Edinburgh is enchanting. Just the way the local Scott's say the cities name in their rolling and cherry accents is magical.
Scotland hadn't been on my list of must see places when I initially wanted to study abroad here. However, after being in London for a while I realized I really wanted to see a lot more of the UK because the culture of the countries is just so interesting.
The group of us from Arcadia left on Friday from King’s Cross Station. After what seemed like a forever train ride, we arrived in Edinburgh. As we exited the train station we saw some people in costumes and I remembered that it was Halloween.
Halloween is definitely not as widely celebrated in the UK as it is in the US. The stores aren't really decorated, candy isn't everywhere you look, and there are no jack o lanterns on people's front steps. It's very odd.
Anyway we checked into our hostel and a friend and I decided to walk around a little. We happened upon the end of the Samhuinn Fire Festival. Which is a celebration of winter beating out summer. There were lots of elaborate costumes of summer and winter gods and goddesses and some really intense drumming going on. After it ended we stopped in a pub for a drink. The pub was right next to one of the theaters in Edinburgh and had various posters from shows that had played there with all of the actor’s signatures.
On Saturday we woke up and got to go on a walking tour that Arcadia set up. I'm beginning to realize that walking tours are one of the best things you can do in a new place. It really gets you accustomed to the area and teaches you a lot of history you might not have otherwise learned.
A lovely Scottish woman led our tour and showed us all around the new and old city and explained how the city had come to be. She even pointed out several places that were associated with Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling. This included cafes and hotels where she often wrote, the school that Hogwarts is supposedly based on, and a graveyard where she found some of the character names (Moody, McGonagall, and Tom Riddle).
One of the coolest stories she told us though was of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog. When the dogs owner died the dog continued to sleep by his grave for fourteen years before his own death. The dog became well known around town and even continued going to a specific pub for dinner that he had gone to with his master. People now lay sticks by the dog’s tombstone.
After the walking tour we went up the Royal Mile, which leads to Edinburgh castle. The castle is majestic and incredibly beautiful. Inside we took a tour and got to see the Scottish Crown Jewels as well as some other exhibits. It was quite like the Tower of London, but very interesting all the same.
After the castle we walked around a bit more. We visited both the cafes where J.K. Rowling is said to have written. In one of them, the Elephant House, the bathroom is full of graffiti from fans writing their thanks to Rowling, it was really cool.
We went to two art museums and walked around a bit more before taking a rest. The city is very sloped and combined with the cobblestones we got tired pretty fast. We went out again that night to a couple of different pubs and to dinner.
On our last day we visited a lot of tourist shops and thrift shops as well as the National Museum of Scotland and the Museum of Edinburgh. The Scottish history museum was especially interesting because of how massive it was and the number of exhibits inside.
The city itself was magical to walk around. The buildings are made of beautiful stones and look like they are straight out of fairy tale. You can see beautiful hills from many areas of the city as well. It's hard to walk too far and not hear the sound of a bagpipe somewhere in the distance. People actually do wear kilts and if they are not they are then usually in beautiful Scottish wool or cashmere plaid scarves, sweaters, or jackets. The culture is very much alive. Also as a fan, I saw a lot more of what I imagined Harry Potter to be in Scotland than I do in London, which often really touts itself as where Harry Potter is supposed to be imagined.
I'm really glad I decided to go to Scotland, it was definitely worth it. Ireland next weekend, cheers!