Castles? Bagpipes? Oh my!

Castles? Bagpipes? Oh my!

As our final week in London was quickly approaching, my roommates and I decided that we could squeeze in one final trip to go to Edinburgh, Scotland! Edinburgh was the ideal trip for us, because it was something we originally planned on doing, it was in the domestic U.K. (yay, we didn't have to wait on long UK Border Agency Customs lines) and it was also very affordable at last minute prices. Ashley, Megan, Anum, and I all made our way to London's distant Luton Airport, at 3 a.m. on Friday November 9th. We knew that this was our last shot to travel, and we wanted to make the most of it. We were all a little bummed out that we wouldn't be receiving more stamps in our passports from the U.K. Border Agency, but we got over it as soon as we arrived and could see the huge, looming Edinburgh Castle from the airplane windows. Boy, were we in for the weekend of our lives. 

 

Scottish Parliament

We all equally contributed to the activities we wanted to participate in during our stay in Edinburgh, and I really wanted to visit the Scottish Parliament. Before heading to Scotland, I booked a tour for the four of us, so we could walk throughout Parliament halls and see the space. We had a fantastic tour of the modern, newly renovated building. Most importantly, we were all able to make important connections as to how significant the Scottish Parliamentarians are to U.K. relations, and how the Scottish Parliament works tediously with their counterparts in Westminster, London. It was such a great feeling to be able to follow along closely and understand the issues that the tour guide was discussing, mostly because these are the politics and the political structure that we have become familiarized with over the past three months in London!

 

Unfortunately, we were unable to take any photos on the actual tour of the government building, which is totally understandable. But if you're ever in Scotland, you should definitely sign up for one of their free tours!! It was awesome.

 

Bagpipes? I think so!

From the moment we got off the plane at the airport, I had my heart set on finding a bagpiper. So, as we were walking around looking for a place to grab lunch, we jumped at the first opportunity to have a photo-op with one! I must say, it made my day to see the bagpiper standing on the street, and after watching him perform I definitely felt satisfied.

 

 

The Royal Mile

Before heading to Edinburgh, I asked one of our CAPA International professors what places she recommended we visit in Edinburgh. Dr. Joy Frith instantly told us to be sure to walk the Royal Mile. We were unaware of what that was exactly, and we decided that if we saw it, we would check it out. As we walked the streets of Edinburgh, we stumbled upon this long street, which led directly up to the Edinburgh Castle. We decided that it wouldn't hurt to walk up and down this major street, and we soon realized that it was indeed the Royal Mile!

 

There was so much to see on the Royal Mile. There were numerous street performers, as well as countless vendors. We did all of our souvenir shopping on the Royal Mile. We also realized that Mary King's Close was located off this main street, and it became a great reference point for us as we navigated around Edinburgh.

 

 

There was so much going on at the Royal Mile! As we headed towards the Edinburgh Castle, there was a man who was dressed in costume, offering tourists to take pictures with him for a small donation. Of course, we couldn't resist.

 


CASTLE TIME!!

Something we all wanted to do during our visit to Edinburgh was visit the Edinburgh Castle. Naturally, we booked our tickets in advance, and made our way to the castle on Saturday afternoon. The castle was such a magnificent structure! We spent quite a bit of time walking around the grounds and taking it all in. After all, visiting a castle is a once in a lifetime experience, right? The castle offered multiple exhibitions that we could see. I was particularly fascinated with the prisons within the castle. We had the opportunity to go inside the cells, as well as get a generic feel of what types of offenses the prisoners were charged with. We were also able to see the Royal Apartments, as well as Scotland's Crown Jewels. Overall, visiting the castle was a great addition to our trip!

 

 

I was definitely fascinated by all the cannons....and there were so many around the castle grounds!

 

 

We couldn't take photos in the actual room that held the Scottish Crown Jewels, but Ashley managed to snap this shot right before I went in...

 

 

Walking around the castle grounds was such an incredible and eye-opening experience.

 

 

I also happened to catch Ashley, Megan and Anum demonstrating for other visitors how to properly do 'happy hands.' Other castle visitors got a good laugh out of it, and now you can too.

 

 

Oh, and did I mention that the view from the top of the castle was AMAZING??!?

 

 

Mary King's Close--The Underground City

Megan, one of our roommates, was most excited to visit Edinburgh to go on the Mary King's Close Underground tour. After walking around the city for hours, Megan led us towards Mary King's Close. Unfortunately, we were unable to take any pictures on the underground tour, but it was so fascinating! As we walked further and deeper underground, it was just astonishing to see how well preserved the buildings and rooms were. Furthermore, our tour guide gave us great insight into the living conditions at the time of the Black Plague, and how it affected all the people who lived in these Closes. It amazes me how at one point in time, those low levels that are now buried deep into the ground once saw daylight. It also was incredible to try and imagine how living in such close living quarters during such an infectious time affected those who lived there.

 

The Burns Clan

My roommate Ashley was the backbone of our trip to Edinburgh! She's the one who found our accommodations and flights, and pretty much talked all of us into going on the trip to Scotland. It just so happens to be that Ashley's grandmother comes from the Burns Clan, and she was really excited to explore the city and perhaps learn a bit about her ancestry.

 

Our other roommate, Megan, also had some family ties that traced back to Scotland, from the Barclay Clan. Wherever we went, we all had our eyes open for anything that may have anything to do with the Burns and Barclay clans. We didn't have much luck finding things for the Barclay name, but there was SO MUCH for Burns! They had everything from the Burns Check plaid to Burns car incense. I was so surprised by how proud the Scottish are in their ancestry, and how they make it appealing to all generations by selling different types of Burns memorabilia. Ashley purchased all different types of Burns souvenirs.

 

While walking down the Royal Mile, we also ran into a few things that traced back to Robert Burns, head of the Burns Clan.

Ashley was so happy to be able to point these things out for us!

 

 

We actually ended up stopping in this whiskey bar for drinks, and I told the employees that Ashley's family owned the establishment. They didn't believe me.

 

The Birthplace of Harry Potter :: The Elephant House Cafe

As we were walking down the street, Anum pointed out a cafe that claimed it was the birthplace of Harry Potter. As soon as Anum made the comment as we passed by, I got extremely excited. Could it really be the famous cafe that J.K. Rowling sat at for hours on end, writing the chapters of The Sorcerer's Stone, overlooking the Edinburgh Castle? I couldn't hold back my excitement, and we ran inside to see. Now, I heard rumors that in the cafe that Rowling worked in, there was a sectioned off area where she supposedly sat day after day, working on the books. I also knew about a shrine to Rowling, which could be found in the bathroom. As soon as we got into The Elephant House Cafe, I ran to the bathroom, and it sure was there.

 

 

If you're wondering, YES, I did sign the infamous wall of gratitude to J.K. Rowling. I also signed for two of my dear TWC friends, who didn't come with us on the trip. Now my mark will always be left in Edinburgh, thanking JK Rowling for giving us the world of Harry.

 

 

Seven days left, folks. It's so sad to think that in exactly a week, I'll be on a plane headed back to the United States. I'm excited to go home and see my family and friends after a semester abroad, but I cannot believe how fast this time has gone by! As we prepare to head home with packing, cleaning up our flats, and finishing at our internships, I'm sure there will be quite a few emotional times. For the rest of my time here, I just want to make the absolute most of the experience and live it up to the fullest.

 

 

One week left in London, with so much to see and do?

Challenge Accepted.

 

Until next time,

 

 

Sharon

 

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