Being a Tour Guide

Hayley Graffunder University of Edinburgh, Scotland


February 15, 2017

A few weekends ago I had the joy of showing one of my closest friends around Edinburgh. Sarah (who’s also an Arcadia student blogger!) came up to visit me from London, and while playing tour guide, I realized how excessively passionate I am about this city. Whittling down my list of favorite places to one that could be feasibly done in three days was nearly torture. I finally accepted that I wouldn’t be able to show Sarah everything I love about this city and hitting the highlights became my one and only goal (besides having a fun weekend catching up with my best friend).

I picked up Sarah from Waverley Station on Thursday afternoon, and she immediately got a sense of how hilly the city is walking up Cockburn Street. After dropping her things off in my flat and introducing her to my flatmates, I took her to the first thing I visited when I arrived 6 weeks prior: Edinburgh Castle. For someone who comes from a city with exactly zero castles, I was hell bent on seeing it and figured Sarah would be too. The best part about starting in the very heart of Edinburgh tourism was that a group of travelers mistook me for Scottish and asked what other sites they should see in Edinburgh, fueling my tour guide alter ego and leading me to overconfidently spew “facts” about the city for the rest of the weekend.

After seeing the castle and wandering down the Royal Mile for a bit we went over to Princes Street and popped into a few stores before getting Ben’s cookie’s and wandering around Princes Street Gardens. We cut through the St. Cuthbert cemetery and Sarah said, “So we’re going to eat cookies and look at dead people?” Yes. When in Edinburgh.

Eventually we made our way over to the National Museum of Scotland for an hour before the closed. We only got to see a few rooms as the museum is massive, but what we saw was incredible. The most intriguing (and disturbing) piece was a sort of rain jacket made from the intestines of a whale used by native North American people. We left feeling properly cultured and ready to step it up a notch for our evening activity: seeing Rent at the Festival Theatre. We got dressed up and enjoyed our third row seats to the performance of one of our favorite musicals. It was hard not to sing along.

Friday began boringly for the tour guide as I had to go to class, but I got back into my role afterwards and took Sarah to Black Medicine, my favorite coffee shop. This gave us the energy we needed to climb Arthur’s Seat for the best views of the city, which I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show Sarah. We had great luck because it wasn’t raining and (somehow) it was hardly windy at all at the top. It made for a great afternoon of photographs, sightseeing, and a sense of accomplishment. We finished the climb down craving Mexican food, so we met up with some of my friends at Taco Mazama (which of course can’t compare to the Mexican back home, but it does the trick) and ended the night with a Disney movie night.

Saturday was the day I had been looking forward to the most. I booked us a tour to the Highlands so that Sarah could experience the beauty that made me fall in love with this country. We went through Rabbie’s Tours, which was phenomenal as far as tour companies go. We spent our time on the bus listening to old Scottish tales and craning our necks to see each loch, glen, and ben. The big stops on the tour were Glencoe and Loch Ness, but we were off the bus almost ever hour to take in the beauty of stops along the way. We even saw some hairy coos!

I loved this crazy, 12 hour day because it meant letting my best friend experience the connection I have with Scotland for herself, instead of just listening to me drone on about how beautiful it is. As strange and cheesy as it might be to say after such a short time here, I felt like I was sharing a piece of myself. I have a feeling I’ll be saying for the rest of my life that if you want to understand me, you’ll have to see Scotland.

Sunday we let ourselves sleep in, even though we lost precious time to see more of the city. We managed to fit a lot in before Sarah had to be back at the train station, though, as we went to the Elephant House, saw Greyfriar’s Bobby and Greyfriar’s Kirk, and took a stroll through Dean’s Village. Although there was so much more I wish we could have done together, Sarah had a great experience here and that’s all that this Edinburgh enthusiast wanted.


Scotland Semester