Edinburgh, as many of you know, is my favorite city. There are other cities that are flashier, prettier, cleaner, but for my money nothing feels like home away from home like Edinburgh. As we pulled into the outskirts of the city I began to get unreasonably excited even though I had slept no more than two hours combined upright in the cramped bus seat next to the giant man across the aisle snoring like a bear. We came into the city through the new town and into St. Andrew’s Square where the bus stopped. This meant that for the first time I didn’t enter the city by my favorite route: along Princes Street where the park dips down and forms a supportive base for the old city skyline that ends with the ever imposing Edinburgh castle high on the hill looking like it developed naturally from the rock below. The Scott monument with all of its Gothic splendor guards the border between the old city and the new behind it. But within minutes of exiting the bus station we stepped onto Princes Street and, as always, I became a little teary.
There simply isn’t anyplace like the old town of Edinburgh in all of the world. The only way that I can explain it is that it has absorbed every bit of its long history and exudes that history today. Although the city has obviously been modernized, you can easily feel what it would have been like to live in medieval Edinburgh. The city is mysterious and has a history of being notorious. With all of its winding passageways and closes, underground tunnels and stories of underhanded and grisly dealings, it comes off as a most intriguing city.
The first thing that we did was go to Edinburgh castle. It is easily one of the most impressive castles I’ve ever been in. Its views of the city alone almost justify the admission price. There are several different museums, memorials, and access points inside the castle. The manic promotion of the Scottish military gets a little tedious after a while, but what can you expect? After that we spent some time in Princes Street Gardens. There are two sides to the Princes Street Gardens. It is divided by the Scottish National Gallery which has a pretty decent collection. On the east side of the gardens, which is the lovelier of the two sides, there is a phenomenal view of the castle from just about anywhere. The park is split into several levels with ample benches. When it’s warm and the grass isn’t soaking wet, I’ve been known to lie down and just sleep for a couple of hours. I could spend vast amounts of time in that park in good weather. We spent most of our downtime reading there so we wouldn’t have to go back to the hostel. We spent some time taking in the spectacular views of the city from Arthur’s Seat and Calton hill. A trip to Greyfriar’s Cemetery was on the agenda because, yes this sounds weird, it is my favorite cemetery. It is small and pretty nondescript, but it is beautiful. The monuments are old and striking and the views of the city from there are good as well. You can even see the school that inspired Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books. A trip to the National museum gave us 4 good hours of entertainment as well.
One thing that I find unremarkable about Edinburgh is the food. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good shepherd’s pie or bangers and mash, but not every day. Last year when I was in Scotland I had bacon every single day on something. Can you get vegetables? Yes, you can have potatoes. Salad? I think not. So there aren’t very many eating establishments in Edinburgh that I think deserve mention, but Oink! is one for the books. There was a time when seeing an entire roasted pig splayed out in a window would make me nauseous. Now it makes me exceedingly hungry. Oink! serves one thing only: roasted pork on a roll. You have a choice of three sauces (we went with sage and onion, yum) and for 25p extra you can have it topped with lovely pieces of succulent yet crispy skin which of course we did. I’m still thinking longingly about that sandwich and I believe that I will be for quite some time.
But all good things must come to an end, so we packed our bags and headed towards the Highlands. Wait. That means that the good things really didn’t come to an end.