Well the last stop on our tour of Scotland was Edinburgh and it brought our visit to a climactic ending. Its architecture rivals any European city, an impressive breadth and depth of Georgian and neoclassical buildings which will make you dizzy spinning 360 degrees for the views and your neck permanently kinked from looking up. It’s like getting lost in Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter movies but Scottish Style. Looming over the city impressively is the monolithic Edinburgh Castle which is home to Scotland’s crown Jewels (the real ones) and the Stone of Destiny used for royal coronations. Arthur’s Seat looms above the city center, the remnant of an ancient distinct volcano in Holyrood Park.
We arrived on all Hallows Eve in the afternoon at the Waverly Train Station from Perth and proceeded to drag our luggage up the cobblestoned streets to find our temporary home. We checked in to a great apartment with no trouble finding our way and then headed out for dinner. We just had to step out the gate and were in the middle of all the action on Victoria street with unlimited choices for pubs, restaurants and shopping. We had a nice pub dinner (I had the Balmoral Chicken stuffed with Haggis-delicious) and then went out to walk the Royal Mile as the evening festivities started up for Halloween night. The main event was ‘The Samhuinn Fire Festival’, an annual event that celebrates the Celtic New Year, the end of summer and the beginning of winter. It was an atmospheric event, made even more so by the pouring rain that put a bit of a damper on the festivities but all persisted. With detailed costumes and freezing, wet, half naked participants acting as mythical creatures using fire and drums they told the ancient Celtic story of the Summer and Winter Kings. It begins as a parade down the Royal Mile with drumming, dancing, acrobats and fire dancers depicting the battle between summer and winter culminating in a final showdown at Parliament square. We accidentally ended up front row, covered under one giant umbrella as hundreds locked together in a squishy compactor. We felt overwhelmed by the crowd and decided to squeeze our way out as everyone continued to gather behind the parade, pushing to see the final show in the square. Instead of watching the ending we went on a pub crawl and had a great evening that ended with some traditional song and entertainment.
On day two we must have walked a hundred miles that started with Edinburgh Castle which was only minutes from our apartment. We spent a few hours touring the impressive Castle, I would recommend going early or late in the day as the crowds were annoying. Its an iconic tourist attraction with an incredible amount of history infused in its walls, it is a must when visiting Edinburgh but expect the crowds. Ordering tickets on-line can save a lot of time as you skip the cue to purchase them.
After the castle, we walked about the Royal Mile some more and then decided to take a detour as I needed to find an electronics store for a new mouse. Asking for directions we were sent on a wild goose chase, they kept telling us ‘just a wee 10 minute walk this way’ and a wee hour or later we were still walking. We found the store we were looking for (Maplins is the store for electronics) and although it was a great tour we couldn’t walk another step and decided to take the bus home. We asked the thick accented and cranky bus driver if he was headed back to the DT area and seemed he was so we hopped on. After a half hour on the bus we realized our stop never materialized and had long over shot the DT area. We thought he’d be circling around shortly but half hour later we weren’t even sure if we were still in Edinburgh, thought I better ask if he’d be heading back DT. He said yes, ‘in about 3 hours’ so we got off at the next stop to find our way back. We were lost! Shortly another bus came heading back to the city, we asked another cranky driver if he was going our way. He told us ‘such and such a bridge was the closet you’ll get’, we had no idea where that was but went with it and figured out our way home. We got to see a lot of the city anyways.
We spent another day just walking about the city augmented by city buses and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves just being out and about Edinburgh. On the way home we discovered the bus stop for the city air porter was nearby our apartment. We were trying to avoid taxis as much as possible to help with our budget and now we had our transport figured out for our return the next day to the airport for Ireland.
A few days in Edinburgh wasn’t near long enough and we are already planning our return, its an amazing city with so much to see and do. Heres a link to our Edinburgh Photos. Below is a video of Halloween Night in Edinburgh and The Samhuinn Fire Festival.