Travel Series: Scotland Part 1

At the end of our tiny propeller plane adventure on Friday (see Travel Series: Ireland Part 1), we landed in Edinburgh. I had dreamed of going to Scotland for quite a while and had very high hopes. We walked through the airport and hopped on a bus. We had the best of situations in Edinburgh. Our friends Jacob and Meagan live there currently, and were gracious enough to host us while we were visiting. Unfortunately, Jacob was traveling for work while we were there, but we got to spend a lot of time with Meagan. It was absolutely one of my favorite parts of the trip. The bus took us through the city to Jacob and Meagan’s apartment, and I looked out the window in amazement the whole time. When we pulled up to our stop on Princes Street, we got off the bus and just stopped to look around for a minute. The place we stopped gave us a perfect view of Edinburgh Castle from below. It truly felt like we had stepped into the set of Harry Potter, with Hogwarts up on the hill. We walked down a bit to another street and turned to head toward the apartment, stopping in amazement again. This time we found ourselves at the top of a hill, with beautiful architecture all the way down the hill and the Firth of Forth off in the distance. I was instantly in love with this place. We arrived to the apartment, spoke with Meagan for a bit, and then headed off for dinner at Spitaki at her recommendation.

Dinner was delicious. Spitaki is a Greek restaurant specializing in small plates. We ordered Greek red wine, hummus and pita, chicken souvlaki, saganaki, Greek salad, and custard in phyllo dough with ice cream for dessert. It was all fantastic and we left very happy.

On Saturday morning, we woke up and headed to Fortitude for coffee and avocado toast with Meagan. This was definitely one of the perks of staying with a local – the best coffee we drank on the whole trip was from Fortitude. The whole day was pretty drizzly, but we didn’t let that stop us. Meagan was a fantastic tour guide and took us all around Old Town to explore. We saw the Scott monument, then walked up the steps to New College to see where Jacob has been studying. It was closed and we couldn’t get in, so from there we headed to The Elephant House (commonly referred to as the birthplace of Harry Potter) and Greyfriars Kirkyard, also a site with Harry Potter connections. Of course, we also stopped to see Greyfriars Bobby and touch his nose for good luck.

Meagan had to go and get some work done, so we walked back toward the Royal Mile, the stretch connecting Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s residence while she’s in town. We started by walking down to Grassmarket, then back up Victoria Street to the high street. This is a place that may have been an inspiration for Diagon Alley.

We then headed for Edinburgh Castle. We didn’t buy tickets to tour it, but we could walk in a bit and see the view from the top of the hill. The overlook of New Town and the Firth of Forth was beautiful.

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After leaving the castle, we walked all the way down the Mile to the palace at the other end. We stopped in St. Giles’ Cathedral, but they closed shortly after we arrived for a wedding. What we saw of it was beautiful. We also went into a few whisky shops along the way, and David learned a bit about different types of whisky from a store employee. He recommended we try Abbotsford for lunch, so we met Meagan there after looking at the palace.

After lunch David decided he needed a nap, so he snoozed for a few hours while Meagan and I talked and got to know each other better. The rain finally cleared up, so once David was awake Meagan took us on another little tour of New Town. We saw several different neighborhoods, a pretty park with some very cute cygnets, and a beautiful street that was originally for stables, but now has adorable homes. She took us to Panda & Sons for cocktails. It was a super cute speakeasy with fantastic drinks. It was very busy, and easy to see why. The atmosphere and cocktails were top notch. Meagan got one that was a spin on afternoon tea, served in a teacup on top of a book with shortbread. David got one called a birdcage that arrived with a cage of smoke around it.

On Sunday morning, we went to St. Paul’s and St. George’s for church, where we got to meet some of Meagan’s friends. Of course, our next stop was Fortitude for more coffee and avocado toast. We walked around for a while and ended up in some book shops. We found a few copies of first edition UK Harry Potter books, so of course we couldn’t leave without those. While walking through the Royal Botanic Garden, we saw a squirrel take some food directly from a child’s hand. That afternoon, we intended to hike Arthur’s Seat, but ended up having a little adventure at the apartment and changed our plans. Instead, we walked back up to The Elephant House for Scottish breakfast tea and Victoria sponge. Looking out the window from The Elephant House, the view out to Edinburgh Castle makes it easy to see where JK Rowling’s inspiration came from. The walls have lots of fan art, and every inch of the bathroom walls, floor, and ceiling is covered in Harry Potter fans’ writing. I was excited to try a Victoria sponge because we see it all the time on The Great British Bake Off, but honestly I wasn’t thrilled about it. We tried to visit St. Giles’ Cathedral again, and this time it was closed for a concert. We went to a touristy shop for some souvenirs, then met Meagan for another delicious dinner at Bread Meats Bread.

On Monday, we headed out of the city for our highland adventure. Look for that post coming soon!

Tuesday was our last morning in Edinburgh. We went for one last coffee at Fortitude with Meagan, then went back to New College to explore for a bit. We went to the train station, collected our tickets, and hopped right onto our train to London. The whole train experience was very easy and comfortable. It was about a four hour journey from Edinburgh to London, with lovely views of the countryside out the windows. It’s a cheap, convenient, and easy way to travel, and we enjoyed it.

Edinburgh was absolutely lovely. The architecture, the people, the incredible views everywhere you look all made for an incredible experience. I am totally in love with the city, and it’s one of the most magical places I have ever been. I know having Meagan as our host made it the amazing experience that it was. She spent so much time with us, just talking and showing us around and making us feel comfortable. I will forever be grateful for our time in Scotland and with Meagan! We’re already dreaming of when we can go back again.

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