Return to Scotland: Part One

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I visited Scotland once before in 2014. After four long years and watching far too much Outlander, I decided it was time to head back and really take the time to discover this beautiful country. This time, I would be heading to Scotland to appreciate the Fringe Festival and the Scottish Highlands.

Scott Monument
National Gallery

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival of the world featuring thousands of performers. This festival usually takes place during the first three weeks of August and it is something I truly believe everyone should experience. The first time I was in Edinburgh, it was a quiet and charming city. During the festival, this all changed. The quiet calm had been replaced by loud excitement and cheer wherever you went. Anywhere I turned there were street performers and flash mobs happening. When I first arrived, I watched a play about women’s role in the Vietnam war, followed by a comedy sketch by the lovely Jilberto Santos, and lastly a circus performance by the incredible Circolombia. What I loved about seeing Edinburgh in festival mode, was the diversity. Whereas it normally isn’t quite diverse, it was now filled with people from across the globe to celebrate this festival. During this day, I would also check out the National Gallery and revisit Calton Hill as I did so many years ago. This would be the beginning of my journey, and the next day would be the beginning of my adventure into the Scottish Highlands.

Comedy Sketch by Jilberto Soto
Circus Hub

 

As the sun began to rise the next morning, I got ready and headed towards the meet up location for Haggis Adventures. It was with this tour I would spend the next five days exploring the Highlands which would include visits to the Isle of Skye, searching for the Loch Ness Monster, and taking part in a traditional Scottish Ceilidh (dance). So stick around, and see what this new adventure would bring.

Scotland Adventures: Part Two

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So you’ve awoken from your slumber and are ready to “seize the day.” Before I delve into the next adventure, I want to take a moment to thank the German girl staying in our hostel who took my classmates and I around and shared some of Edinburgh’s history with us.  If you are reading this, I am truly grateful! My experience of Edinburgh would have not been the same without you. It is moments like these which make me appreciate travelling not just for the opportunity  to see a new country, but for the chance to interact with people from various parts of the world. Travel truly does remove barriers and when makes you realize how genuinely kind and amazing people can truly be when not tied down by the stresses of everyday life.

Now, with that being said, let’s get back to the adventure! If you are a Harry Potter Fan, then your visit to Edinburgh would not be complete without seeing Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, The Elephant House, and George Heriot’s School. It is in The Elephant House tea and coffee shop where J.K Rowling wrote two of the Harry Potter novels. After getting a cup of tea and snacks, head on over to Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and George Heriot’s School right next door. It is in this graveyard that J.K Rowling was inspired with the name for the major villian of the Harry Potter series: Tom Riddle/Voldemort.  After you’ve visited Tom Riddle’s grave,  George Heriot’s School can be seen in the distance.  It is here that Rowling was inspired to create Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Although the school is not open to the public, for those who grew up on Harry Potter the glimpse of the school from beyond the gates will be more then sufficient. You may not have received your Hogwarts acceptance letter, but you have now visited the inspiration for Hogwarts.  How many of your friends can say that? And with that folks, you have completed your mini Harry Potter tour. For those who are not Harry Potter fans,  read below to find out what to do instead during your time in Edinburgh.

The Elephant House

Greyfriar’s Kirkyard

George Heriot’s School

As mentioned, Edinburgh is not simply for the Harry Potter fans of the world. If the previous suggestions held no interest to you, do not fret! There are still so many beautiful places in Edinburgh to see and one of those places is the Princes Street Gardens. This beautiful public park is full of lush greenery, mature trees, flowing fountains, and beautiful flora. The backdrop to this beautiful park is none other than Edinburgh Castle. Take a moment to kick back and relax while enjoying the sounds of nature. You’ll need the energy for my next suggestion!


Princes Street Gardens 

After you have let your body rest and relax, it’s back uphill for you guys. For a panoramic view of the city, your next destination is The National Monument of Scotland on Calton Hill. The National Monument of Scotland is a memorial inspired by the Parthenon which honours the servicemen who died fighting the Napoleonic Wars. Although it was never completed, it is a spectacular sight to see.  Take a moment to enjoy your bird’s eye view from atop Calton Hill. In doing so, keep a lookout for Dugald Stewart Monument commemorating a long deceased writer and philosopher.

National Monument of Scotland

Dugald Stewart Monument

After enjoying the scenic bird’s eye view, head down to the Grassmarket, a historic marketplace and event space in Edinburgh for some food and entertainment. Here you can find permanent shops and pop up vendors to suit all your needs. There are usually events going on in this area, so do your research to see what will be happening during your visit. In addition to being a cute, historic marketplace, I have it on good authority that this is also the place to visit for all your nightlife adventures.

Grassmarket

And with this, I conclude my walk-through of Edinburgh. I am not saying this is an all encompassing list of things to do, but rather it serves as a starting point for your adventures here in Edinburgh.  Due to the time constraints I faced,there was a lot I did not get the chance to see. Thus, if you are reading this and have more than two days to spare in Edinburgh consider visiting other sights such as Arthur’s Seat, St.Giles Cathedral, Holyrood Park, etc. In addition, if you are visiting Edinburgh in August, do not miss out on The Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It is the largest art festival in the world and an amazing opportunity to see some great art and entertainment.  Although I did not get the chance to witness it, I will definitely be back in the future to experience the event. In short, I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my adventures and feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. Until next time!

 

 

Scotland Adventures: Part One

The last time I left you guys, you were throwing caution to the wind and boarding the next flight out to London.  For those who did, I hope you had a safe flight and enjoyed London as much as I do. In the event that you have not taken the leap (which I acknowledge might actually be the majority), good news! For the price of flying to London, you can now also add Edinburgh, Scotland to your itinerary. Two for the price of one! I mean technically, you will still have to purchase a bus ticket to Edinburgh from London, but this is minor detail.

Okay so let’s get down to business. You’ve made it to London and after seeing the great city and all it has to offer you’ve been told that Edinburgh, Scotland is only one bus ride away.  However, there is a catch. This bus ride to Scotland is ten hours long! After a brief moment of hesitation, you decide to put on your big kid pants and get ready to brave the ten hour bus ride. As repayment for your bravery, you will not only get to visit Edinburgh but are gifted with a breathtakingly beautiful scenic journey to your destination. This journey is full of rolling hills and valleys filled with sheep and livestock, as well as rugged coastlines. For the strong willed who can overcome their sleep deprivation, this scenic bus ride is a trip in itself.

The Destination

You have now conquered the grueling ten hour bus ride. As you step off the bus in Edinburgh,  the first thing you will hear is the sounds of bagpipes. If it is 8 o’ clock in the morning, your sleep deprived self might even tear up a little at the sound of the bagpipes playing.  The music will reach your very core and stir up emotions you did not know you had. After experiencing this emotional roller coaster, the next thing you will notice is the weather. During my visit in June 2014,  the weather went from rainy  and dreary to shorts weather and back multiple times during the day. So do your best to be prepared and layer up, and most importantly….Bring an umbrella!

Now after making peace with the weather and taking a terribly bad photo of a bagpiper(as seen above) and having someone ruin said photo, it is time to visit Edinburgh castle. For those who missed out on bagpipes in the street, you will most likely find a parade of bagpipes upon visiting the castle. Not only did I witness a chorus of bagpipe players during my visit, but I was present for an event referred to as “The One’O Clock Gun.”  This event which originally was a time signal in its past for ships, is now simply a ceremonious event for tourists which involves the firing of a cannon around 1pm. Besides this ceremonious event,the castle is a beauty in itself. Take a moment to walk through its rooms and towers and learn about the prisoners of war that were held in the castle, as well as Scotland’s military history at the National War Museum within the castle walls. When you have learned about Edinburgh’s history, the views from the castle was astounding and perfect for photo opportunities. If you are lucky, one of the bagpipers might photobomb your photo! Say Cheese!

Photo with photobombing bagpiper and classmates

Edinburgh Castle

You have now conquered Edinburgh Castle and learned about its intriguing history. Now, for all those reading this who have children or want to relinquish their adult status for a day, this next one is for you! A visit to Edinburgh, would not be complete with a visit to Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. This building has six floors of hands- on fun complete with illusions such as fun house mirrors, heat cameras, vortex tunnels, and much, much, more.  During my time there, a few and my classmates and I had fun with optical illusion images, heat cameras, vortex tunnels, and rooms which made us feel like pop sensations with glittering lights. When you are done embracing your inner child, continue the fun during the Camera Obscura show where you will learn about Edinburgh while viewing live moving images of Edinburgh on a viewing table and manipulating the people in these images. After the show, continue on to the rooftop for more scenic views of the city below.

By this point, you have now conquered two attractions in Edinburgh, and this is only the start of your visit.  If you are feeling a little exhausted by this point, consider doing a little souvenir shopping the rest of the day by walking down The Royal Mile. Along these streets, you will find stores selling everything from shot glasses, postcards, and keychains to cashmere scarves and tartan skirts. After stocking up on souvenirs and cashmere scarves, indulge in some chocolates and fudge and refuel for your next adventure tomorrow.

 

To be continued…