Edinburgh was amazing. People had been telling me that since I planned to make the side trip, and now I know why.
When I arrived, the weather was beyond gross. This worked out rather well for me, as I was absolutely destroyed by the lack of sleep and the horrible experience of getting to the train. My room was ready early, so I gladly went upstairs to my delightful room to dry out and recoup from the morning’s travel (I am a delicate flower who can’t handle much; shut up).
I stayed at the Regent House Hotel, which was just a few blocks from the train station. If you’re ever traveling to Edinburgh, I highly recommend Regent – the room was small but adorable, the bathroom cavernously large, it was warm and dry and cozy, the staff were great, and there’s a very tasty continental breakfast available in the morning. Oh, and free wi-fi which is very important. My two-night stay was £100, which is crazy reasonable for a hotel in Europe. There are tons of food options nearby, including a Tesco Express and every kind of restaurant imaginable, so .. was pretty much perfect.
After I recharged, I went wandering. The weather was still awful, so I didn’t go very far – just enough to get some provisions from Tesco, and to find a place to eat (a small fish n’ chip joint that had cheap, delicious, and plentiful food). Since it was dark and wet and the aforementioned delicate flower-ness, I decided to go back to the hotel and crashed pretty early because I had a lot to get done the next day.
The rain blew over in the night, and I awoke to crispy blue skies. After quickly showering (okay that’s a lie – I took a very, very long shower because it was the first time I had any kind of water pressure since I left home) and dressing, I went downstairs for some food before packing up my daily necessities and leaving for the train station, which is where the bus tours leave from. I had purchased a 48-hour tour ticket, which meant I could hop on and off buses at any number of touristy stops, to my heart’s content. I ran into a fellow Canadian (he recognized my RBC Visa), then got on a random bus for the first of many, many bus tours I took. I absolutely love seeing new cities on these open-topped double decker buses, because it’s a comfortable, informative, and easy way to get around. There were four different tours running, and I think I took them all but one – I didn’t really care where I went, I just wanted to see stuff. I rode around for a couple hours to get my bearings, then got off on the Royal Mile to do some exploring on foot.
But first, owls! There’s a place right next to the tour stop called Gladstone’s Land, which is a restored 17th century home you can go in and visit. Right outside Gladstone’s was a group of people with birds – three owls and a falcon – that you could photograph for a donation, or actually hold for £3. All the money goes towards further conservation of birds in Scotland, so I quickly emptied my wallet of coins into their coffers just so I could hang out with birds for a while. I took a zillion pictures (which will all be uploaded somewhere later; there are just too many to post here), and held a barn owl with a name I forgot and a small owl named Amish. They were awesome. I love birds. I would like to hold more birds.
Castle time! I took my time walking up the road to the castle, looking at everything along the way. It was definitely worth the visit, because the location of the castle offers up amazing views of Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. I explored the grounds, took another zillion pictures (I ran through 2.5 camera batteries on Thursday alone), ate a scone with clotted cream and jam in the cafe, and had myself a great ol’ time. The castle was very rugged and old as balls – very different than exploring the more contemporary castles in the UK like Windsor or Buckingham Palace.
When I had worn myself out in the castle, I wandered back down the hill to find another tour bus to get on. This one was a different tour than I had started on, so I sat back as we traveled through various parts of Edinburgh. I rode the bus until the tours stopped for the evening, then made my way back to the hotel to drop stuff off and find some dinner.
My food spending on this trip has largely been groceries, so I treated myself to a relatively expensive dinner at a place called Treacle, which was right around the corner from my hotel. I had an awesome meal with a delicious and surprisingly strong drink, which knocked me on my ass. Thoroughly drunk, I went back to my room to warm (and sober) up before falling into a happy sleep.
On Friday morning, I checked out of my room and took a cab to the train station with my bags so I could store them with the luggage service. Then it was right back onto the buses for more touring, this time on the Majestic Tour which hilariously took me through industrial Edinburgh (which isn’t really that exciting, let alone majestic). I’ve come to discover that I much prefer the recorded tour audio, for two reasons: 1) there was a large group of Swedish? dudes on my tour bus who, whenever the audio broke out into a lively Scottish tune, would all bob and sway in unison and it was fantastic, and 2) the tour guides on the bus did not. stop. talking. at. any. point. during the ride. I don’t think they even stopped to breathe. The woman was by far the worst, she talked so much I actually recorded a couple minutes of audio to share with Ed. There was no way to drown out her non-stop talking, and it was actually pretty irritating.
I got off the bus at the National Museum of Scotland, and spent a couple hours exploring the country’s history. I had some lunch at a pub, then did some shopping for myself and Ed’s mom. Visited the Museum of Childhood, saw the owls again, bought all the things (but not really – Scotland is big on whiskey and wool, both of which I am allergic to), and basically crammed as much Scotland as I possibly could in the few hours I had remaining.
I got back to London just after midnight Saturday morning. Edinburgh was awesome – I’ve already told Ed that we need to visit that part of the UK together, and check out Glasgow while we’re at it. I’m almost (but not really at all) sorry that I’ve focused so much of my time (ten weeks in total) in London, because there’s so much more to see. Hopefully I’ll get to see it all, and hopefully with Ed. Traveling solo is great, but I want someone to share my excitement with. Next time, Gadget.
Six more full days in London. Time to make it all count.