Arriving in Edinburgh for the second time was just as exciting as the first time I rolled through the green pastures into the city with a castle on a hill. We both have Scottish heritage and our dog, while originally from Texas, has a very Scottish name. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any magnets with “Hamish” on them. Regardless, we enjoyed every bit of our stay in Edinburgh.
To make things clear from the beginning, this isn’t a travel advice article. But a bit of travel advice, stay at an Airbnb. Not only is it more affordable, but you also get to experience the city more like a local. My husband found an awesome community Airbnb in Haymarket, the center point for several main roads filled with great pubs and cafes. Ryrie’s Pub, which was only a few minutes away by walking, was a favorite of ours.
But before I get ahead of myself, let me jump back to the beginning of our adventure. No plans for breakfast, but a definite need for coffee, we headed toward the castle. We happened to walk into Biddy Mulligans for a quick bite to eat and caffeine. The empty pub was a perfect quiet start to our trip. But not too quiet. Shortly after we sat down, there was a parade or protest of somesort. An interesting sight to see. Ironically, Ben had just listened to a podcast earlier detailing the entire organization, Orange Order Lodge of Scotland, and it’s history, so he was able to fill me in on the entire ordeal.
After the excitement, we headed up the steep streets to Edinburgh Castle, a truly stunning place. Back in 2015, I traveled to Edinburgh with my Dad, but we only saw the outside of the castle. Assuming the fortress was all inclosed, I was in for a surprise when it was more like a walled community. We waited until one in the afternoon for the famous One O’Clock Gun, which was more like a cannon. You’ll see from my photographs, that it was impossibly challenging to see the event, as everyone’s phones were raised to snap a photo or video of the entire process. I lifted my camera above the rest to grab a photograph, annoyed with everyone else documenting the scene, and then I realized that I was just as bad as them. So I lowered my camera, peered through a gap in bodies and we just watched as the cannon was ignited with a bang. Sometimes it is challenging for me to put down my camera, but at the same time, I am so glad when I do and I am just present in the moment.
And my, were there so many moments to be fully present. Before we headed off to our next location for the day we stopped for ice cream at Mary’s Milk Bar. We stood in the rain while we ate our cones, but it was definitely worth it. As the drizzle started to subside, we headed up to Calton Hill. From the top, we could see Holyrood Palace, the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen visits there one week at the beginning of each summer for official engagements and ceremonies, presumably why it was closed to the public while we were there. But we weren’t there to look over the palace. The idea was the take in the views of the city and take photographs on the hill while the sun set, but the Scottish weather had other plans. With a few bursts of lighting, it began to pour. Side note, we tried numerous times to capture the sunset. We climbed endlessly in cities to get to the highest, most beautiful spot to have the clouds roll in. By the last night, it was laughable. I have horrible luck with sunsets and travel, but nonetheless, it was breathtaking. May I also add that we were severely ill prepared with our clothing. Having to carry everything on our backs, we were limited on weight. So that meant the jeans and sweater were left behind, so Edinburgh was colder than anticipated. But even with the cool weather and wet clothes, we still enjoyed our trip immensely.
As we walked back in the rain, clinging to each other under one umbrella, I peered down the alleys, known as closes. We walked back up the Royal Mile towards the Castle and all I could about was the photograph that I had taken of the Scott Monument framed beautifully in an archway opening over four years ago. I hadn’t looked at the photograph in years, but the composition was burned into my memory. I was looking for the same opening, the same frame, to grab a shot. As we walked I tugged closer to the opening of the closes and then I saw it. The exact same scene. We took a few steps in under the cover of the buildings and I took the photograph. It wasn’t until I was editing the photographs for this blog that I looked at the two side by side, almost exact. I told my Dad while we were there how much Ben would love Scotland, but I didn’t think I would be back in such a short amount of time.
Years seem to fly by, and of course, so do days when your on holiday. Before we knew it, it was already our second day. We started out the morning visiting the Camera Obscura, apparently the most famous in the world. It was exciting to see it in action as it is often the first thing I teach my photography students about. Now I will have photographs from my own camera obscura experience to share with them. I’m sure there will only be one kid sitting in the back who will think it is cool, but I thought it was amazing! And we got a great view of the Old Town from above.
We were set to learn more about the city that day, so we strolled down the royal mile, walking past St. Giles Cathedral, as we headed to The Real Mary King’s Close, which to our surprise was not just a close, a street between buildings, that you meandered through. It was a whole experience, learning about the street and community, once 14 stories high now buried under government buildings. Therefore, for security reasons, I have no photographs from the buried streets, yet I have a vivid memory of it all.
Following, we stopped for a bite to eat at the Gourmet Mash Bar Company, before attending our
Scotch Whisky Experience, which far exceeded my expectations. We learned about the different regions, and their different flavors. Just like wine, we learned how to twirl, smell, and sip. And we were able to see the largest collection of Scotch Whisky. Afterwards, we headed to New Town (which is still older than what we know now as the United States) and attempted to climb Scott Monument, but it was closed. This trip was planned with a bit more haste than last year, and some details were overlooked. You’ll find out in my later blogs that there were quite a few closed venues. But when our plans were “ruined” something amazing always came out of it. Instead, we ate Ben’s Cookies as we walked through the Princess Street Gardens. And we ended up going to Auld Hundred Pub, not listed on the itinerary, but we had the best time. We met some English lads and watched baseball, yes American baseball. They were playing at London Stadium so it was broadcast across the UK. Ben cheered with Red Soxs fans while he drank his Scottish beer. Probably one of the highlights of the trip for him. On our walk home, we stopped back at the Camera Obscura to catch the sun setting through the clouds. It was a beautiful ending to an amazing day.
As I sit here and reminisce about our trip, the morning of our anniversary was by far my favorite. We spent our second anniversary waking up early, catching a bus across town and starting our ascent up an inactive volcano. The top of Authur’s Seat was our destination. We climbed, and climbed, my knees screamed, and we climbed some more. At points, using our hands to get up the rocks, but only because we didn’t see the worn path on the other side, we felt adventurous. We decided not to make it up the hill at sunrise, but the view was still spectacular. The wind roaring, literally, and the view over the city was incredible. Ben graciously carried the tripod all the way up so I could document us on top of the volcano, now covered with luscious greens. We anchored it as the wind threatened to blow my camera over. Let me tell you, my husband is a saint for his patience, as I fiddle with a button on my phone to snap the shutter. Some photographs are blurry, some are funny, but most are sweet. These are photographs that I will most definitely cherish forever.
After our photo escapades, we trekked down, across town again, to the Royal Yacht Britannia. Ben was pretty excited for this one. The Queen’s Royal Yacht. He loves boats and history, so it was a win win. But as it turns out, I loved it too. It was extremely fascinating and I enjoyed a cup of tea on the yacht. As I sipped my tea, I could only think that my late grandmother would have loved to be there, sipping tea alongside me. It’s amazing when you get away from the distractions of the world, how you start to focus in on the people you love, the people you miss, and the people surrounding you.
Once we disembarked the ship, we walked along the Water of Leith and found a place to eat at the Granary. To conclude our afternoon, we headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens, highly recommended by my sister-in-law. If you’ve seen Secret Gardens, it’s like that, only bigger. We enjoyed the enormous greenhouse and Ben admired the massive hedges, desiring to have a yard with such monstrous bushes. To be fair, we have some pretty big weeds in our yard if that counts. But I digress. As we headed out of the gardens, we bought a small notebook, a little memento with a purpose. Instead of exchanging cards, we wrote each other a little note for our anniversary. An idea that my husband came up with and I loved, of course. Each year, we will add a page or two to our little book. After reading our notes to each other, we ended the night eating dinner at Under the Stairs. A unique dining experience with great vibes. And for dessert, we popped into a hole in the wall to eat fried candy bars. Yes, you read that correctly. With all the amazing british delicacies, we chose fried candy bars, and let me tell you, I don’t regret it one bit.
And despite the wrong turns, closed attractions, sore feet, and dirty shoes, we absolutely loved our travels. While we adore being abroad, there is something so comforting about home though. And that is what makes travel beautiful; it can be uncomfortable sometimes, yet so invirigating. As I write about my Scottish adventures, my little Hamish sits at my feet, and honestly there is no other way that I would want it. Well, I could write a book, and I’m sure many of you feel like I’ve been going on, so I'll let photographs fill you in on the details.