In addition to seeing 25+ shows, 30 scenes from Transmission, plus networking/marketing/last minute revisions for said show, I did manage to do A LOT of sightseeing in Edinburgh.
My solo tourist came out and couldn’t be stopped. Even when my feet hurt at the end of the day or I was tired and hungry, I found a way to go see or experience something else.
But alas, much like when I went to England for my semester abroad, I realized that I will still have to come back to Scotland. There’s so much more to see outside of Edinburgh and even still within that old, literary city.
Here are my highlights:
Book Lover’s Tour
I was buzzing with excitement and caffeine when I ran out of the hostel for this tour–my first official tourist activity! It lived up to the hype. We walked through Old Town, around Southbridge and the University of Edinburgh mostly, because that’s where a lot of Edinburgh’s literati spent their time. Why? It has been the cheaper area where they could afford to live and work.
I loved seeing where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle went to his medical lectures, the bar where he and Robert Louis Stevenson hung out, the place where RLS met his model for Long John Silver from Treasure Island, and so many more places of interest for these and the two main literary influences from Scotland: Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns.
Our guide also pointed out a few of the notable Harry Potter spots. I went back and found them all on my own, in a spread out, unofficial tour of my own making. I did have coffee at the Elephant Cafe one morning, but hated the over-crowded and tourist-y feel. My brunch at Spoons, the place where Rowling wrote the first few chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, put me much more in tune with my own muse.
One night when I felt lonely, wandering the streets alone while crowds pushed past to find the next Fringe party, I did cheer myself up by finding Rowling’s handprints by City Hall.
Again, I didn’t make it to all the famous spots–like the house where RLS was born, or the Arthur Conan Doyle Society–but it’s worth going back. What other cities have monuments to authors so big and tall as the Sir Walter Scott monument? Not many.
Finally, an unofficial new spot on my writer’s tour was The Brass Monkey. Though it’s a pub, I never had a chance to grab a drink there. I did push through the crowds on my first Saturday there to inquire for a postcard my best friend had left me. The bartenders smiled and retrieved it for me. Letters are still magical.
Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle
View from Edinburgh Castle
Saint Margaret in her chapel
The first I saw at the beginning of my trip on my own. The second, Stirling Castle, I saw with a crew of my Transmission friends at the end of our Highland tour.
Unlike the castles in Germany, these did not feel like fairy tale castles, but much more like forts where important battles were fought. Even in sacred spaces like the 13th century Margaret’s Chapel, it felt like so much history had been hard won both within and without its walls.
In Edinburgh Castle, I’m glad I fought past the crowds to see the room where Mary Queen of Scots hid to give birth to James VI of Scotland/James I of England. Though I must admit a panel beside the portrait of James I’s wife has me more interested in Anne of Denmark’s life. I did see the crown jewels of Scotland but I skipped the war memorial in favor of more time in the dungeons–less to see, but fascinating imagining the many different types of criminals and “criminals” kept there over the centuries–from the Jacobites through to WWII POWs.
Stirling Castle had even more amazing views of William Wallace’s memorial and more of the Scottish hills. Without Edinburgh surrounding it, I found it easier to imagine what it would have been like centuries before. The re-created rooms were much prettier than Edinburgh Castle, especially with the tapestries and painted ceilings.
“Imprisoned” at Stirling Castle
Cecelia Lynn-Jacobs and Margaret Sulc take the throne at Stirling Castle
Day Trip into the Highlands
Stirling Castle was the end of a day-long trip into the Highlands with Timberbush tours. Our day started with a fantastic story-telling introduction from our bus driver–who said I was a fairy because of my purple hair. We drove out of Edinburgh to tales of William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and other folklore of ancient Scotland. Our first stop included three Highland cows–the cutest farm animals I think I’ve ever seen.
The best part of the day by far was Loch Lomond. An hour long boat tour across this flat, wide, perfect lake felt like heaven on Earth. Though we did snap many pictures–including silly “Jack I’m flying” style ones–it felt less like a tourist adventure and more like balm for the soul. I can see why the Romans called this loch the prettiest one, the one with the best light. It captured my soul for sure. These pictures don’t do it justice.
On the way back, the bus driver told us all the ways that Braveheart messes up history. Thistles, by the way, are not romantic. They are Scottish because they kept the vikings from invading for many years–believe it or not. They are NOT what you’d give to your favorite lad or lass.
View of Loch Lomond
Me on Loch Lomond
Highland cow aka snuggle monster