My Celtic Adventure | Edinburgh, Scotland

What a trip this was! Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to see the Celtic lands. In fact, if at any point you’d asked me where in the world I most wanted to go, the answer would have always been “Ireland and Scotland.” I’m not sure exactly what started the dream (I suspect a book and some music), but nonetheless, it lived and it grew. So, when it came time to decide where I wanted to spend my midterm break this semester, the choice was pretty easy.

I finally made it!
I finally made it!

My friend, Camilla, and I tackled the journey together. We started before sunrise with a flight to out of Florence airport, arriving in Edinburgh around 10 AM. It was an early morning, but having the day to explore the city (and watching the sun come up from above the clouds!) was totally worth it.

Welcome to Scotland!
Welcome to Scotland!

The first thing we did, after celebrating our arrival with a good cup of coffee, of course, was hike King Arthur’s Seat. King Arthur’s Seat is an 822-foot tall hill/mountain in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park with a breathtaking view of the city and its castle. One side is more rocky and dramatic while its opposite is sloping and green – though both are accessible by foot. We climbed up the rocky side and down the grassy side. Both were full of surprises and paths we deemed fit for the fairies of Celtic legends. I’d truly seen nothing like it before.

Arthur's Seat from the ground.
Arthur’s Seat from the ground.
About halfway up!
About halfway up!
Just look at those views! That's Edinburgh Castle in the upper right.
Just look at those views! That’s Edinburgh Castle in the upper right.
Some paths included stairs, others were simply dirt trails.
Some paths included stairs, others were simply dirt trails.
It was so windy at the top!
It was so windy at the top!
Overlooking Arthur's Seat and the city of Edinburgh.
Overlooking Arthur’s Seat and the city of Edinburgh.
It definitely didn't feel like spring, but fall in Edinburgh seemed to be just as beautiful.
It definitely didn’t feel like spring, but fall in Edinburgh seemed to be just as beautiful.

We thought we would end the day with a visit to St. Giles Cathedral and a hearty dinner at a traditional Scottish pub. Just what we needed after all that hiking! But, on the way back to the hostel, we walked by a sign advertising ghost tours of the city that evening. And, well, you can guess what happened next.

We met our guide near St. Giles Cathedral on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. She was dressed in full Halloween costume – it was Halloween weekend, after all! We learned a lot about Scotland’s history, and then about the mysteries that have come of such stories. We were even led into Edinburgh’s underground, once a place of bustling activity – now allegedly haunted.

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The inside of St. Giles Cathedral was just as impressive as the outside. Unfortunately, taking photos of the interior was not allowed, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
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The cathedral was located right on the Royal Mile, about a five minute walk from where we were staying.
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What better way to celebrate Halloween weekend than with a ghost tour of Edinburgh?
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Edinburgh’s underground is full of stories both historical and haunted.

The next day, we woke up early to get a head start on our agenda – we wanted to see Edinburgh Castle, another cathedral and Dean Village all in one day. The castle was massive – what a structure! It was far less of a singular castle than it was a small (but grandiose) village. There were so many museums within the castle, we were very glad to have allotted the whole morning for it! We learned so much about Scotland’s ancient history, royal family, modern history and culture in those museums. We stood in the oldest building in the city, saw the castle’s famous Great Hall, saw the crown jewels and so much more. Scottish music playing either live outside or from speakers inside the buildings made the experience even more unforgettable.

At first, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Turns out the castle is so much larger on the inside than its facade indicates.
At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Turns out the castle is so much larger on the inside than its facade indicates.
The view from the castle's "driveway" was spectacular. That's Arthur's Seat in the background - the hill that we hiked just one day earlier.
The view from the castle’s “driveway” was spectacular. That’s Arthur’s Seat in the background – the hill that we hiked just one day earlier.
When in the UK...
When in the UK…
So many interesting things to see in the castle! The top was lined with cannons, each poised to protect the castle from possible ancient intruders.
So many interesting things to see in the castle! The top was lined with cannons, each poised to protect the castle from possible ancient intruders.
Another view from the castle.
Another view from the castle.
At first glance, this looks like a scene out of a medieval village. In reality, though, this is part of the castle.
At first glance, this looks like a scene out of a medieval village. In reality, though, this is part of the castle.
St. Margaret's Chapel is the oldest building in Edinburgh. It's thought to be 900 years old!
St. Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest building in Edinburgh. It’s thought to be 900 years old!
I first thought that the Scottish National War Memorial was a church, but on the inside are the names and honors of almost every Scottish soldier that gave his or her life for Scotland.
I first thought that the Scottish National War Memorial was a church, but on the inside are the names and honors of almost every Scottish soldier that gave his or her life for Scotland.
The Great Hall was completed in 1511, and was used for gatherings, dinners, and government meetings.
The Great Hall was completed in 1511, and was used for gatherings, dinners, and government meetings.
Some time later, the Great Hall was used as a space for army barracks. Nowadays, it welcomes visitors with its famous wooden ceiling and rows of Scottish armor.
Some time later, the Great Hall was used as a space for army barracks. Nowadays, it welcomes visitors with its famous wooden ceiling and rows of Scottish armor.
We were able to explore some f the castle's passages, and see how its former royal residents lived.
We were able to explore some of the castle’s passages, and see how its former royal residents lived.
There were many smaller museums within the castle's many buildings. In this one, we were able to see some of the awards given to soldiers during Scotland's many important battles over the years.
There were many smaller museums within the castle’s many buildings. In this one, we were able to see some of the awards given to soldiers during Scotland’s many important battles over the years.
A ship displayed outside of the "Prisoner of War" exhibit showed visitors the types of vessels the Scottish army might have used. We learned that all of the prisoners quartered in Edinburgh Castle were treated very well.
A ship displayed outside of the “Prisoner of War” exhibit showed visitors the types of vessels the Scottish army might have used. We learned that all of the prisoners quartered in Edinburgh Castle were treated very well.
Statue of Earl Haig and his horse.
Statue of Earl Haig and his horse.
It looked like a scene out of Harry Potter.
It looked like a scene out of Harry Potter.
View of the castle from the back, as seen from the Princess Street Gardens.
View of the castle from the back, as seen from the Princess Street Gardens.

We were sad to leave, but had lots of other exciting places to visit before the day’s end. It was about 2:00 by then, so we made finding some lunch the first priority. We chose a little tea shop/cafe, and settled in for a traditional Scottish afternoon tea. It was served with scones, two types of jam, and a generous portion of clotted cream. I’d never had clotted cream before, but I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for it now!

Then, we started to make our way toward Dean Village –  little suburb of Edinburgh known for its quaint houses and beautiful riverside walk. It used to earn most of its income through mill work, using hydro-energy from the River Leith. Nowadays, though, these old factories only add charm to the village.

My favorite flowers in my favorite color - I knew I liked this country! These were growing in the Princess Street Gardens.
My favorite flowers in my favorite color – I knew I liked this country! These were growing in the Princess Street Gardens.
On the way to the village, we stopped in the Scottish Episcopal Church of Edinburgh. It was so pretty!
On the way to the village, we stopped in the Scottish Episcopal Church of Edinburgh. It was so pretty!
The River Leith and fall leaves - the perfect combination.
The River Leith and fall leaves – the perfect combination.
These waters once powered mills along the river.
These waters once powered mills along the river.
Hogwarts or Scotland?
Hogwarts or Scotland?

When the sun set we decided that it was time to get some dinner. A traditional pub near the castle was serving up local fare, so we headed in and settled down. It’s going to be hard to find fish as good as that salmon was that night!

SO GOOD!
So good!

Unfortunately, that marked the end of our time in Scotland. We headed back to the hostel to get a good night sleep. (We had to wake up at 5:00 the next morning to catch our next plane!) But on the walk back, Scotland had one more magical surprise in store for us. Turns out we’d come just in time for “Samhain” – the ancient Celtic festival marking the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. We passed a group of performers practicing their reenactment of the ancient battles between the fall and winter gods/goddesses, to be performed the next day as part of the celebration’s festivities. We stopped and watched a bit, chatting with a few locals who were part of the group. It’s unexpected encounters like this that make traveling such an adventure.

As much as we didn’t want to leave, we were excited for what was to come. The next day’s early-morning flight was taking us somewhere just as magical as Scotland. We were going to Ireland!

Arrivederci, Scotland, I'll be back!
Arrivederci, Scotland, I’ll be back!

 

 

Gelato Count: 42

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