Ah! Edinburgh…It has two parts – one a historic old city with beautiful medieval architecture, and another a new city with stylish modernity.
What fascinated me the most was the “mile” that stretches from the Edinburgh Castle all the way down to Holyroodhouse Palace. The Royal Mile, with cobblestone streets and historic old stone buildings. In between are tons of shops, restaurants, pubs, museums and attractions, like Camera Obscura, which is good for killing a couple of hours (especially if it’s raining), the Scotch Whiskey Heritage Center and Parliament buildings. I was surprised to learn that the Edinburgh castle that’s perched atop Castle Rock, soaring above the old town is built on an extinct volcano.
Strolling through Greyfriars Kirkyard, visiting the notable names buried there, we stumbled on the Potter trail. The guide gave us a great spell for crossing the road! “Rosio lumos." Best thing ever! We spent 90 minutes seeing everything Potteresque that is related to JK Rowling! The tour went through the spots in the cemetery where inspiration was supposedly drawn from by JK Rowling; from the names, a visit to Lord Voldemort’s grave, design of Hogwarts and where she might have spent time working on the storyline. The guide even took us to the real Diagon Alley. All in all, this free tour is well worth the time spent walking through the interesting areas in the Old Town of Edinburgh. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience despite the fact it snowed and rained for the entire time, which must say something.
A treat for fans of architecture - The Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic monument to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott - the largest monument to a writer anywhere in the world, it is a truly unique building. Overlooking this is a beautiful garden right in the center of town, East Princes Street Gardens. It was a delight to watch the squirrels running and playing around, with daffodils in abundance.
We took a trip to the Highlands for a day with our amazing tour guide Steven B who told us great stories about Scotland’s history and other fun facts related to the sites we visited. We first passed the UNESCO site, the Forth Railway Bridge and I’m going to admit that I do not know a lot about this, but an amazing looking bridge nonetheless. Our first stop was in the beautiful, small Highland town of Pitlochry, one of the gateways to the Highlands which lies on the river Tummel. We then headed up toward Inverness to visit Loch Ness and take a short cruise on the Loch to Urquhart Castle. Loch Ness, the home of Nessi, is the largest body of water in Britain by volume, and incredibly, all lakes and rivers of England and Wales would fit in it.
We were told that if we did spot Nessi then we would be rewarded with a couple of million pounds, so all our eyes were peeled open (Haha!). On our way back to Endinburgh, we took the western route and passed Ben Nevis, UK’s highest mountain at 4,413 feet and briefly stopped at Glen Coe, where the Forbidden Forest scenes from Harry Potter were shot. Glen Coe is in the centre of an extinct volcano which exploded millions of years ago, leaving the rocky mountainous place we see today. As you stand at the mouth of the glen, you'll feel the past come to life as our guide tells you about the terrible massacre of Glen Coe. Also, we had the bonus of seeing wild deer and the infamous hairy coos (cows) up close and personal which was really great! Although we drove for hours on the same stretch of road, every bend we went around, there was a view that looked like something from a postcard.
The road along the west coast is BEAUTIFUL. Only the pictures can do it justice.
Finally, we made our way to Glasgow where we spent most of our time indoors, sheltered from the rain. We first headed to the Botanical Gardens, where we witnessed several biomes of different plants from all over the world. My mum was particularly excited as we encountered several plants and trees from the tropics that grow in my grandma’s estate back in India. We spent quite a lot of time in restaurants like Old Salty’s, managed to squeeze in a massive Indian brunch at Rishi’s and even visited my very first Hard Rock Café (I didn’t get a pin unfortunately). Scottish food has a certain appeal to foodies and adventurous eaters, nonetheless. Traditional fare like haggis, neeps and tatties and black pudding can be found in many of the restaurants and bars throughout the city. Haggis is made out of “offal” (sheep’s heart, liver and lungs), mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet and spices then encased in intestine or sausage casing. It’s nothing to be afraid of and actually tastes pretty good. You may be surprised how much you like it — it you just give it a try!
We also visited a town named Balloch where we briefly visited the aquarium, immersed ourselves in the food stalls (I tried an Aberdeen Angus burger for the first time) and made our way to the shores of Loch Lomond. The shores were absolutely beautiful and very similar to the highlands, with a view of snow caped mountains at a distance. On the last day, we visited the ever so huge University and the zoology museum. Here we spoke to a professor who had a keen interest on frogs and even allowed us to feed some! Before heading to the airport, we also made our way to the Kelvingrove museum which had a fantastic display of masks, named ‘Expressions’ amongst other displays.
Though it may be a bit hard to understand Scottish people if you are not used to their accent (sorry, Scots!), they are incredibly friendly and warm people and will make your Scotland experience even more fun.