, but the views were worth the soreness afterward. While we did not make it completely to the top due to time and exhaustion, one could see a panoramic view of the city. The gothic, medieval city was in the foreground with the towering highlands and the misty sea as its backdrop. It was definitely a memorable view.
Once climbing down from the hill, my roommate and I decided to make the journey in the opposite direction to Edinburgh Castle. Before taking another difficult walk, we stopped for a panini sandwich at a café along the Royal Mile. When visiting Edinburgh, you must absolutely visit the castle! There is so much history there from the ancient Picts and Scots to the recent war in Afghanistan. We spent a couple of hours touring the museums there as well as viewing the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny.
We were pretty tired from exploring the castle for a couple of hours, so we decided to browse the shops along the Royal Mile to find gifts for our families. I purchased a scarf with my family's tartan, a mug with my family's crest for my dad, and a University of Edinburgh t-shirt for my brother. After having a picnic of Subway sandwiches in Hunter's Square after our shopping excursions, we made the trek up to Calton Hill to take some final pictures of the city before we left.
On Calton Hill, there are Roman-like structures which you can explore as well as see an awesome panoramic view of the city. From the top, we could see the spires of cathedrals, the castle, the Sir Walter Scott Monument, Holyrood Palace, and Arthur's seat. We watched the sun set over Edinburgh, and it was truly beautiful. However, the sun set was soon covered by gray storm clouds, and it began to rain heavily. So, we darted down the hill and headed towards our hotel, where we spent our final night in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is a city unlike any other I have visited. The architecture is impeccable, and I love how it does not take much of an effort to explore the sites of the city. I definitely would like to take my family some day, so we can all explore it!
These next few days I will be busy taking my final, seeing Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I, and packing for my journey to Paris! Exactly one week from today, I will be at home! I have mixed feelings at this point about returning home, which I wish I could expand on, but I think I have written enough!
Until next time,