British escape, part IV: Edinburgh, Scotland

This is my fourth post featuring a spring trip abroad.
For previous travel posts, visit here.

After leaving the English Lake District and heading north, we stumbled across the Scottish border to arrive in Gretna Green — a lovely stop with infamous roots. The sun was shining and the people were friendly — plus, I managed to grab some whisky (no “E” there in Scotland!) as souvenirs. Who doesn’t like alcohol as a “Hey, I’m back!” present?

Our first night was spent in Glasgow, where we had a late dinner and didn’t get to explore much of the city. We were on the outskirts, it seemed, and far from anything we could walk and see. But our second day in Scotland brought us to my favorite city of the trip: Edinburgh! And how alive, intriguing and beautiful it was.

Leaving America for Great Britain, you definitely know you’ve left America — but in England, a place that’s growing familiar to me, I didn’t feel quite so out-of-place or foreign. Not so in Scotland, which was so unique and interesting to visit . . . a place that really felt far away. I loved the unique mix of the old and new as you wound your way through cobblestone streets on the Royal Mile and gazed at Arthur’s Seat (at top), which is quite famous and a place of prominence in David Nicholls’ One Day. We had lunch and walked along High Street, pausing to admire the wares of vendors, ducking in souvenir shops and listening to the cackle of street performers and their audiences.

If I thought I loved photography before, this trip completely transformed me. It was the first time I’d been away with my Rebel and wow, am I in love with that baby! I could have wandered around Edinburgh for hours, people-watching and capturing the flavor of the city. Though it was a chilly and drizzly day — much colder than the days to follow, we’d learn — I was bolstered by the city’s energy and my desire to see as much as possible in a short time.

One of the coolest things we spotted there was the Scott Monument, a Victorian Gothic structure commemorating the accomplishments of Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott. My dad remarked that it “looked like something out of ‘Lord Of The Rings,'” and so it did — this looming, creepy and remarkable edifice in the middle of the city. No matter where we turned in Edinburgh, I kept a close eye out for its spires. If we’d had more time, I would have loved to stand beneath it and peered in; we saw people ascending stairs there, too.

I was also amazed by how comfortable I felt in Scotland. The hustle and bustle of London is one of the things I love about it, but it can get overwhelming — as any major city can. New York and D.C. are like that, too, but I’ve grown used to those. Edinburgh is a giant, sprawling place, too, but it didn’t feel quite so hurried. Maybe I was in a different frame of mind then, too. Our time in London was my responsibility to plan and adapt and change. Having never been in charge of an itinerary with my family, the pressure was on. But in Edinburgh? Well, I could just hang out and let someone else worry about the plans.

So much to see there, and so much I’d love to see again — including the view from Arthur’s Seat. Though we only spent about six hours in the city, I’m looking forward to returning . . . and doing more shopping on the Royal Mile. And maybe consuming some whisky. And, more than anything, just roaming around and maybe getting lost. I’m learning that, above all, that’s what travel means to me: losing track of time and yourself and your worries and scattering. Edinburgh is definitely a place I could scatter and peruse and daydream about and love.


20 thoughts on “British escape, part IV: Edinburgh, Scotland

  1. Stunning photos. As I moved through each picture I kept thinking, “This one is my favorite.” But then I would get to the next one and it would become the favorite. : ) I loved this little journey your post took me on this morning with my cup of coffee. Nothing quite like a mini~vacation via the computer in the morning.

    • Thanks so much — happy to accompany you with your morning java! And I’m always seeking miniature vacations myself!

  2. great pictures! Edinburgh really is a wonderful city – I visited a few years ago and was captivated by all the history. My Dad is from Scotland but up north (Aberdeen area) so we always had visited there but not Edinburgh so I was happy to get the chance to go there a couple of years ago.

    What did you think of Glasgow? I heard it has quite a nightlife.

    • Thanks Colleen! The history was definitely captivating, and I felt like I could have spent a week there and still not absorbed it all.

      Glasgow as interesting and much more industrial than other places we visited, like Edinburgh — but very cool! We stayed on the outskirts and spent little time in the city itself . . . I guess our tour company figured it would just be an affordable place to stay en route elsewhere! But it had plenty of its own charm and interested me because James McAvoy is a Glasgow native. And wow, do I love James McAvoy. πŸ™‚

  3. I’ve never been to Scotland, but after looking at your photos, I am convinced I’d love it. I adore the picture of that castle! Incredible! That’s definitely not something you see at home. That’s what I loved about Ireland so much. You are just driving around and then all of a sudden there’s this magnificent castle! Thanks for sharing this with us, Meg!

    • That castle photo is one of my favorites too, Christina — that castles like that were everywhere! I loved trying to spot them in Ireland. You could be innocently driving along, minding your own business, and then this giant looming structure would appear in the distance . . . it was like a real-life fairytale.

  4. How lovely. Some of your pictures remind me on Northern Ireland. Things were gray and dreary, so the people there used splashes of bright color to cheer things up. Just lovely!

    • Very true, Kathy — the vibrant colors were fascinating and seemed to pop up out of nowhere! I hope you had a marvelous time on your trip — can’t wait to hear all about it!

    • The Scottish accents were completely charming . . . don’t tell my boyfriend (hi, Spence!), but the Scottish boys were definitely the most enchanting folks we met on the trip. πŸ™‚ I wouldn’t have thought I’d go for a kilt, but man . . . it was working for this American chick, I’ll tell you that!

  5. Edinburgh is one of the places I’ve always wanted to go. I hear that it’s much more medieval than other U.K. cities and of course, rumor has it that it inspired a lot of Harry Potter architecture!

    • I would definitely agree with the “more medieval” assessment, Meredith — it had a very classic and historical feel to it, which was what captivated me so much. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was blown away. And I can see the HP allusion, too — the castles were awesome and a bit Hogwarts-like, to be sure!

  6. Every time you post these pictures and travel posts, I am more and more excited for my own travel plans to England, Scotland and Ireland. I’m still a few years from going, but the anticipation is building.

    • Thanks Melissa! I only wish I had more of that time to wander around and do nothing . . . it’s my biggest regret when it comes to vacations. There’s so much to see that every moment seems scheduled, but the times we wander and almost get “lost” are the best.

  7. I went on a tour of the Scottish Highlands a few years ago and it departed from and returned to Edinburgh. I loved the city and the Highlands, too. I’d love (love!) to get back again someday and spend more time in both! πŸ™‚

  8. We took a road trip in 2005 from Nottingham to York to Edinburgh, gretna green and then the Lake District. It was incredible. I can’t wait to go back. I loved it so much it almost hurts to think about it!
    In York and Edinburgh we did a ghost tour which was a really fun way to see the city. The tour guide told us that J.K. Rowling actually modelled Hogwarts after the castle(or another municipal building-can’t remember exactly) She would sit in a cafe near there where she had a view of it while writing.

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