Scotland! Edinburgh

[Continued from part seven.]

I had booked us an early train from Inverness to Edinburgh, and a late one from Edinburgh to London, so we’d have a few hours to see the city. I had gone to the train station to print out our tickets yesterday. We awoke early, repacked, skipped the probably-awesome breakfast that wasn’t served until 8, and went to the train station, and only now do we realize that our train tickets are for the wrong day.

We retreat to McDonalds (hey, it was open at 6am on a Sunday) to replan, and decide to find our way to Edinburgh today, stay in a last-minute AirBnb, and keep our afternoon train tomorrow. We bounce between the train and bus stations, trying to figure out the best/cheapest/fastest way to get to Edinburgh, and end up on the 9:10 bus. We’ve been trying to book a place to stay this whole time, but we pass out of data reception, and will have to wait until we get to the Edinburgh station.

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We get to Edinburgh around 1pm to find that we’ve been denied our first-choice AirBnb, so we book one that approves us instantly. So now we know we have a place to stay. Whew.

We walk our way to the place, making a seemingly-random sightseeing stop on the way, and end up on Calton Hill, with a great view of the city, and gorgeous buildings to boot. Surprisingly, we’re not the only ones up there with luggage.

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Then we lug our roller-duffel to the apartment, making only one wrong turn on the way. It’s modern, spacious, and… sparely equipped. We’re the first guests, and the host hasn’t had a chance to work out all the bugs yet. We correspond with him, sharing our expertise as hosts, but we’re not unhappy; the views are great, and the place is very comfortable. We hit up a pub for dinner, a grocery store for breakfast, get rained on more than on our entire hike, and retire for some rest after a stressful day. Cowboys and aliens shoot at each other while we sip tea and wine.

The next day we enjoy a relaxed morning, making our own Full English. We catch a cab to the train station, put our luggage in a locker, and head off to see this town. First stop: Edinburgh Castle (“The Iconic Scottish Tourist Attraction”). It’s historic, beautiful, brutal, sad, and amazing.

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This is the oldest surviving building in the castle, St. Margaret’s Chapel. It’s around 900 years old.

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We follow a 30-minute guided tour, visit the Scotland Crown Jewels (which exhibit is very similar to England’s in the Tower of London), pop into the Royal hall (which is built like an upside-down sailing ship), then set off to follow the Royal Mile. We are briefly caught in a woolen-mill tourist trap, but find our way back to the main drag. Not long afterwards, we find ourselves at The Elephant House, which is where the first Harry Potter book was written (“‘Birthplace’ of Harry Potter”). It’s the first real espresso drink we’ve had since leaving the USA, and it’s heavenly.

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Just around the corner is the National Museum of Scotland. This country really knows how to throw a museum! It’s huge, and we could easily get lost in here for a week, but have to leave after about 30 minutes.

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By the way, here’s what we look like when we’re touristing in a city:

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The bottom half of the Mile is sparse in comparison to the busy, touristy upper end (which you can kind of see in the photo above), but there’s something worth seeing: Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop. This feels like the center of a country full of whisky. We leave with 3 small bottles of straight-from-the-cask regional whisky, and a huge smile on my face.

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Through a tiny portal on the side of the road, we find this charming little square of houses. It’s totally the wrong country, but this reminds me of something I’ve seen before

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It started raining on us, and we were hungry, so we ducked into Clarinda’s Tea Room for a delightful lunch.

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Having finished our walk of the Mile, we unfurled our wee umbrella and walked to the train station. We find our luggage (which, by the way, was free to store, but cost £9 per item to get back), grab some dinner supplies at the handy M&S, and board our train.

Actually, we try to board the first train, but it is cancelled; apparently there are some power lines down, disrupting train service all up and down the eastern coast. Becky is freaking out. We manage to get seats on the next train, though; first-class tickets are totally worth it. You get a meal and a power outlet, and since the cabins aren’t as crowded, you’ll probably get a seat if this happens to you. The rest of our 5-hour journey was not smooth, however; after 30 minutes of sitting in the Newcastle train station, we are switched to a diesel train. We end up sharing a table with a man whose valise is filled with printed-out emails. There’s a glimpse of the stack on the left:

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We finally arrive at King’s Cross around 10:30pm, and catch a cab to our lodgings near Earl’s Court. The room is wee, but we do our best to settle in; we’ll be here for 5 days. Sleep.

[Continued: Part Nine!]

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