Scotland. Oh my, Scotland. Let’s go back, shall we?
Will and I recently returned from a two-week vacation in the UK with my family and some family friends. We visited Scotland and England and packed the trip full of great views and historic sites. During the five days we were in Scotland we stayed in Edinburgh and took a day trip to the Scottish Highlands. The Highlands are out of this world amazing and you should all add Glen Coe to your travel list. Today I’m sharing some of our photos from our adventures in Edinburgh, but never fear, we’ll get to the Highlands later.
We saw this fire-blowing bagpiper on the first day we were in Edinburgh and were forever comparing all of the other street bagpipers to him (listen to that sentence…). Obviously, after seeing the a bagpiper in full regalia with FIRE COMING OUT OF HIS INSTRUMENT we were unimpressed by all of the others on our trip. Someone in our group would point out a bagpiper on the street and we would inevitably retort “well, is there any fire?” Haha, it is pretty impressive.
Pardon our sleepy eyes, this was our first day in Edinburgh. We dropped of our luggage at the apartment (well, some of us did, ours didn’t quite make it all the way until later that night) and left to start exploring and to try to adjust our internal clocks. Here, my mom, sister and I are standing in front of St. Giles’ Cathedral, which has not been an actual cathedral since the 17th century. We learned that in order for a church to be a cathedral it has to be the seat of a bishop, which St. Giles is not. Technically St. Giles should actually be a church, rather than a cathedral, but it still bears the name from its historical days.
This is the view looking up to the grand St. Giles’ Cathedral, a beautiful spot along the Royal Mile. Edinburgh is mainly divided into Old Town and New Town. The Royal Mile is the grouping of main streets in Old Town, bookended by Edinburgh Castle at the top of the hill, and Holyrood Palace at the bottom. It is a steep hill with closes, or alleys, splitting off between buildings. We took an underground tour of Mary King’s Close one night and learned all about class, rank and housing in 16th-19th century Edinburgh. In the 16th-19th century, the Close was ground-level, with tenant buildings rising up on either side. Since then, the city has built new buildings right on top of the existing structures, instead of removing them and having to level the hills. This placed the close and the old buildings underground.
We ventured over to New Town to see Princes’ Street Gardens and the gothic Scott Monument, named for Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish writer.
The views from Princes Street Gardens and Princes Street were beautiful. In one direction you see the Edinburgh Castle atop the large rock, then turn and see the beautiful Balmoral Hotel and the North Bridge, from a third direction Old Town is directly in front of you with only the greens of the garden in the foreground. Before the city turned this area into gardens, this area used to be a lake, Nor Loch, or as our group affectionately called it, Poop Lake. Before it was drained, sewage and waste was dumped down the closes in Old Town and flowed down the steep hills into the lake. In a space created by the glacier that left the craggy, rocky hill where Edinburgh Castle rests, the Loch was originally for the city’s self-defense, but also became used as the sewer system and, allegedly, a great place to test witches. It was drained and converted into gardens upon the creation of New Town.
We were lucky and had great weather in Scotland and England. It drizzled on us a few mornings but nothing substantial enough to keep us inside. However, with highs in the 60s and 70s, it was much cooler than the summer weather we are used to. There were some days in Scotland when the high was only 64 and the temperature was in the 40s when we left our apartment in the morning. Crazy! And SO nice compared to 100 degree humid North Carolina summers. It felt almost like spring or fall with crisp air, and temperatures just reaching the point where you might want to take off your jacket, but only if you were determinedly walking up a hill. There was a running joke in our group that all of our pictures would look the same because we were always wearing jackets.
Above is the Bank of Scotland, situated on The Mound. A tour guide explained to us that The Mound is literally a pile of dirt and rubbish that was placed in the Nor Loch when New Town’s foundations were under construction.
Edinburgh was wonderful, Scotland was beautiful. Just look at those buildings. They were around every turn. (However, we did notice that the Scots could take a hint from Londoners about washing their buildings). Keep following, I’ll be posting pictures from our trek up Arthur’s Seat and the beautiful views from the top next! And I’m not just talking about our faces ;)