LOCATION: Edinburgh, Scotland
Thursday, May 14: We got up early (3am) to make our 6am flight on Ryan Air to Edinburgh (pronounced Ed In Bur Ro, not like Pittsburgh). A flight to Scotland is CHEAP, about $25. But, Ryan Air is definitely out to get you with all their fees. Fees for checked bags, fees to check in, fees to print a boarding pass, the list goes on and on. It still comes out to be somewhat decent though. We arrived in Edinburgh and used the day to walk around Old Town. Old Town is the part of the city that is preserved from, well, Old Town!
All the buildings were gothic and the streets were narrow and cobblestone. It’s exactly what I imagined Dublin to be, but wasn’t. I fell in love with the dark and dreary feel to the city. The city made me feel like I was transformed into a Jack the Ripper book or movie.
Edinburgh also has a LOT of uphill streets and tall staircases to other roads. When you’ve been tired from traveling, uphill is a battle. The traffic here was also much nicer than in Dublin.
People actually watched out for you and didn’t try to run you over. Overall, it was much quieter of a town than Ireland was. We also explored The Royal Mile and did some shopping for an authentic Stewart Tartan kilt to represent my family. The Royal Mile had everything you could possibly imagine for gifts and it was pretty neat to stroll along a path that back in the 1400s was a market for goods connecting the two castles, Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace.
St. Giles Cathedral is a must see in the city and free. It was gorgeous inside with the sculptures and stained glass. It really made the Scottish atmosphere when we walked out and saw a bagpiper.
Oddly enough, I could listen to that music all day. Mid-day, after completely exhausted, we headed to our hostel for a nap. Our hostel, the Castle Rock Hostel, was probably the coolest one I’ve ever stayed in. Not only was it RIGHT outside the Edinburgh Castle, but the hostel itself was gothic and old with plenty of interesting and eclectic rooms to relax in.
After recharging, we went to eat at The Fiddler’s Arms on Grassfield Street. This place had very authentic Scottish food and we tried the Haggis balls. Haggis is a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach. While we definitely did not want it encased in an animal’s stomach, we opted for the Haggis balls version which was the filling fried and served with sweet and sour sauce. Along with a Tennents Scottish brewed beer and it was FANTASTIC.
We were told that Haggis is traditionally a winter dish as it fills you up and keeps you warm. I don’t know if I can “stomach” the real deal though, pun intended. After making our tummy’s winter ready, we joined our hostel for a free pub crawl. Practically everyone staying at the hostel was involved and it started with a flip cup like game with cider in the lounge room.
We then proceeded to the first bar, Bar Frankenstein, a Halloween-Frankenstein themed bar with statues, gadgets, and smoke everywhere.
They even had a Frankenstein mannequin drop from the ceiling. Our drink of choice for the night was Scottish Whiskey and Coke, and for a discount of only 2 euros a drink, the pub crawl was worth it. The second bar was an Australian bar called Oz.
They also had cheap drinks and Aussie décor everywhere and the special drink there was a skittles shot, which was red bull and orange liquor. The highlight of this bar was the view of the castle from the front door. The next bar was Dropkick Murphy’s, an Irish themed bar where I had English people tell me that my windbreaker jacket is a telling sign of being an American.
Apparently, rain jackets make you an American Wanker. Their words, not mine. I just wanted to stay warm, dry and pack light! The drink of choice at this bar was an Irish Snakebite (different from the American version). An Irish Snakebite consisted of a little bit of red cider and the rest was Tennents beer. It was tasty, but super sugary. Definitely a fun night to be had and I recommend these places for cheap drinks.
Friday, May 15: We started the day off with a visit to Edinburgh Castle where we met up with my friends Shiran and Omar. You can read about the Edinburgh Castle experience HERE: Go to Edinburgh Castle.
After playing around the castle all day, we headed to our ghost tour of the South Bridge Vaults. The vaults are a series of chambers formed in 1788 under a bridge in Edinburgh.
For a while, the vaults were used to house taverns, tradesmen and storage but also contained hidden bodies used for medical experiments killed by the Burke and Hare serial killers. As the vaults deteriorated over time, the businesses left and the poor in Edinburgh moved in. Now, they are left deserted and have been known for having lots of paranormal activity.
We met our ghost tour leader, Hannah, who was amazing at giving bone chilling stories. She asked for a volunteer to be the last of the group and to be the last to leave all rooms to make sure no one was left behind, and to close the doors. I volunteered happily. Yes, that meant I would be alone in some of the rooms, but that also meant I would be the only one in there taking pictures. I’m selfish, I know.
The first room we walked into, she asked if we felt anything. I was relatively warm, but had a cool sensation around my thighs. Like a ring of cold. Nobody fessed up to say they felt anything, including me. She then proceeded to talk about a little boy name Jack who would play with her jacket. She said Jack liked to find maternal women and hug their thighs often making their thighs feel cold. Was that Jack around my legs? I took a picture as I left the room and did get an orb!
We walked through several damp and dark vaults and heard multiple stories of ghosts. I captured a few orbs, but didn’t have any feelings like I did in the room with Jack.
After the vaults we proceeded to a graveyard. I took a picture next to one grave and after taking the picture, Shiran asked if my camera normally had two boxes when focusing on a face in a picture. I said no, just one per face, why? She replied that when taking the picture of me next to the grave, the camera had two face recognition boxes. One for me, and one a little over the grave site. CREEEEEPY.
I had another encounter at the grave as well. While Hannah talked to everyone in a tomb site, I proceeded to take pictures around the site. I took a picture somewhat far away and as I went to click the shutter, I saw a smoke like figure move from one end of the photo to the other as I took it. What came out was a smoky like figure and I KNOW it moved.
The tour office has asked me to send it to them so they can investigate more, but confirmed what I saw was definitely of the spirit nature. If that isn’t creepy enough, I decided to stand in the spot where I saw the smoke like figure and take a picture. Yes, I like to be scared. The picture of me that came out looks normal, but when zoomed in I have a white mark on my cheek and you can’t see my eyes at all as if I’m possessed.
What can I say, ghosts like me. If you want to read about my other ghost experience while in Gettysburg, go HERE: Go Ghost Hunting.
Friday, May 16: Today we explored the Scottish Highlands and looked for Nessie on Loch Ness. You can read about that experience HERE: Go on a Nessie Searching Tour.
After the tour, we went back to the Grassfield area of town to eat. It was 8pm, which should be early for dinner in European countries, but we were left with hardly any kitchens open. Apparently, Scottish just like to drink only!! Can’t complain I guess. After all, you don’t really get drunk here just like in Dublin! Sadly, today was our last day in the city as we headed back to Dublin tomorrow.
I’ll definitely miss Scotland. It was classy, gothic and never a dull moment. I loved the scenery, the buildings and the culture and definitely plan to be back. Any jobs hiring an American there?? Yes please! You can read my Dublin experience HERE: Go to Ireland.
*Thank you Lori, Ryan, Shiran and Omar for accompanying me on this adventure.
Would I do this again? I love love loveeeee Scotland. I will be back!
How to do this:
You can take a tram from the airport to city center for 6 euros. However, a taxi from the airport to the Royal Mile is 21 euros. So depending on how many is in your group, plan from there.
Castle Rock Hostel: Super cheap and WONDERFUL. I love this place and it is close to everything you want to do http://www.castlerockedinburgh.com
Restaurants and Bars:
Frankenstein Bar: http://www.frankensteinedinburgh.co.uk/
Fiddler’s Arms: http://thefiddlersarms.com/
Dropkick Murphy’s Pub: http://www.yelp.com/biz/dropkick-murphys-edinburgh
Ghost Tour: Mercat tour guides were amazing. I highly recommend this company. We did the Doomed Dead and Buried tour for 15 Euros. http://www.mercattours.com/doomed-dead-and-buried.asp
Lochness/Highlands tour: Book a tour through several companies. I used Rabbies. https://www.rabbies.com/tours_scotland_edinburgh/loch_ness_glencoe_1_day_tour.asp?lng=en Tour is 45 Euros and then 12 Euros for the lochness boat ride. TAKE FOOD as there isn’t a lot of time to eat.
Edinburgh Castle: Tickets are 16.50 Euros. http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/