Okay so now here is all the information you need to know about Scotland (I know you are all so excited to read this!)
We arrived early in the morning in Glasgow. The flight into Glasgow was cheaper, so we decided to fly in and out of it. We had no idea what there was to do so we dropped off our bags at the hostel and wandered around. We stopped at the Greens Park where we could see a clock tower, a cathedral and the Peoples Palace. We went inside the Peoples Palace and there were a myriad of plants and flowers, set up like a green house. It was also nice to get out of the cold. Above the gardens was a fun museum (it was free so thats a plus!)
Also fun fact, they were shooting a movie inside the Peoples Palace while we were drinking coffee inside. (So basically I am getting my Oscar next year)
Then on the other side of the Peoples Palace there was a beautiful fountain and building. A Scottish man started a conversation with me (they are so friendly) and told me the history of the building in the background. According to him, the neighborhood across the street was a richer area and hated the outside of the carpet factory across the street. They spent money to put that beautiful facade on the building.
Next we headed to the Gallery of Modern Art. The statue out front had a orange traffic cone on its head. Apparently this is on purpose because there are pictures of it with the cone all over town and postcards. There was this exhibit that allowed you to draw your own things and hang them up (It was meant for 6 year olds, but I mean whatever). I think we did an awesome job!
We also passed by George Square, with some beautiful buildings and statues. The only problem was the multitude of pigeons. Luckily by some miracle the pigeons were scarred by some noise and all flew off so I could get a great photo.
That night we headed to the Ark Pub. They had great deals! For this entire journey we had to change currency to the pounds since we were now in the UK. We ended up getting 2.50 pound black and white Russians. Then we realized it was trivia quiz night and we were able to add in our group last minute. Also there was this weird Pass the Pineapple game and our team was out first. We expected the worst, but did not come in last place!
We only stayed one day in Glasgow and headed to Edinburgh early the next morning. I had a great experience in Glasgow, but it was like any other city. Edinburgh was a new experience. I wished I had even more time to walk around. The buildings are old and there is a castle perched on a hill. They city is surrounded by green mountains with yellow flowers that extend to the sea.
We stopped at a tiny Italian cafe for coffee and sandwiches. The owner was so cute and the food was very good. Here is the link: http://www.caffe-piccolo.co.uk. The window had a perfect view of the Edinburgh castle. We walked up the hill where the castle was, but it was way overpriced to go inside. Plus it was just an ordinary museum. From the castle you can see the outline of the city and mountains. It is gorgeous!!
We then went into the Tartan weaving mill. Tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colors. (It is basically that plaid pattern you associate with Scotland) Each pattern had different meaning and is usually made of wool. Scottish kilts are often formed with the tartan pattern. (Of course I had to buy some Tartan to take home so I got a cranberry and purple scarf)
Also because of the term “Bonnie Lassie,” I finally was able to find my name in a gift shop. It may not have been on the keychain by itself, but I did find a Bonnie Lassie bracelet and key chain bottle opener. Usually my name is non existent!
That night we went to a place called “wings,” that had good reviews for online. The place was amazing! There were superhero decorations and pillows all over. There were over 50 wing flavors to choose from as well as the best mango and raspberry cider I have ever had! We ended up getting three wings to split. Oh Canada, which was a maple syrup based sauce, Garlic and Pepper (pretty self explanatory), and The Margarita, which was all the flavors of a Margarita with tequila soaked in! Also there were N64s that were open for anyone to play so we ended the night with Mario Kart.
The next day we woke up bright and early at 5:00am (5:00 AM!!!) to hike Arthurs Seat for sunrise. It is the main peak of the group of hills in Scotland which form most of Holyrood Park. This and Canton Hill (which I will talk about later) was formed by volcanic activity about 340 million years ago. Then during the Ice Age, the massive weight of the ice and snow carved out the mountains within the town.
Now this was no easy hike for 5:00am. It was a bit cold, but it would get hot as you hiked uphill. We thought it would be quite leisurely, but it ended up being an hour uphill ordeal. The reason we also got up so early, was so that it was not too crowded. It is more beautiful to see the views without a bunch of people blocking it and taking photos. We finally made it to the top and it was so worth it! You could see the Edinburgh castle covered in morning fog and the outline of the olden buildings wrapped around the green and yellow hills.
When we got back we tried to go on a free walking tour, but it was actually awful! The tour guide was forced into it by the hostel and basically walked us around town to different places and gave us time to take photos. The next day we did a museums tour, which i will explain later, that told us more about the history of the town. For now I’ll just give some highlights of what we saw.
Greyfriars Kirkyard is the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. I know it sounds strange to visit a grave yard, but it was beautiful inside. There were pretty colored flowers and old tomb stones. The main reason tourists now flock is because J.K. Rowling based some of the names in the Harry Potter books on the names from the tombstones there. Of course I ran like a crazy person trying to find the Tom Riddle grave. Also there are rumors about the graveyard being haunted, but it was not too strange or eery to me.
Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh for supposedly spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died himself on 14 January 1872. Now there is grave specially for Bobby as well as a statue of him outside the graveyard.
Then we headed to Canton Hill (remember that hill I mentioned earlier about volcanic action?) On top there is a wall of columns that looks like the Parthenon in Greece and some random monuments. They ran out of funding mid way so the statue is incomplete and known as “Edinburgh’s disgrace.” Also from the top of the hill you could get some pretty views of the city.
For lunch we stopped at the Elephant House, which is a small elephant themed cafe. It is famously known as the birthplace for Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling said that the cafe is her inspiration for the books and wrote them sitting there. There is a display case where she gave the cafe the first copy of Harry Potter and a note she left that reads, “to the beautiful little coffee shop where the magic all begun.” The bathroom is covered in fans notes and quotes from the series. I decided to add to the bathroom wall and wrote a quote from the favorite character Luna. (“I hope there’s pudding”)
After we decided based off a suggestion from a friend (I will not name names here) to do an Edinburgh dungeon tour. We had no prior expectations for what this would be and willingly got in line to go. Just to preface this I do not like haunted houses or anything dealing with paranormal activity.
Sadly I could not take photos in the tour so I will describe it as best as I can. So we go into a room. The tour was set up like a haunted house where actors guided you through as things popped out and scarred you. The first was funny. It was a trial that poked fun of witch trials and crimes of the time. Our back row got called out on crimes of fashion. She asked if we got dressed in the dark…actually I did get dressed in the dark that morning.
Next we were guided onto a boat ride in pitch darkness and told that we had to hunt a cannibal tribe. This is when the panic set in. It was in total darkness. I don’t think anyone likes cannibals. Plus, why do I have to go find them? It was awful. People jumped out and scarred us and the actors were in your face and creepy. If you like haunted houses though you would have loved it.
There was another room that taught us about the items used to torture. I will save you from the details and if you are interested you can look it up. Also there was this room where multiple strobe lights flashed at us and sometimes this creepy girl would pop into my face. There was something about the Black Plague and a graveyard. To be honest I am trying to black it out of my memory.
Just when you think the torture is over, we were told that we were all to be executed for the crowds. They buckled us into a drop ride. We slowly reached the top and a hologram with an axe talked to us. As he swung his axe, the ride dropped and a bright light flashed in my eyes. (It simulated the death experience where your life flashes before your eyes) Also it took a picture, which is below. To the person who suggested this to us (you know who you are)…fuck you! I guess it was kinda fun. Needless to say we grabbed some beers after to forget and calm down.
After we got some dinner and decided to make our own pub crawl based on friends suggestions. Since we were exhausted from the hike and dungeon tour, we only made it to two pubs. The first was a speakeasy. The bar is disguised as a barber shop and after a set of stairs you have to walk through a bookcase to enter the bar. The drinks were a bit pricy, but super delicious!
Next we headed to brew dog, which is a local brew. They have all their brews, but to be honest I was falling asleep at this bar from exhaustion.
The next day was our last day and it was rainy so we did an indoor museum called Camera Obscura. It is a museums about optical illusions. There are multiple fun activities and puzzles throughout. Some stand outs were the Ames Room, the mirror maze and the vortex. The vortex had a spinning cylinder going the entire time as you walk. It seems as if the walkway is spending and you feel dizzy and faint. Also there was an infinity light part with mirrors and lights that looked as if it went on forever. Ill let the pictures do the talking!
Later we headed in for some lunch and gelato before headed to the bus station to the airport. Our flight arrived in Dublin at 10:55 and the last bus out was at 11:30…this meant we had to go through customs and passport checks and get our bags and run like crazy people through the airport to make this bus. This is exactly what we did. I thought I was out of shape on the hike earlier, but this was a true test, now wheeling my luggage through the airport halls. Covered in sweat and panting, we made the last bus home!
Now that I am home, it is time to buckle down and study for finals. I will give some updates in a week or so depending on how the studying is going!