The next part of our journey took us to the beautiful country of Scotland. Upon landing in Edinburgh, I felt an overwhelming sense of coming home; of being home. I felt happy and safe to be there even when we somehow managed to get from exiting the airplane to walking right out of the airport without going through any type of security (Ashley and I kept looking around to see if immigration officers were running us down, but they never materialized). Before we exited the airport, I told an employee that we hadn't gone through any security checkpoints and wondered if we needed to go back just to be safe. With a wonderful Scottish burr, the gentleman we inquired said, "No need to worry bou' tha. Welcome to Scottland lads." What a wonderful welcome to a wonderful stay in Scotland. Our time there was nothing short of amazing.
|View from Edinburgh Castle overlooking the town and the North Sea
HOW TO GET AROUND IN SCOTLAND
We continued our campaign for using public transit in Scotland and was once again transported all over the country with ease. Edinburgh primarily uses buses, and they are fairly easy to navigate. Once we arrived in the city proper, we hailed a cab and was once again welcomed by a warm Scottish accent: "Where ah tuh laddies." Using cabs in Edinburgh, just like in Dublin, can give you access to cool information that you probably wouldn't find in travel brochures. Our cabbie told us all of the things we needed to see and how to go about it without getting into large crowds of tourists. He also told us great places to eat where we would find locals hanging out and singing sea stories. It may not seem like a big deal, but if you can avoid overwhelming crowds and mingle with the locals, it can make your experience much more rewarding.
THE ROYAL MILE
After checking into our bed and breakfast (The Allison House ), we caught the bus back into the town center. You will see a small park in the town square dedicated to Sir Walter Scott. Walk over and check it out for some great information about the historical novelist. From there we headed for the Royal Mile. "Wow.. just, wow..," was my first comment as we made our way through beautiful stone skyscrapers dating back to the Medieval time period. The first statue we encountered was an homage to Adam Smith (considered the Father of free-market economics) who lived and worked in Edinburgh.
|Statue of Adam Smith on the Royal Mile
Besides being at the epicenter of an explosion of genius during the eighteenth century, Edinburgh has a long history dating back to when the Romans tried to conquer her in the first century AD. The Royal Mile (named so due to Edinburgh Castle, the home of many royal families including James I, being the terminal) documents centuries of history as you make your way up to the castle. Just to give you a heads-up here, this is a steep climb. Somehow, you will find yourself always walking up a hill in Edinburgh!
At the end of the Royal Mile, you will find yourself at Edinburgh Castle looking at a gateway that is flanked by statues of William the Bruce on the left and William Wallace on the right. There is a small fee to get access to the castle, DO IT! You will get to see the Crown Jewels of the Scottish Royal families, see the room James I was born in, imagine William the Bruce and William Wallace planning together, and the Gospel of Saint Margaret. You will also get an amazing view of Edinburgh backdropped by the North Sea from the top terrace. It is rumored that JK Rowling (The author of the Harry Potter Series) visited here when the temporary scaffolding bleachers were in use and that inspired the idea of Hogwarts and quidditch!
|William the Bruce (left) William Wallace (right)
WHAT ABOUT MONEY?
Of course, you will need money to do anything. Scotland is on the English pound system. A quick tip here is to have "Scottish or Northern Ireland" pounds in Scotland. Each country that is a part of the UK has their own poundage. Sure, most, if not all, vendors will take English pounds, but retailers love to see Scottish pounds in Scotland. Also, if you take your Northern Ireland or Scottish pounds back into England, you will have a hard time buying anything. My recommendation is to always get money from an ATM upon arriving in a new country, and do not try to get it ahead of time unless you know what type of currency you need. Estimate how much money you will need for the time that you are there and refrain from getting too much money out. Now, back to the fun stuff!
PALACE OF HOLYROODHOUSE, HOLYROOD PARK, AND ARTHUR'S SEAT
|Arthur's Seat (Courtesy of Walking the Highlands)
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SCOTLAND
|Dolly the Sheep
|James Watt's Steam Engine!!!
You HAVE TO visit this museum while you are in Edinburgh. If I had it to do over again, I would have given myself a whole day to explore its many exhibits. The museum is laid out very well and is easy to navigate so that you can find the exhibits that you want to see. Upon our visit, we found our way to the steam engine by James Watt (another genius from Scotland), which was an original prototype. Each exhibit had detailed information and videos to watch. We then made our way over to the actual "Dolly the Sheep," which was the first animal to successfully be cloned. The main exhibits change from month to month, and the one on display when we were there in September of 2017, was "Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites." This was a great way to learn about the struggles (the Irish call it "The Troubles") over the battle for dominance between Catholic and Protestant rulers. The exhibit also displayed how Scotland used other nations to her advantage to keep English aggression at bay. The main exhibit costs a little money, but it is worth it. Hey, it's just money, you may not get the opportunity to go back again, and you are funding the maintenance of history.
|The National Museum of Scotland entrance
THE ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS
|Ashley at the Royal Gardens
|The Firth of Forth in Leith
|The Leith Docks
If you have the time and money, there are many things to do and places to see outside of Edinburgh. Give yourself at least four to five days in Edinburgh because it is just an awesome city, with awesome people, and awesome sights to behold. Ashley and I went to a couple of places outside the capital city and we strongly recommend going if you want to see the countryside of Scotland. We hopped on board one of the fine trains that take passengers west and made our way toward the Highlands. What a beautiful train ride! We saw one lake (loch) after another and when we started to get into the Highlands, we were amazed. We trained all the way over to the Irish Sea and camped at the foot of Ben Nevis, which is the tallest mountain in the UK!
Scotland is an enchanted land filled with wonderful people that will help you. We learned so much upon our stay and we left a huge piece of our heart with the Scotts. I hope that you visit if you haven't already, and when you do, you'll understand Scottish charm.