We Heart Edinburgh
January 26, 2012
Geoff and I had originally planned to visit some friends in Switzerland in January, but quickly realized it wouldn’t be possible because of time and finances. Since I had gotten a few days off of work at that time, we planned a trip a bit closer to home instead. We took a four hour train ride up through the lush English countryside and ended up in Edinburgh, Scotland. Geoff and I decided to try staying in a hostel, rather than finding a cheap hotel. It turned out to be great! The place was huge, with friendly staff, clean rooms, free internet, and a ‘Beanbag Cinema’ to chill and watch movies if you didn’t feel like going out. For Geoff’s first time in a hostel, I think it was a pretty good experience:)
Our trip was filled, as usual, with tons of walking. We explored the entire city by foot, in the freezing cold. We had been warned that it gets cold in Scotland in the winter, but without all of our Denver snow gear, we were frozen as soon as we stepped outside each day! But it didn’t stop us from hiking an extinct volcano, feeding lemurs, exploring a castle, or meeting a bunch of Scottish folk singers. Take a look below to see shots of our time there. We also toured the old part of Edinburgh that has now been built over and buried beneath the city. We weren’t allowed to take any photos, but Mary King’s Close was definitely an interesting and eerie place to spend an afternoon.
Oh, and we took almost 1200 photos over the course of four days. Don’t worry, we won’t make you look through them all. There are about 250 on our flickr page if you want to see a bit more of the trip:) Click here.
Passing a lonely, beautiful lighthouse on the train. Walking from the train station to our hostel, we passed all sorts of moss-covered statues. Oh, and a 1,000 year old castle on a cliff. Happy Monkeys. As we passed through an old cemetery at the base of the castle, a rainbow appeared. Not a bad start to the trip. We stopped to thaw out at ‘Chocolate Soup’, where we had these delicious cups of hot cocoa with marshmallows. Ghostly photo of me taken by Geoff, as we wandered through the narrow alleyways of Edinburgh. (No Photoshop tricks, I swear.) Breakfast at our hostel: A covered pool table with endless supplies of bread, jam, and nutella. And for Geoff, LOTS of coffee:) Our first night in Edinburgh, we went to this bar to check out a band (Stillpoint) that Geoff had found online. The bar is built into an old bridge and looked like a dungeon inside, with curved stone archways and dim lighting. Radness. The beginning of our hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano on the edge of the city. Almost to the top! I love that smile… Not a bad view from the top of the volcano. Enjoying a slice of our favorite snack: Squidgy Bread!! (Thanks Simon!) After making our way back down the mountain, we stumbled upon a tiny church (built in the 12th century). It had a small cemetery with skulls on most of the tombstones. Creepy and awesome at the same time. We got a glass of mulled cider at this place, the Sheep Heid Inn. Built originally in the 14th century, it’s low ceilings and small rooms make for a cozy atmosphere. This is Duddingston Loch, the birthplace of the sport of curling. Yep, that’s right. It all began right here… We passed this restaurant window and couldn’t help but shake our heads. Really though?!? Apparently this is the cool place for ‘punks’ to drink. After a long day of hiking, we spent the evening cooking dinner and watching a movie. It was fun to hang out in the hostel and meet a few fellow travelers. With beer in hand, we ended up watching ‘Whip It’ in the Beanbag Cinema. It’s hard to see, but it was a room with tons of beanbags, an electric fireplace, and at least 100 movies to choose from. Cool art on the walls of the hostel. Bunkbeds! We made our way to the Five Sisters Zoo, which was only a 30 minute train ride outside of Edinburgh. This adorable little skunk came over to say hello. Ferocious, right? This poor guy is the ‘Scottish Wild Cat’, and had a cage all to himself. I think he really wanted to come home with us and hang out with Maudie. Mmmmmmmmud. Wallaby smooches. Baby reindeer licking lichen off of the fence. A fat, fuzzy prairie dog. These little guys were too cute. We stood behind the glass watching them for almost an hour! (This one is a baby Marmoset) The zoo had two otters… This little guy had figured out how to climb the tree in his pen, and stood watching and squeaking at everyone who walked by! Lonely lemur. This is the real reason we went to the zoo: To feed the lemurs!!! We got to go into their cage with the zookeeper and feed them bowls of fruit. They were incredibly tame, walking across our laps, letting us pet them, and trying to steal the bowls of fruit from our hands. It was our favorite part of the whole trip! Happy boy. I forgot to mention how we got to the zoo. The website said there was a free shuttle to and from the train station if we called and requested a ride. When we got to the station, there was a nice man in a BMW waiting to drive us the mile or two to the zoo. At the end of the day, as he was driving us back to the train station, we asked if he had been working at the zoo for long. His response: “Yeah, I’m the owner”. What?!? That’s right, the owner of the zoo makes a point of picking up and dropping off tourists that travel by train. Only in Scotland… We met this gentleman at a pub called The Royal Oak. Between the thick Scottish accent and the multiple pints he had consumed, we couldn’t understand a word he said! We went to see some traditional music, and were so happy we did. We met all sorts of great people, listened to people play and sing, and overall had a great night. The tiny space was packed by 8pm! We eventually moved downstairs to watch a round-robin of music. These three were incredible. Between the guitar, bagpipe, and beautiful voices, we couldn’t have hoped for a better way spend our last night in town. You can see a few more videos from these folks (including bagpipes) on Geoff’s YouTube page. Edinburgh castle at night. One last view of the hostel as we left in the morning. Our train didn’t leave until the afternoon, so we had a few hours to see more sites in the city. One of the weaving mills still in operation today. They make all of the plaid material for traditional kilts. Creepy Scottish mannequins. My husband… Forever a twelve year-old boy. Pablo and Lupita outside Edinburgh Castle. A gorgeous view from the entrance of the castle. The mountain in the background is the extinct volcano we hiked a couple days before. This building houses the crown jewels of Scotland. They did not allow photos inside, but they were gorgeous to see up close. Inside St. Margaret’s Chapel, built in the 12th century. Everything is just so OLD! We saw this inside the War Museum and thought it was really neat. A way to get books to and from the soldiers at war. Photo of a photo in the War Museum. So well done though… This cannon is fired every day at 1pm, so the sailors can set their clocks. Why 1pm instead of noon, you ask? It’s cheaper to fire one shot instead of twelve each day. Scottish penny pinching at it’s finest. The perfect meal for our train ride home.