On Friday morning, we got up and caught a train from York to Edinburgh. We traveled through some beautiful country along the east coast of England and Scotland. We arrived after lunch and checked into our hotel. While we were in the room, passing bands of sleet and sun kept happening outside. It would be sunny, then it would sleet for five minutes, then it would be sunny again. It was bizarre.
Our hotel room had an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle:
By the time we left the hotel room, the sun was winning the battle. We decided to go ahead and see Edinburgh Castle while the weather held. My legs, still sore from the York Minster climb, did not appreciate the fact that the castle was much higher than our starting location. Even though the walk wasn’t that far (maybe a half mile), it was quite steep. Then, once we got there, we were faced with more stairs. Yay.
The castle was small, but drenched in history. It included a chapel that was built in the 12th century. Someone back in the 1100s stood in the same location I was now standing and worked on the building. That is crazy.
The Scottish Crown Jewels are stored in Edinburgh Castle so we went to see those when the rain started. Of everywhere we visited, Scotland had the most unpredictable weather. By the time we were done inside the buildings, the sun was out again. Mostly. It’s good we both bought waterproof jackets before our trip.
Saturday morning we got up early for our bus tour of the Highlands. The tour left at 8:00 AM and didn’t return until 8:30 PM, so it was a long day.
The scenery in Scotland is amazing. Our tour guide said it had snowed a few days before, so all of the mountaintops were covered in white. We ended up driving diagonally across Scotland from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea:
According to our tour guide, 95% of the land in the Highlands is owned by just 100 people. People who live in the villages actually lease the land their house is built on instead of owning it outright, even though they pay for and own the building. It seems like an odd system.
One of the most beautiful parts of the drive was the road through Glen Coe. It wound through mountains and valleys full of awesome scenery.
After lunch we made it to Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. The castle was a ruin, but a picturesque one, perched as it is on the side of Loch Ness. We explored the castle for a couple hours, then had a boat trip on Loch Ness. We did not see Nessie. I tried to get Dustin to jump into the lake to create a fake Nessie video, but he wouldn’t. I don’t know why. :)
Loch Ness is so big and so deep that it contains more freshwater than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined. Our guide said that if it never rained in Scotland again (unlikely, I think), they would be able to use their existing lakes as a water supply for sixty-five years.
On Sunday we explored the Royal Mile, the road between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace that is just over a mile long. It’s filled with tourists shops and pubs now, but the architecture is amazing. Edinburgh is probably my favorite city of the trip, because it just feels old–in a good way. London is old, but it’s also a big, bustling, modern city. Edinburgh, at least the part we visited, still manages to feel quaint, like a hidden treasure.
The walk from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace is all downhill and at a fairly steep angle. So the walk down to the palace was awesome, and the walk back to our hotel kind of sucked.
Holyrood Palace is where the Queen stays when she visits Scotland. It is open to the public when she is not in residence, and it’s decorated like most royal houses–ostentatiously. It’s fairly small as palaces go, but it was interesting to get a peek inside.
We also briefly visited the National Museum of Scotland. We thought we had seen most of the museum in a couple hours, but it turns out we only saw a small part of it. The building is actually quite a lot bigger than we thought.
Monday was our last full day, because our flight out was early Tuesday morning. We decided to get up and have a picnic on Arthur’s Seat, a small hill/mountain near Holyrood Palace. We figured it would be similar to climbing Enchanted Rock here in TX. We were both right and wrong.
The trail is clearly marked so it’s easy to see where you are going. However, the vertical rise is nearly 700 feet from the start of the trail (RunKeeper said we climbed 675 feet in about a mile). Enchanted rock is only about 425 feet of rise, so it’s not really on the same scale.
Once we got close to the top, with much huffing and puffing on my part, our beautiful, sunny day turned into a sleet storm. Complete with howling wind that was blowing hard enough that it had to be leaned into to prevent it from knocking you over. We were wearing our raincoats, so we fastened them up and cinched down the hoods and stood with our backs to the wind. It was insane. Dustin claimed that we were “real mountain-climbers now.”
Luckily the sleet passed just as fast, and the sun returned. I’ll reiterate–Scotland has the weirdest weather. We climbed all the way to the top and had an amazing view of Edinburgh and the North Sea.
Because the wind was still pretty violent, we climbed down a little ways before eating our picnic lunch. The sun stayed out the whole time and it was completely gorgeous.
The walk down was waaayyy easier than the walk up. Unfortunately, we were still at the bottom of the Royal Mile, so we had to walk back up to our hotel. But after the mountain, that walk didn’t seem so bad.
We ended up taking a nap (okay, I took a nap while Dustin read a book) on Monday afternoon. After three weeks of travel, we decided it was time for a break.
On Tuesday we woke up at the ridiculous time of 5:15 AM. We had to catch a bus to the airport, so we didn’t want to be late. We weren’t. Turns out they don’t even tell you the gate number until thirty minutes before boarding or so.
We had a short flight from Edinburgh to London. It was like flying from Austin to Dallas, except British Airways served us a free, hot breakfast in that time. It was awesome. They completely won me over with a single meal.
I read for most of the flight from London to Chicago. I think I finished two books. The flight was uneventful, which is always good. When we arrived in Chicago, we had to go through customs and border protection. There was a line to get in the line. It took us over an hour to get through customs.
Luckily (I guess), our next flight was delayed by over an hour, so we managed to catch it. If it had left on time, we would’ve missed it by quite a bit. I dozed for maybe half an hour on the flight to Austin. I just couldn’t keep my eyes open any more.
Once we landed and got home, it was around 10:00 PM. I unpacked my bag, did two loads of laundry, and repacked my bag to leave again the next day for the RT convention. Except for the short nap on the plane, I was up for 25 hours straight. Needless to say, I collapsed Tuesday night and slept like the dead.
Stay tuned for the RT convention recap…