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A day in Edinburgh
Tips for a weekend of experiencing the culture of Scotland's historic capital
During my years in college, I longed to travel to Great Britain, and specifically Scotland. I can’t really explain why. All my friends who had been there talked about how awful the food was and how much it rained. But as much as I love food, as much as I hate how my hair frizzes up in humidity, my longing to discover some of what this country had to offer would not be shaken.
It would be many years after that I would finally get my chance. When it finally happened, the excitement was so intense that I was unable to sleep the entire flight there.
I arrived to Edinburgh groggy from the lack of sleep, drunk from exhaustion, and a bit overwhelmed. The sky was grey, and light rain drops greeted me as I exited the airport. Getting a cab was easier than I expected, and the driver, with that beautiful Scottish accent, chatted me up the entire time.
I only had one day to explore this wonderful city before venturing off to tour the Scottish Highlands. Finding a hotel in the city center was ideal, as this area is close to attractions, businesses, restaurants, and transportation. I arrived at the Apex Waterloo, dropped off my bags, grabbed my rain coat and camera, and set out to explore. I made the most of my one day in Edinburgh. Here’s are some ideas on how you can too:
Take in the views from Calton Hill. This UNESCO World Heritage Site sits in the center of the city. As a first time visitor, I could not have come across a more ideal location to start my discovery. It is home to two observatories, several historic monuments, and some of the best views of the city, including the popular Prince Street and Edinburgh Castle. Even as I felt the misty rain increase the mass of my curly hair, I didn’t care.
Learn about the country’s history at the National Library of Scotland, the largest resource in the world for everything related to Scotland. This is the place to come to when looking to research your Scottish heritage and family history. The display of manuscripts by poet Robert Burns appealed to the bookworm in me. The display about Scottish contributions to the world also was pretty interesting. This is where I learned that the Scots are responsible for such things as the gaming craze, as “Grand Theft Auto” is from Rockstar North in Edinburgh. Who knew?
Have tea at The Elephant House on the pretty cobble street of George IV Bridge. I was geeking out over the fact that this is where author J.K. Rowling gave birth to Harry Potter. It continues to be a popular place for famous Scottish author sightings as many still frequent the locale for inspiration or just a warm cup of tea and biscuits.
Take a guided tour of the National Museum of Scotland. There are tons of ancient relics to admire and a tour guide will help explain the history and meaning behind them all. In addition to the ancient displays, there are some pretty unique ones, such as the taxidermy of Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell.
Welcome the evening with dinner at The Witchery, where the dark wood-panel walls and rich red leather seats set along side candlelit linen-draped tables will transport you to another beautiful place in time. As I sat there drinking my champagne and eating my perfectly grilled salmon with potatoes, I realized that nothing anyone had told me about Scotland had been true at all.
When it comes to the food, I will confess that, as a Latina, I found it to be a little less savory than I am used too, but I still enjoyed it. (I even ate haggis a few times – that takes some getting used to, although I recommend giving haggis truffles a try.) I also learned that tea comes in only one flavor: tea. No chamomile, or lemon. No Earl Grey or green. Just tea. I also discovered that I can easily and happily eat my weight in shortbread cookies, and I am pretty sure I did.
I think that rain is most romantic when in Scotland, as are cloudy skies and foggy days. The sound of bagpipes warm my heart, or maybe it’s the men in kilts…either way, I feel all warm inside just thinking about it.
I learned that nightfall never truly seems to come during the summer months and people never run out of stories to tell, even though I wasn’t always able to understand them, I enjoyed listening to them all the same.
My final tip when visiting Scotland is to brace yourself–you just might fall in love when visiting Scotland. And though a day in Edinburgh is never enough, this is a pretty fun way to get your visit started.
What parts of Scotland do you dream of discovering?
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