Today was the start of the second leg of our journey, a journey that began in Glasgow (read here). I was really excited to visit Edinburgh because I am a huge Harry Potter fan, and there are several “must-see” sites for HP fans in the city: JK Rowling actually wrote part of the first book in the Elephant House (a gourmet tea and coffee shop)!
The first thing we noticed about Edinburgh? the locals – I don’t think I saw a single person below a 9/10 rating, not even joking (and hence the title of the blog post). Maybe it’s something in the (admittedly delicious) water? On the way to our hostel we were able to see some historic sites, such as the 1927 Scottish National War Memorial, which commemorates Scottish soldiers, and those serving with Scottish regiments, who died in the two world wars and in more recent conflicts. We also saw St. Giles’ Cathedral, more properly termed the High Kirk of Edinburgh, and the principal place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. Right across the street from our hostel was the Edinburgh Festival Center.
We arrived at our hostel with just one fumble (we took the wrong turn and ended up circling the same street). One thing I did not appreciate about Edinburgh was the city’s curving streets and the cobblestone – I am already not looking forward to the cobblestone in Italy! Our hostel was appropriately named “Castle Rock Hostel”, and it was literally across the street from Edinburgh Castle! No joke, we honestly just had to climb a set of stairs before arriving at the castle entrance. I immediately liked the look and vibe of this hostel – not to mention, they have a “Groove Lounge” – a laptop-free zone strictly for socializing!
The rooms were all themed, so we arrived at the “Mr. and Mrs.” room. When I entered I immediately remembered the short “Mrs. Chatterbox” etc. stories I used to read. I wanted the Mr. Happy bed since it was right next to the lockers, but Cassia and I were assigned the bunk beds without lockers, apparently. Julia’s bed was right next to the lockers so we were able to put all of our most important items in her locker. The view was wonderful, and we could see all the old buildings from our vantage point.
After dropping off our stuff in the hostel, we decided to walk around a bit and explore the city. Cassia and I were constantly distracted by the pretty wool scarves on display – so many colors and patterns! Eventually we wandered inside one of the shops and found a 2 for £15 deal – not bad for cashmere! We also passed several musicians – some men in kilts playing bagpipes, and others using more traditional instruments such as guitars or violins.
There were obviously going to be a lot of pubs in Edinburgh (at least according to stereotype) but I don’t think we were prepared for the actual number. I think I saw at least one on every street corner, just like Starbucks in the United States! One of my favorites was the Deacon’s House Cafe – in the photo Cassia is taking a photo of the inside and Julia is copying Deacon’s (?) facial expression. The club/lounge “Sin” was a place Julia and I wanted to check out later in the night – it’s a converted church and the night’s event is apparently “Electrosexual Disco Box”, whatever that means.
One of the historical sites we passed on our walk around town was Greyfriar’s Bobby. The pub is named after Bobby the Skye terrier, the dog of John Gray (a night watchman for the Edinburgh police). John Gray died of tuberculosis in 1858 and was buried in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. Bobby is said to have spent the next 14 years sitting on his master’s grave. When he died in 1872 he was not able to be buried within the cemetery itself (it is consecrated ground), so Bobby was buried just inside the gate of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, not far from his master.
Of course after visiting Greyfriar’s Bobby we had to stop by Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. The cemetery was already known to me since JK Rowling actually spent time walking through it when she was in Edinburgh – in fact, two Harry Potter characters received their names from the tombstones: Tom Riddle and Minerva McGonagall! Unfortunately my battery died before I was able to take photos of the gravestones.
We passed by several stores with terriers on the storefront windows: the West Highland Terrier photos really reminded me of Simon! There was also a small section of the town entirely dedicated to writers and book lovers, such as the Writers’ Museum, and the Book Lovers’ Tour – which I really wanted to attend, but we didn’t have enough time during the day unfortunately. The Book Lovers’ Tour was a guided tour to visit the sites of “Edinburgh’s literary legends: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, J.M. Barrie, and J.K. Rowling” to name a few! We were also able to see a wedding happen right outside St. Giles’ Cathedral, which was pretty cool.
Then we were off back to check out Edinburgh Castle, since we wanted to drop off some items back at the hostel (and maybe take a short rest break). The stairs were actually not bad, and we quickly reached the top. Unfortunately upon entering the shop directly across from us, we learned that there would be an entrance fee for touring the castle. Not wanting to spend money for tours on our first official “see the city” day, we decided to just pass the time wandering outside. Julia did have a good point on the castle’s location – looking down the cliffside, I would definitely not want to be a barbarian trying to climb up! The water fountain pictured below (designed by John Duncan) is actually near the site where several witch burnings took place.
After the trip to the castle, we decided to split up and wander around a bit more. I decided to take a short walk around town while the girls stayed near the beautiful Princes Street Gardens. After looking up the tour details on my phone (and asking a couple of locals), I learnt that I had missed the Harry Potter tour for the day – apparently it had even been a special, half-hour longer one! Slightly disappointed I went back to check out the gardens before meeting up with the girls to do a bit of window shopping. One of the pieces I did not have time to find in the gardens was the Ross Fountain, made of gilt cast iron by Jean-Baptiste Klagmann in 1862–72.
I met up with the girls to check out some of the shops, still a bit disappointed at missing the Harry Potter tour for the day – oh well, just another incentive to return! Edinburgh is beautiful at night, and I was able to take a couple of quick photographs before scurrying back to the hostel. Julia and I originally planned on going out tonight, but 1) we were too tired, and 2) we didn’t have coats thin enough to go out but warm enough to keep off the chill.
We decided to call it an early night, especially since we would be traveling again tomorrow (thankfully a bit later in the morning). I plan on waking up early enough to check out the few Harry Potter sites I know of (that are close to the hostel), so hopefully my alarms work!