Edinburgh, Scotland

For the past couple of months of living in England, I have yet to feel like I am fully here.  The reason being so is because I had an image of England or an expectation of what England would look and be like, but now that I am here, it just doesn’t feel so different to being in Canada.  For example, Birmingham looks very similar to Vancouver and especially Gastown.  It was only until I got to Edinburgh that I felt like I was finally in the United Kingdom.  Even though Edinburgh is not in England, everything about this city was what I pictured England to be like.  I saw buildings that were built in the 1200s, I walked on a graveyard that buried people who died over 600 years ago, I saw a huge castle on a cliff and everywhere I went, I felt as if I was a part of the medieval age.  The city was dark and spooky, with pebble roads and many alleyways that would get you lost.  It was incredible being in Edinburgh and I fell in love with the city pretty fast.

Jodie and I took a coach with Megabus from Glasgow to Edinburgh for £7.85 per person for a round trip ticket (since we had to head back to Glasgow for our flight back to Birmingham).  The journey only took  just about an hour and we got off at Edinburgh Bus Station, which was located right in the heart of the city centre of Edinburgh.  I remember when I was still on the bus and overlooking the city through the window, I was in awe with everything I was seeing.  I first saw the Edinburgh Castle and all of the residential buildings, which looked very, very old, and I remembered feeling very excited.

The first thing we did once we got out of the bus was to find a place to eat.  We ended up at an Italian restaurant called Bella Italia which had very pretty decors and friendly staffs.  The restaurant also had this giant pepper grinder and I laughed pretty hard when our waiter walked over and asked if we wanted some pepper.

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Bella Italia Hanover St.
 9/11 Hanover Street, Edinburgh EH2 2DL

We stayed at Argyle Backpackers Hostel in Edinburgh, which was amazingly closed to everything we wanted to see in the city.  At the same time, it was far enough from the city centre that it was quiet and peaceful during the night time.  It costed us just about £12 per night and per person.  It was definitely affordable, however,  I found the hostel to be very cold during the night and they also did not have a luggage storage for us.  They were the only two cons I found from the hostel, so other than that, it was quite decent for its price.  They did provide us with small lockers to secure things such as our wallet or passports, so I was grateful for that.

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Argyle Backpackers
14 Argyle Pl, Edinburgh EH9 1JL

The receptionist at our hostel recommended us to try traditional Scottish food at a place called MUMS Great Comfort Food, which was only a 10min walk away from our hostel.  The restaurant was very cute, decorated with vintage furniture and posters.  I ordered the Sausage & Mash and I chose the “Any two sausages, mash & gravy” for £9.  I chose MUMS Traditional Herby Pork Sausages, Caramelised Leek & Bacon Mash, with Caramelised Onion Gravy.  Jodie ordered Haggis for £9.95.  Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver, and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock.  I also got to try Jodie’s Haggis and I found both of our dishes to be extra delicious.  Despite waiting so long for our food, they were absolutely worth the wait.  Our food was so simple, but they were packed with so much flavors and love just like how your Mum would cook for you; hence the name MUMS Great Comfort Food.

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MUMS Great Comfort Food
4A Forrest Rd, Edinburgh EH1 2QN

We started our Edinburgh excursion early in the morning and walked towards the city centre.  We did not purchase any bus passes on our Edinburgh trip except for when we went to see Portobello Beach at the end of the day (more on this later). After just about a 10min walk from our hostel, we first visited the National Museum of Scotland.  The museum had beautiful architecture and decors and I was happy to enter for free.

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National Museum of Scotland
Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF

After the museum, we continued walking towards the city centre and saw amazing view of ancient buildings and other traditional shops nearby.  We also walked pass the Elephant House, which was a little cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote her Harry Potter novels while having cake and tea there.  I found walking in Edinburgh to be quite a magical experience (which was probably how J.K. Rowling got inspired to write her novels) because there were just so much history in the city.  Every house, shops, cathedrals and walkway looked like they were built over 600 years ago and it felt like I was time-traveling.

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The Elephant House
21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN

Our next destination was Edinburgh Castle, which was situated on a cliff and overlooking the city centre of Edinburgh.  Nobody knows for certain when the castle was built, but looking from Wikipedia, it mentions that, “Archaeologists have established human occupation of the rock since at least the Iron Age (2nd century AD), although the nature of the early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until 1633.” I also witnessed a pretty view of the city and Arthur’s Seat, which is the main peak of the group of hills in Edinburgh. The castle was free to enter up to a certain point, and you can visit the Gift Shop or use the toilet.  However, going further beyond this point or going inside the castle is £18.50 on-site or £17 advance purchase.

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Edinburgh Castle
Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG

The next thing we saw after the castle was Scottish National Gallery, which was just about a 5-7min walk from the castle.  The Gallery was opened in 1859 and it housed various paintings and some of the largest work of art I had ever seen.  The Gallery was opened to the public, free of charge until 5PM.

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Scottish National Gallery
The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL

There was also another Art Gallery nearby called, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which was about a 10-15min walk away from the Scottish National Gallery.  The National Portrait Gallery holds the national collections of portraits, all of which are of, but not necessarily by, Scots.  The architecture inside the gallery was phenomenal and colourful, and I loved every minute of being inside this gallery (mostly because they had photography work, as well).  The Gallery was also free to enter.

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Scottish National Portrait Gallery
1 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JD

Jodie wanted to see Portobello Beach, so we took the #26 bus from South St David Street, which was located right in the city centre, to the beach.  The fare costed £1.70 per person for a single trip (which meant you would have to pay another ticket on the way back) via Lothian Buses. There were different bus companies all over Edinburgh, just like in England, so some companies offer different prices and routes.  The most important thing to remember is to avoid buying a day pass for one company and having to purchase another ticket for a different company if the first company does not offer a route to your destination.  The best way to avoid this is to just purchase a single ticket unless you plan your journey wisely and know that a particular company will travel to most of your destinations.  Our bus journey took a total of 30mins and we got off just a block away from the beach.  It was beautiful and peaceful.  There were barely anyone there and I enjoyed a good moment being alone on the beach.

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Portobello Beach
Promenade, Edinburgh EH15 2DX

Before the night ended, we had dinner at a Japanese restaurant called Koyama, which was close to our hostel.  I ordered the Oyakodon with original milk tea bubble tea.

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Koyama
20 Forrest Rd, Edinburgh EH1 2QN

The next day, which was also our last day in Edinburgh.  I woke up early to visit Diagon House (Museum Context), which was a Harry Potter shop.  It was located in Victoria Street, which was a very colourful and beautiful area, and it had a lot of cool shops nearby.  I bought some chocolate frogs and jelly beans.

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Diagon House (Museum Context)
40 Victoria St, Edinburgh EH1 2JW

I was actually on my own exploring Edinburgh on the last day because Jodie had to do some work, so I wandered quite a bit in the city and somehow wound up having a romantic solo-walk in Greyfriars Kirkyard, which was a very old graveyard in Edinburgh.  I actually took almost two hours walking by myself here because I enjoyed reading every single tombstone there.  I saw a lot of tombstones that were dated back to the 1500s and even recent ones in 2011.  What I enjoyed about being in the graveyard the most was discovering how each person that were buried there had lived and died.  I saw a tombstone that belonged to an infant who died when he was just 6 months old.  I saw a tombstone that belonged to John Adam’s family.  I also found a very sad tombstone, which had almost nothing written on there besides the date of death and the name “C.L.” which was very vague and I felt bad that this person’s tombstone was not as grand as the rest of the ones in the same graveyard.  I took a long time pondering at the thought of who C.L. was and how he or she lived and died.  I also googled to see if there were anyone famous buried here or if the graveyard was haunted and I found that 1) Yes, there were a lot of well-known people that were buried there such as George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh and William Brodie; 2) Greyfriars Kirkyard was actually one of the most haunted graveyard in the world.  The article I linked to mentioned a man named George MacKenzie, who was said to be one of the most aggressive and active paranormal figures in the graveyard.  He was a former Lord Advocate whose persecution of the Covenanters in the 17th century earned him the nickname Bluidy Mackenzie.  Mackenzie was also ruthless in his treatment of the Covenanters and hundreds of them were tortured and killed, their bodies laid to rest in the site of the Covenanter’s prison – a stone’s throw from the Mausoleum where Mackenzie himself was later buried. Read this article for more stories about Mackenzie’s haunting.

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Greyfriars Kirkyard
Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QQ

After my romantic walks in the graveyard, I met up with Jodie at The Dome for high tea.  It was my first time having high tea and I found The Dome to be a super classy and luxurious experience.  I definitely did not dress properly for this because I didn’t expect anything, but everyone was dressed in very formal outfits and even the severs were dressed in black and white uniforms.  The price ranges from £18.50 to £26 per person depending on your selections of champagne or without bubbles.

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The Dome
14 George St, New Town, Edinburgh EH2 2PF

My trip in Edinburgh concluded here at high tea.  I took the coach with Megabus back to Glasgow and headed to the airport where we flew back to Birmingham.  Edinburgh is definitely one of my favourite places that I’ve visited and I look forward to visiting again in the future.  There are so many things to do in Edinburgh and I have only touched the surface of the iceberg in exploring the city.

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