We clambered off the night bus at an ungodly 6 AM to find it snowing. Almost April and snowing. Never would I ever have thought the Southern girl at me would be so nonplussed by, even irritated with, snow! Aside from the frigid temperature and precipitation, it was a beautiful morning and, after making sure we had directions to our hostel, we headed there to check in. As we wound through the streets of medieval Edinburgh, we quickly realized that Castle Rock Hostel was LITERALLY right beside the castle. Short of actually living in the gatekeeper’s box, I don’t think we could have gotten any closer!
This hostel was SO great, too. The staff were super nice, and we were able to store our luggage safely even though we couldn’t physically go into our rooms until later that day. We dropped off our things, poked our heads into the many lounges, and met up with two of the guys from London (who stayed at Castle Rock the previous night) before making a short game plan. It wasn’t yet 9 AM Friday morning and we had a plan!
By the time we headed up the steps to the castle to begin, the snow had stopped and the sun came out. Edinburgh Castle is quite literally built on a huge chunk of volcanic rock, and the rest of the city sort of spreads out below it. The view was spectacular! We spent several hours exploring this massive castle, which also housed several museums, the crown jewels, and a 13th century chapel (beautiful!). By the time we left, a huge line had formed by the ticket counter. We were SO glad to have come so early. Apparently, Easter weekend is a huge tourist weekend (which I find rather odd just because I’m so used to spending it with family, but to each his own).
Hungry after our castle adventures, we walked down into the city and ended up at a lovely restaurant called The Cellar Door. I tried mussels for the first time in years, and liked them way more now than my fourteen-year-old self did. Being a fairly small island country, I feel like the seafood here is SO good, especially in the coastal and urban areas. Yum!
Unfortunately, our bad timing and leisurely lunch meant we missed the last tour of the city for the day (oops), but we ended up wandering around by ourselves and having a grand time! We explored Grayfriars Graveyard, where J.K. Rowling is thought to have gotten some inspiration for the names of her characters, and learned about Grayfriars Bobby, this loyal dog who, when his master died, waited at the man’s grave for six or seven years before he also died! Morbid, but loving. Bobby was buried right outside of the official church graveyard (something about not burying animals on consecrated ground), but he’s still really close to his person.
After all the walking around, we were pretty exhausted. We planned to nap, but ended up just chilling and recharging in our hostel after officially checking in. I was determined to find live music, and it happened to be playing at a good pub the guys had eaten at the night before, so we all ended up at the Fiddler’s Arms for yummy pub food, talk, and tunes.
(Dad – this guy at a beautiful black Ibanez acoustic base. It looks so neat and sounded so good! You would have loved it.)
Saturday morning we got up bright and early, ate at Castle Rock, and split into two groups; one to do the walking tour of the city, and the other to hike Arthur’s Seat, a dormant volcano that, aside from the castle, also dominates the skyline. Being, you know, somewhat adventurous and very impractical, I took my runny-nosed, coughing self on the hike to Arthur’s Seat, not thinking about the effect that hiking up a volcano would have on my already full-blown cold.
Allison and I ended up stopping about a half-hour from the top of Arthur’s Seat when we got to a section of rock that involved climbing down onto a new path. Between that, my cold, and our shoes (neither of us had the boots we really ought to have had for hiking), it ended up being a good decision. The guys and Steph went up to the top, took tons of pictures, had a snowball fight, and waved at us before heading back down. Evan got them a little bit lost…there was more rock climbing, etc. etc., but they eventually made it down.
We ate at a Mexican restaurant, of all places, but the food was actually pretty good! After that…the Scotch whisky experience! As Gio said, “It’s like Disneyland, but with whisky!” We “floated” through a fun little info-track in giant barrels, learning about whisky and the distillation process before trying our own dram of Scotch whisky. I tried one from the Speyside region, which is known for fruity, vanilla-y hints, and really enjoyed it! Definitely working on expanding my whisky (or whiskey) knowledge. Jake would be so proud!
For dinner, five of us ate at The Elephant House, one of the coffeehouses JK Rowling occasionally wrote it. In spite of mixed reviews, the food was actually really good, and the coffee great. We had planned on doing this pub crawl Saturday night, but just couldn’t muster the energy required, so we hung out in our hostel (literally, so many lounge areas in this place) until the guys had to catch their bus back to London.
Sunday and Monday to be continued…