Day 1 in Edinburgh started off at 8:00 am. I felt sleepy, but excited to explore a new city.
Per the suggestion of a Harlaxton staff member, I downloaded the app, CityMaps2Go, for my trip to Edinburgh. This app allows users to download maps for any city to their phone; therefore, you have the ability to use the map without using cellular data. Even without using data, your location is still given on the map in the form of a blue dot. Another cool feature of the app is that museums/attractions/restaurants can be “starred” on the map. I loved this feature because after I visited a landmark, I would unstar it so I knew I had visited there. Please note: only a certain amount of maps can be downloaded for free with the full version of the app costing $9.99 on iTunes. With as much as I used this app in Edinburgh, the full version of the app would be worth the $10.
Anyways, I departed my hostel with my major “to-do” being visiting Edinburgh Castle, which did not open until 10:00 am. I decided to wander up and down streets and stumbled across beautiful buildings, graveyard, and park. In the middle of the park, I saw a teal-colored fountain. What surprised me was the fact that the fountain had water spurting from it. Hello, it’s winter?! I laughed to myself because some of the figures on the fountain had icicles hanging from their faces.
Since I still was killing time, I wandered into a nearby church. This proved to be a great decision when the inside looked like this.
Once I wrapped up at the church, I decided to walk back through the park where the fountain was located. Along the sidewalk, there were different statues/memorials recognizing important Scottsmen whose roles ranged from serving as soldiers to poets.
By the time I wrapped up walking through the park, I made my way to Edinburgh castle. Now, the castle sits upon a dormant volcano. No matter where you are in Edinburgh, you can see the castle overlooking the city. The photo below does not capture the immensity of how spread-out the castle truly is when you walk inside.
To visit the castle, an entry fee of 18 pounds is assessed. Unfortunately, students discounts are not given. Audio guides can be rented for an additional 3 pounds. I opted for a normal admission so I could visit wherever at my leisure.
Within the castle, there are different areas discussing different parts of Scottish history: early wars, prisoners of war, canons, war memorials, etc. One of the coolest exhibits displays the Scottish crown jewels that were used during Mary Queen of Scots’ coronation (maybe there are some readers out there that have watched the Netflix series…?) I could not take pictures in this exhibit, but I will say the length of the sword was at least my wingspan if not longer…crazy! When I went into the area where prisoner cells were found, I found an informational sign with a breakdown of what inmates were given to eat. “Because the Americans were officially regarded as pirates, they received only 1 pound (560 g) of bread a day.” Haha! All in all, I spent around 2.5 hours at Edinburgh Castle. There was a variety of exhibits and great information. Well worth the money if you ask me!
After wrapping up at the castle, I went to the tartan factory which was a short walk away. There, tartan is woven to make scarves, kilts, hats, and more! I loved seeing the loom in action churning out yards and yards of tartan. Different colors of tartan represent or are exclusive to different groups. For example, there happened to be a large display on the wall discussing the world peace tartan.
I exited the tartan factory and made my way to St. Giles’ Cathedral next. This church I knew nothing about and walked in thinking I would be able to take pictures to my heart’s content. However, a 2-pound fee needed to be paid to have a “camera permit.” Friends, the 2-pound coin I paid…worth it! I wish my photos captured the intensity of the blue pictured on the domed ceilings. An absolutely stunning site to see in person!
Once I deemed I had taken enough photos, I made my way to the National Museum of Scotland. Along the way, I walked past the National Library of Scotland. My inner book nerd could not resist so I popped in for a little bit. There was a fashion exhibit/contest on with the outfits on display made by local college students. The library also had another exhibit called “A Better World? Scotland after the First World War”, which mimicked more of what would be found in a museum. Both exhibits were impressive!
After the library and still on my way to the museum, I passed by this famous cafe…
I finally arrived at the National Museum of Scotland. This museum is free with exhibits ranging from wildlife to pottery to fashion. I found myself drawn to the fashion and world cultures exhibits and walked briefly through the others that seemed to be overrun with children and their families.
Once exiting the museum, I pulled up CityMaps2Go to figure out where to go to next. I realized I happened to be near Greyfrair’s Kirk. Now, this graveyard is famous for two different reasons:
- There is a terrier that remained and protected his ower’s grave for 14 years until his own death. A statue of the dog is near the graveyard and people rub his nose for good luck.
- J.K. Rowling drew inspiration for some of the Harry Potter characters from gravestones located in the cemetery. Hence the church had to put up some barriers to prevent tourists from getting too close to certain stones.
By the time I finished up at the cemetery, my legs had become tired from the walking and my stomach hungry. I opted for some Kurdish food, which turned out to be delicious, ginormous, and filling.
Going into a restaurant by myself proved to be the HARDEST part of this solo trip. Nothing is weirder than going inside a place to eat that is not a cafe or fast food and telling the hostess “table for one.” I feel awkward and I can tell the hostess is questioning what I am doing by myself. However, once you get past that feeling and sit down to enjoy your food, all is well in the world and with your stomach.
Day 2 in Edinburgh will be up tomorrow. I hope you will stop back to read!
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