TD;LR: A lot of public places were closed due to Covid-19. Edinburgh is relatively small and I think that you can explore the city within 24 hours. Edinburgh scored a 3/10. Aberdeen is in the middle of no-where and scored a 2/10 with the only redeeming factor being an art-trail that I went on (blog on that to follow this one).
In early August, I spent a week in Scotland. While normally I’d want to go somewhere exotic (we love a palm tree, we do, we dooo), we aren’t living in normal circumstances. At the time, as a nation, we were only just easing out of a Lockdown.
And me? I’d done my time indoors – I was here to take the first chance I could to get out of London.
So a week after I turned 23, I headed to Scotland to mark the occasion by visiting the Highlands, where I planned to climb Ben Nevis which is the highest mountain in the U.K.
Scotland made sense too in that I wouldn’t be alone on my travels; I’d spend three days in the capital, Edinburgh and then go to see my brother in Aberdeen before setting off for the Highlands.
Here’s my travel diary for Scotland:
It’s 6.50am and I’m outside King’s Cross Station. My eyes have barely opened up and as I look across the road, I note that neither has my favourite coffee shop…tragic.
King’s Cross Station is the country’s main transport hub. The station is your gateway to Europe, offering super speedy direct trains that will get you into cities like Paris, Lille and Brussels. Trains also go into the U.K.’s major cities, including the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh.
“It’s a shame then, that I’m having to scoot my butt on a train to Luton Airport to catch a flight to Edinburgh”, I think. (A flight is my only option because the direct train from King’s Cross to Edinburgh was fully booked – that’s what happens when you plan a trip just two days before lol).
I end up boarding just before 9am and touch down just before 10am.
When I land, I discover Pop Smoke was right – when it rains, it pours aha…or at least it was in Edinburgh.
There was no end to the torrential rain – the weather was abysmal – and I’m going to be honest with you, that first day was a write-off in terms of using it to explore. So I stayed in my hotel room, had dinner, watched Netflix, read a book (fiction, not Law) and did some writing (legal and interesting; I might post it on this website soon).
The next morning, I awoke to the sound of bagpipes! I did mention that my hotel was located just 5 minutes from the city-centre, right? As I peered out of my window, I could see bam in the middle of town, a man, dressed in traditional Scottish attire – I’m talking a balmoral cap, a knee-length plaid kilt, the whole lot! And he was playing his bagpipes!
I thought “Well, it doesn’t get more Scottish than that! And oh look, the sun is out too”.
I was in good spirits – “Today we play adventurer!”.
I started my day with a short ten minute walk from my hotel to The Old Town. Here, I had breakfast in a cute little coffee-shop called ‘The Milkman’ and saw photo opportunities in the narrow alleys and archaic, but oddly, picturesque streets.
I followed an alley that leads you up to some stairs and from here, at Advocate’s Close I took a picture that I rather like:
Then I walked back to the main square where I saw a number of statues. The first was a statue of the Duke of Wellington, atop his horse.
Three minutes away from this statue is a Victorian Gothic building that looks like this:
It catches my attention because there’s a statue of a man in the middle. That man is the late writer, Sir Walter Scott and this is the second largest monument to a writer in the world:
After this, I walked down Prince’s Street which is the main shopping street in Edinburgh. It wasn’t that impressive but that’s okay because I wasn’t here to shop.
I was here to explore, so I kept walking for about 20 minutes or so until I reached The Queen’s Gallery, which is right next to Holyrood Palace. I love art so I wanted nothing more than to go inside the gallery but the Gallery and Palace for that matter, were both closed because of Covid-19, ugh.
There was literally nothing else for me to see here, so I walked back into the city-centre, met up with my brother and had dinner at a restaurant nearby.
After dinner, we took a little hike up Calton Hill to burn those calories off. From the top of Calton Hill we got a gorgeous panoramic view of the centre of Edinburgh, while we watched the sun set. It was lovely.
I wanted to climb the monument but the wind up top was really bad and I thought I might get knocked over and die. Given I hadn’t even tried any proper Scottish food yet, I wasn’t ready to die just yet.
By Day 3, I felt kind of ready to go to Aberdeen already and see my other brother. But my train was for the day after so I decided to make use of my last day here by visiting Camera Obscura and The World of Illusions, which is an immersive exhibition based on illusions.
I get there and it’s packed full of children, which makes sense in that every other public place is closed and kids are at off from school, so parents have brought them here. The exhibition was very kiddy lol but I did enjoy bits of it. Here are some very random pictures I took there:
The top floor of the gallery gives you a rooftop, panoramic view of the city. Most people buy their £15 gallery ticket just so that they can get access to the rooftop – it gives you one of the best views of the city.
After visiting the gallery, I met up with my second oldest brother and he was bored of Edinburgh lol.
He’s been with me on this trip, although he isn’t mentioned much in this blog piece. We have different interests and do our own things.
Something I really wanted to do but he didn’t, was hike Arthur’s Seat.
My brother took some convincing but 30 minutes later, he joins me in my ascent. In total, I’d like to say it took us maybe an hour to reach the top and then 45 mins to get back down.
That hike and those glorious views marked the end of our time in Edinburgh.
When I look back at my time in the city, I most enjoyed the green landscapes and being out in nature.
Maybe I didn’t get to explore as much of Edinburgh as I’d have liked to, given most public places were closed due to Covid-19. And that’s probably why Edinburgh scored a 3/10.
I do think I’ll be back in the future though, for Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
In the next blog, ‘The (Street) Art Scene in Aberdeen’, you can read about my time in the city of Aberdeen, where – you guessed it… I looked at Street Art and went on a pretty cool art trail.