[Abbey photoshoot!, Edinburgh, Sam G]
I fell in love with Edinburgh the moment we stepped off the train. Our rooms in The Inn Place were gorgeous (towel heaters! rain shower heads! backlit mirror!), but I was out exploring whenever I could be to do my best to take in every inch of the city.
Our first breakfast in Scotland was at The Elephant House, which is (somewhat falsely) touted as the “birthplace” of Harry Potter.
[While JK did write some of the series in the cafe, the actual birthplace OF Harry Potter was a different cafe that closed down., Edinburgh]
Seeing the messages left by other Harry Potter fans to JK Rowling was surreal; it made me want to be successful with my writing even more, and sort of gave me more hope that it might be possible for me, too.
After breakfast, we walked up to the castle. It was beautiful from any angle when you saw it from the city below, but up close, it was breathtaking. We split into smaller groups to explore, and started with a military exhibit (and gift shop), then made our way to the prison (no gift shop). On the way, rain came out of nowhere and a fearsome wind did everything in its power to dissuade us from our course; blowing us sideways, clawing at our scarves, and even knocking a little girl over. We went in anyway, and I was fine with it until the second portion of the tour. We walked past a few dark cells and staircases, but one of the lower archways and the tunnel that burrowed through it absolutely terrified me in a way I’ve only ever experienced a handful of times. I literally pushed past everyone to get away from it and the finger-like pinpricks of panic at my neck. I’d like to think that the wind was a warning, because I sure as hell felt that there’s something not nice down there.
After walking through yet another military exhibit and the Great Hall which featured swords, battle axes, and people in costume, we headed to another gift shop before continuing on to the chapel (a memorial for Scottish soldiers—nice, but visually underwhelming), and the apartments where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth. We stopped back on the lower level to see if we had missed anything, then found a more direct staircase to the top.
[On our second visit to the top of the castle, we found a dog cemetery., Edinburgh]
We also experienced the oldest building in the castle complex that had an exhibit on a saint before walking down to meet back up with the group and taking some phone booth pictures along the way. On the walk down from the castle, we stopped a billion times because the shops were so interesting, as well as one time to listen to a bagpipe player.
When we finally made it to the National Museum of Scotland, we had a fantastic little lunch before exploring.
[Museum food in the UK is better than most food in the US, especially this vanilla honey flower cake.]
The museum featured exhibits on fashion, peoples of the world, animals, and technology. Some of the highlights included learning that seals have tails, trying to lift myself with a pulley, and the dresses in the fashion exhibit.
[This color pink is my favorite, Edinburgh]
[A cursed image, Edinburgh]
After the museum, I had my first experience at a cat cafe, Maison de Moggy. Their peach tea was amazing, but their cats were even better. My favorite was Jacques, a sleepy white cloud of a cat.
[Cloud, cloud cloud!!!, Edinburgh]
I would have stayed at the cat cafe forever, but we had to leave and eat dinner. My group decided on not a traditional Scottish pub, but an American gas station, themed eatery called The Filling Station. I got a ginger beer & berry mocktail that was actually amazing and a cheeseburger to test the Americanness of the place. It was a solid 6 on the American scale (1 being American, 10 being not American). My friends, Ollie, Sam, and Amy tried Haggis.
The next morning, we discovered that this was a mistake. While the majority of the group was up and excited to have breakfast at Elephant House for a second time, Sam and Ollie had gotten food poisoning. I felt really bad that their experience with haggis had gone awry, but luckily they both ended up being okay by the end of the day.
Somehow (impressively), Ollie made it in time for our Potter Trail walking tour. We met the tour guide in the graveyard outside Elephant House and she gave us fun wands made with glitter glue. We were allowed to keep them if we wanted, which I did. The graveyard was awesome and we got to see Professor McGonagall’s namesake, who was apparently crowned the “Worst Poet Ever,” and who wanted people to throw rotting fruit at him (but the government didn’t like it) so I wrote a bad poem for him:
Roses are red,
Tomatoes are rotten,
Please throw fruit at me,
Or I shall be forgotten.
We also saw the grave of the people whose names inspired Voldemort’s. I took a selfie with it. I was used for a demonstration on witch trials and I got a pack of Skittles for it! At the end of the tour, we were deposited at “Diagon Alley” and we walked around and went into two Harry Potter-themed stores and the Scottish Library.
[Thrilled to be in a graveyard, Edinburgh, Ollie P.]
Since we had some time before heading to Holyrood Palace, we got to go to Lush! The Edinburgh location was one of the most beautiful I’d ever been in! It smelled like every other Lush, and the product arrangements were familiar, but the layout of the store was smooth and flowing. The view outside was unparalleled: Edinburgh Castle rose up high into the clouds, its lowest points peeking in to see what Lush had to offer. I treated myself to a bunch of items including the bigger UK versions of my shampoo and conditioner bars, a cloud shower bomb, solid deodorant bar, and a face moisturizer bar. Look out for reviews of some of these products to come!
[Just when I didn’t think Lush could get any better!, Edinburgh]
When we got to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the big group split up, my half heading inside the palace and the other half going to hike King Arthur’s Seat.
Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the residence. I would have liked to, since the inside of the palace was pretty enough, but it also didn’t quite give me the chills like the castle. I did like seeing all the rooms and staircases, but what really intrigued me was the abbey. It was crumbling back into the wild again, but the architecture was still gorgeous. There was even a section where a bunch of stone coffins were left as if they had been thrown open, but nobody ever bothered to try and rearrange them.
[Apparently, some brave guests climb in. I was not one of them., Edinburgh]
Our first visit to Patisserie Valerie after the palace was just as yummy as I had hoped when we passed the window every time. Sam, Amy, and I had some time to relax and unwind for the night since all the shops closed before we could explore more.
If it was up to me, we would have stayed in Edinburgh forever, but we had a train to catch to get to Durham and York!