Edinburgh Revisited

I am back in Basel after a weekend in Disneyland Paris, where the rest of the fam abandoned me to head back home. It’s weird being here without all of the chaos of the past week.

In any case, it’s time to travel back in time to close out last weekend in Edinburgh, where the overwhelming theme of our short stay in Scotland seemed to be castles.

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Night Tour

After arriving back in Edinburgh from our Highlands trip, we did a quick Royal Mile tour for Laura and Gianni. We did a number of the spots that we hit last time and, given how many walking tours we did last time, passed on a “telephone” version of the history.

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This meant that we made our way up the Royal Mile, past St. Giles Cathedral. We showed them Elephant House (where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter) and made Mia very sad by standing across the street from her beloved Nandos. Mia was suffering from a cold, though, so we were on the hunt for soupy food. She once again lost her chance at trying out Nandos. Some other time, I suppose.

From there, we went around the corner to what I guess has become an obligatory trip to see Greyfriars Bobby (aka, “the goodest boy”). There were so many sticks near his grave. It warmed my heart. Also, the sign where you can see people who Harry Potter characters were named after was about as deep into the kirkyard that I wanted to venture at night. The ghost tour in November was enough quality time with that place at night for me.

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From there, we walked down to the Grassmarket area and then up Victoria Street before doing a night stop at the Edinburgh Castle. We didn’t spend much time there because James was tired and cranky and Mia was sick. Instead, we got some takeaway soups from a Japanese restaurant our hotel and called it a somewhat early night. It was a long day.

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Arthur’s Seat

During our last trip to Edinburgh, the only thing James wanted to do was see Arthur’s Seat. This is the peak of a series of hills in Edinburgh, where you can get a beautiful view of the city (especially at sunrise). The problem with James’s request was that he didn’t mention this until 3/4 pm on our first day there, which in November meant that we didn’t have much light left in the day. All of our mornings were unavailable and I didn’t have hiking stuff, so it never happened.

I felt bad this time around and packed my hiking gear just in case James 1) still wanted to do the hike and 2) actually would wake up early enough to catch some of sunrise from Arthur’s Seat. Surprisingly, he was actually okay with this. I guess he really wanted to do the hike.

Now, I did enough research on the hike the night before to know there is an easy way up and a hard way up. Except, I was exhausted from the tour and late arrival the night before, so I didn’t actually look at which trail head was the right one to get to said easy hike. So, when James actually called me on his “wake up early and I’ll go” challenge, I just followed Google Maps. Unfortunately, this did not take us to the easy trailhead.

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We didn’t realize this at first because the trail was pretty mild and there were people running up the hills. It was all fine until we got to the top of a pile of rocks saw a path that both knew we would absolutely not be comfortable with. The high winds did not help the situation at all. After some creative maneuvering, we realized that there was no easy way to get there.

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Now, for the sake of making my baby brother happy, I grumbled but lived with the fact that the hike was starting to turn into a rock climbing experience. I think the rule of thumb for me may be to turn around whenever I get close to uttering the phrase “it’s a good thing I had a six month indoor rock climbing phase”. In any case, it wasn’t until we got to this narrow muddy path with a very steep drop that my fear of heights kicked in and I made James turn around. This, itself, was messy, because it hit pretty bad and it was hard to even just back track.

With our hopes of climbing to the top of Arthur’s Seat dashed, we found an alternate trail that would have gotten us a beautiful sea view. This hike involved less rock climbing and more comments about I was going to go the way of Rapunzel’s Prince.

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From this trail, we could see the long path to the easy trail up Arthur’s Seat, but were happy with our new plan. This was until we got to another long stretch of very narrow trail where I made James turn around again. You can see the around the area I panicked on this trail in the second photo. It actually wasn’t as bad as the first one and I think I would have been fine with this one at the end of the day had it not been for the winds. Oh well.

In any case, despite our failure in getting to the top of Arthur’s Seat, our attempted hike was fun and it was nice having the Alea-James bonding time. We did get some nice views of Edinburgh and the sea, even from where we were and caught some of the sunrise. It wasn’t all bad.

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We took a different route to get back to our hotel that took us through Holyrood Palace. It was at this time that we found the trailhead for the easy route. It looked significantly easier than the route we had just taken. I guess it wouldn’t have been as entertaining if we had gone the easy way. We would have just had photos of pretty sunrise views of Edinburgh. Boring.

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Edinburgh Castle

After a shower/breakfast break, we made our way back our to the Royal Mile to finally do Edinburgh Castle. We got the explorer pass at Doune Castle the day before, which I believe paid for itself with the two castles. The rest of the group was supposed to do Holyrood Palace after I left, but they decided against it in the end and I think some of the group did Mary’s Close.

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You can see Edinburgh Castle from a lot of the city, so I don’t know why none of us expected the castle to be as big as it was, but it was enormous. We didn’t grab and maps of the castle on the way in, so we spent the first few minutes in the castle a little overwhelmed by the sheer size of the castle.

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We spent a few moments taking in what turned out to be a pretty good view from the castle (I guess we didn’t need a hike) before aimlessly exploring the castle grounds for a while. After a while, we decided to start at the prison. It was an interesting mix of history with some spaces that were staged to look like the prison.

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From there, we did the crown jewels, which was incredibly packed. You walk through the history of Scottish royalty and the stories of how the crown jewels had to be hidden to protect them. It ends, of course, with the jewels themselves. No photos allowed, but they were pretty cool. They even had the Stone of Destiny there, as it had been returned to Scotland by the Queen back in the 90s.

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The crown jewels were followed up almost immediately by the royal apartment, where we learned a lot about the Stuarts. Everyone lost track of each other through all of this, so we waited in the rain as everyone slowly trickled out.

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We didn’t have much time left if we wanted to eat before I went to the airport, so our last stop of our Edinburgh Castle tour was the National War Memorial of Scotland. It was enormous on the inside but quite beautiful. Apparently we missed the dog cemetery, though 😦

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We made our way back down from the castle, which was a bit of an adventure on already sore legs. We ate near the hotel so I could grab my back while we waited for the food. The restaurant was called the badger. They had a pretty good meat pie, but the decor was a little creepy with images of rodents in old-fashioned clothes everywhere. The trip back to Basel was generally uneventful, except for the fact that my connection was incredibly close and I had to run across the airport to get to my gate in time. No big deal other than that small detail.

All in all, it was another fun trip to Scotland. Despite the fact that we were there only a few months ago, we managed to make a pretty different experience out of the trip and it was fun adding a Gianni and Laura to the trip.

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