Thursday, December 10, 2015

Edinburgh, Scotland

Over Thanksgiving, Drew and I headed off to Scotland! Scotland has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I am a big fan of European History, my absolute favorite point is during the Tudor dynasty, King Henry VIII, his 3 children (one of whom was Queen Elizabeth I), and how Scotland and England finally became one! We flew out of Munich, straight to Edinburgh, using Easyjet Airlines. I would highly suggest them. It was a quick and easy flight. Like Ryanair, they're a budget airline and charge you for drinks/snacks, etc.  But unlike Ryanair they're not constantly walking up and down the aisle selling you things like lottery tickets.

Once we arrived in Edinburgh, we caught the Airlink 100 bus, that would take us into the city. It costs 4.50 pounds per person and will take you into the city center (Waverly Station) in 30 mins. There are 2 other options, the tram, and bus. They both will take you into the city center. The cheapest option is taking the bus. It's 1.50 pp. BUT it takes an hour to get from the airport to the city center. Taking the Airlink bus was more, but time was was more important to us this trip.

Our hotel wasn't in the city center. I found Menzie's guesthouse on for 135 pounds for the weekend. It was a cute guesthouse, but it was a 25 minute walk from the city center. Because we saved on this hotel, we were able to take a tour bus up to Loch Ness for the day. This time around Drew said that he would rather do a tour so he could relax. So I booked a tour to Loch Ness, but I'll save that for another post. Honestly, if you're looking to save some money, I would suggest this place. It was cute, the owner and staff were extremely friendly, and it really isn't a bad walk to the city center. But, it was out of the way, we stayed out all day long and wouldn't/couldn't go back to the hotel until late at night, so if you have kids, this isn't the place for you.

After checking in to our hotel at 4 pm, the sun has already set, we strolled into town to check out the sights. Majority of our sightseeing was done in the dark, because the sun doesn't rise until 8:30 am and it's dark by 3:30 pm. Gotta love travelling during the winter, right?

We walked into the center of town, on a mission to find a store that sold adapter plugs, because we forgot to buy some before we left! We were lucky in London that our hotel had some that we could borrow, when we were in Ireland Drew's Aunt had one we could borrow, so we've been pretty lucky so far. Don't forget that the U.K. has different plugs then the U.S. and mainland-Europe!

Our first night in Edinburgh, we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe. I had a BOGO coupon for dinner and Drew likes to grab a drink when we're in a city with one. We ordered drinks which came with the mason jar, but unfortunately everyone loves mason jars and we didn't get them, but we did get the free HRC glass. I had the autumn burger. It was their specialty of the month, Drew had their "Local Legendary burger", which is a burger with Haggis on it.

After leaving the HRC, we headed off to the Scottish Market (located on St. Andrew's square), it featured locally produced sausages, fresh seafood, unique chocolate, delightful cupcakes, gin, Scottish brewed craft beer, Scottish crafted jewelry and woodwork, maybe because it was a Thursday night, but it was pretty boring. So we headed off to the European Market, or as I like to call it, Edinburgh's Christmas Market. Funny thing is, that we ended up at the Christmas Market every single night. We love Christmas Markets, no matter where it is, although Germany has the best.

The next day we had a full day in Edinburgh and started off our day with a Sandeman's Free tour. I really enjoy these tours. You really get your money's worth. Our tour guide was a South African man named Luca. He was a world traveler who fell in love with the city of Edinburgh and found a way to make a living by doing what he loved. If I liked people I would be a Sandeman's guide as well! We actually sneaked onto the tour. We got to the meeting point and literally missed the cut off. But we sneaked on anyways and followed the crowd. No one seemed to notice. (I wouldn't suggest it, if you want to do the free tour, book online, there is not charge, you're just guaranteed a spot.)

 On the free walking tour they cover all the main sights of the Old City of Edinburgh. Starting on the famous Royal Mile, we lead you through the windy streets and up the hills to sites of executions, cloned sheep and the birthplace of Harry Potter!

Can you spot us?
That's Luca wearing the gray sweater at the base of the statue.
The Green Market, where all the oldest pubs in Edinburgh are located

I think my favorite part of the tour was when Luca started talking about Harry Potter, you know because I'm a huge Potterhead. J.K. Rowling came to Edinburgh to write Harry Potter. From the now famous Elephant House, this was the view she say. The school in the background is what she based Hogwarts after! And the cemetery...Tom Riddle Sr. & Jr. are buried there!


The most famous dog in Edinburgh, is Greyfriars Bobby, he 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. We're dog fans, so of course we were excited to see Bobby!

On the bottom you can see how someone has written in "and Bobby!" so the sign reads, "These rules will not apply to guide dogs or police dogs. and bobby"
The legend of Bobby is so popular that he is even the inspiration behind the name of a Pub!
It gave us a good feel of everything in Edinburgh, although I could've done without the rain. It rained EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. But at night (you know... 4 pm) the rain just magically stopped. Haha.

We did hike to the end of the Royal Mile so I could check out the outside of the castle. It is a massive thing!


After walking around the city we stopped off at a couple of pubs and picked up some food. When we stopped for lunch we stopped off at a little pub near the Royal Mile and had some Burgers (Burgers are amazing in Scotland!) I'd suggest finding one of these little pubs, we bought lunch for the both of us for under 10 pounds total! Later on that night we found another little pub, one of the Weatherspoons branches and had a beer each and paid 12 pounds. Eating in Edinburgh is way cheaper than London! As a side note, our tour guide Luca, claims that there is a pub for every 6 people in Edinburgh! .... and as a better side note, "pub grub" (burgers, sandwiches, fish & chips, various finger foods, etc) in Edinburgh is AMAZING!

On our last day in Edinburgh, we wanted to check out the castle but since we had our stuff, it was raining, plus it was 16 pounds a person to enter, and I didn't care if I went in, I told Drew that I would  sit in a coffee house on the Royal Mile and watch the luggage while he ran up to the castle and toured it.

He was very impressed by Edinburgh Castle. The following is added by Drew:

The castle is Edinburgh's main attraction. When you go to Paris - you go to the Eiffel Tower, when you go to Rome - you see the Coliseum, when you go to Edinburgh - you go to Edinburgh Castle! It is THE iconic Scottish tourist attraction. The castle dominates Edinburgh's skyline, and sit's atop "Castle Rock". During our tour, Luca told us that much of the Game of Thrones-Lore is based on Scottish history and locations. For example, House Lannister's "Casterly Rock" stems from Edinburgh's "Castle Rock".

 Edinburgh's Castle Rock has been home to a royal castle since at east the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. From the 15th century the castle's residential role declined, and by the 17th century it was principally used as military barracks with a large garrison. Its importance as a part of Scotland's national heritage was recognized increasingly from the early 19th century onward, and various restoration programs have been carried out over the past century and a half. As one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical conflicts from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century to the Jacobite Rising of 1745. In fact, Edinburgh Castle has been under siege 26 times in its 1100-year history, earning it the title of "the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world".

The Great Hall

Today, Edinburgh Castle can be visited to see it's beautiful outer defenses and architecture, St. Margaret's Chapel, the National War Museum, the Scottish National War Memorial, the Great Hall, the Royal Scots, the Half Moon Battery, Mons Meg (an awesome old cannon), and the Royal Palace. For those interested, Edinburgh Castle is home to the Scottish Royal Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny, and there is a "One-O'Clock Gun" which is a Howitzer in place of the original 18-pound muzzle-loading cannon used as a time signal, fired every day at precisely 13:00 (except Sunday, Good Friday, and Christmas Day). As a cool story, during WWI in 1916, the One O'Clock Gun was fired in vain at a German Zeppelin during an air raid, which was the gun's only known use during the war. Obviously, since the ceremonial gun had no real ammunition (only blanks), the shooting at the Zeppelin was made in an attempt to scare it off, and prevent it from bombing the castle. The attempt was in vain, and the Germans bombed Edinburgh Castle.
This is the building that houses the Scottish Royal Crown Jewels.
Edinburgh Castle's Half Moon Battery

All in all, I would say that Edinburgh Castle was one of the biggest highlights of our trip, and Teanna definitely missed out by not choosing to pass on going to the castle.
The Mons Meg cannon was the largest cannon in the castle

Edinburgh Castle had stunning views of the city.
This modern cannon is the replacement of the original "One O'Clock Gun".
Although I chose not to see Edinburgh castle, there was more that we didn't get to see. Maybe if the weather was a little better, or if we had more daylight each day, we would have been able to see some more of the city. The Scottish Natural History Museum has free entry - for anyone who enjoys museums - and there are other attractions to see. Even with bad weather, we enjoyed our trip to Scotland, and would definitely recommend it to anyone!