This past weekend, I took a trip to Edinburgh, which is still technically the United Kingdom, but it’s Scotland, so I am counting it as a new country, even if there was no border and I didn’t actually have to bring my passport.
I opted for the overnight bus, which was supposed to arrive around 7 something in the morning, which I thought would give me ample time to freshen up and be ready for my day. Instead, we took a more direct route and I got there before 6:30, which would be awesome, except it meant I got less sleep, and had more time to kill before the rest of civilization woke up. I chose a Starbucks to settle in, have some tea and write some stories 🙂 You see, I was in the city alone, and so decided to make it a writing weekend.
At 8 o’clock, I headed to my hotel, the Kenneth Mackenzie (it’s actually more like student dorms), to drop off my backpack while I went sightseeing. I was planning to use the free bag storage, but they actually checked me in, so I got to go and change, get ready… I even had a safe to store the passport I hadn’t needed to bring!
My phone’s map tried to make things more complicated, but I was actually super close to Holyrood Palace, my first stop of the day. I was at the gate before it opened, and although I had people with me in the first few rooms of the audio guide, I soon found myself absolutely alone in a gorgeous palace. There were employees scattered throughout the rooms in case I had questions, but in most of them, I could ignore the ropes and imagine I was walking down my own hallways. It truly was the absolute best way to explore a palace 😉 The audio guide is free, so it was nice to find out all about Mary, Queen of Scotts, how Queen Victoria would stay on her way to Balmoral, the Order of the Thistle, and so on.
It only took me an hour to go through the entire palace, the ruins abbey and the gardens, so I walked along the Royal Mile, that connects Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle, and even visited the Museum of Edinburgh before changing for my Afternoon tea at the Balmoral, which happens to be where J.K. Rowling finished the 7th Harry Potter book, to get away from the distractions at home. This is the first of many Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling references in this post, so be warned…
I don’t think they were used to people coming alone to afternoon tea, but this was on my list, so I was coming with or without company. Still, it was a classy place so I was very well treated, and hardly had time to write through all of the food that they kept bringing me.
After ordering my tea, I got the amuse-bouche, which was a kind of tomato soup, absolutely delicious and warm to fight the cold rain outside. Next, I got my Balmoral Scottish tea.
At first, I found my tiered plate looked kind of underwhelming, until I realized it was 3 tiers of sandwiches, each more delectable than the next. The traditional cucumber and salmon with cream cheese were at the bottom, while egg and coronation chicken were in the middle. I have no clue how to describe the crunchy box like thing that contained the coronation chicken, but it was soooo good. I think the chicken is tied for my favorite with the mushroom muffin that was on the top tier 🙂
Next, I got another 3 tiered plate with the sweet stuff. There were the traditional scones, which were warm and so delicious. Crisp on the outside, soft in the middle, square instead of round, and with blackcurrant jam to make things different.
There was also a passion fruit smoothie, blueberry crumble, chocolate cake, and a pumpkin marshmallow moose cup thing that was heavenly.
You also got to choose from the cake trolley, where I got a piece of fruit sponge cake, I believe. I am really bad at listening when they tell me what I am eating, but I can tell you that it tasted wonderful.
I was expecting the bill when the waitress came over and brought me a lemon sherbert ice cream. A perfect touch to end the meal 🙂
It was raining really hard when I got out, so I stopped to visit St. Giles Cathedral to get out of the cold and warm up a bit before continuing on my way to Edinburgh Castle.
When I asked people or researched what I should see in Edinburgh, this castle kept coming up, and although it was really interesting, with a lot of museum-like exhibitions, Holyrood Palace was more the kind of castle I like visiting. The state apartments had no furniture in them, and a lot of my time was spent outside, which would probably be lovely in the summer, but the rain made me have to fight the urge to give up early. If you have time, definitely see both, because the stone of destiny and crown jewels and all the exhibitions are really interesting, but if you only have time for one, I would go with Holyrood.
When I left the castle, I stopped by the National Museum of Scotland, and did some window shopping, before finally making it to the Elephant House. This was at the top of my list for Edinburgh, because it is there that J.K. Rowling wrote a lot of the first and second Harry Potter books, in a room in the back, staring out the window at the castle that could definitely have inspired Hogwarts. I spent hours there, sipping my tea and writing stories. When you go, because you obviously will, make a trip to the washrooms, which are covered with notes from fans, to Jo, in the hopes that she will return and read them.
I checked out the Frankenstein restaurant next door before making it back to my room, with a slight bout of homesickness. I had an amazing day, but there was something about spending the night alone, not only away from home, but away from the temporary home I have made in London, that made me feel the miles separating me from HOME.
On Sunday, I woke up early to be able to witness the sun rise from Arthur’s Seat. I had read up on the best way to go up, but I didn’t trust myself once I was there, and just started climbing, worried I would miss the sun. In case you have the same worries I did, rest assured that although the official sun rise was at 7:27 a.m. that day, it wasn’t until I was pretty much at the bottom, a little after 8, that the sun actually rose above the mountain and took my breath away. Again.
I say again, because the views from Arthur’s Seat are breathtaking. (The wind is also intense, which could contribute to knocking the wind out of you, so be careful up there!) I read an article that recommended an empty memory card and full battery before going, and I thought they were exaggerating. A couple of pictures at the top and you’re done, right? Wrong. It was exactly like my trip to Hawaii, where I was so amazed by what I was seeing, so I would take a picture, then look at the picture, see it didn’t do it justice and take another picture. This went on for my entire way up, the whole time I was up there, and my entire way down the mountain. I still didn’t even come close to capturing the beauty and wonder of being up there, so you will have to see it for yourself 😉
I went back to my hotel for breakfast, which again impressed me. There was a cold buffet, but all of the food that is normally in those hot plate trays, you ordered from the waitress, so it all came to your table fresh and hot. Have I mentioned that breakfast was included, and this was one of , if not the cheapest hotels I was able to find (hostels were not included in my search). Would definitely recommend it.
I checked out and went to the grave that inspired Tom Riddle’s in Harry Potter, then climbed the Scott Monument, on my friend’s recommendation. The view was beautiful, but don’t go if you are claustrophobic or afraid of heights. I am neither (at least not when inside a building) but going up was not an enjoyable experience for me. It was worth it, but there’s a spot at the top where it gets really tight, and for a second I wondered if I would ever get out (remember, I had checked out and so was carrying my huge bag on my back).
I killed my last few minutes in the Portrait Gallery before my bus back to London. The landscape was gorgeous, so I was that weird person taking a million pictures while everyone else was trying to sleep on the bus.