That time I lived five minutes from a castle…
**I apologize in advance if the pictures are disorganized! I am going to find a more picture-friendly format. If the pictures do not download on your webpage, just click on the blue box…then they should pop up! If you want to make the picture bigger, just click on it.**
On Wednesday afternoon, a group of us embarked on a (free) self-guided tour of Edinburgh Castle. The view was so amazing…you can see snow-covered highlands and old stone castles on one side, and the beautiful streets of New Town on the other. Even though the tour had fifty free tickets, there were only twelve of us, so we all stuck together and explored the old mystery that is Edinburgh Castle. For the past week, I’ve been wary of looking too much like a tourist with a camera hanging around my neck…but Wednesday’s view from the Castle was too beautiful to not allow myself to be a real tourist for a little while 😉
The Castle has some awesome history, but my favorite story was about the Stone of Destiny (click on the link if you want to know a lot about it). Every King (or Queen) of Scotland was crowned on the Stone of Destiny (literally a square hunk of rock) until the British invaded the Castle and seized it in 1216. It remained in Westminster Abbey until 1950, when four college students smuggled it out of the Abbey and stole it back for Scotland. It was officially returned to Scotland soon after.
One of the museum employees told us that the crack in the middle of the stone happened when the kids were smuggling it out. They hid one half of the stone in the back of a borrowed car and hid the other with travelers. One of the students’ 21st great-grandfather was Edward 1…the Englishman who seized the stone back in 1216! The Castle has some great history and it was so fun to poke around.
It was also very, very cold. We all stopped at Doctor’s Pub on the way back down Grassmarket for some hot chocolate and mulled wine. Afterwards, Aidan and I returned to the Royal Mile for hat-shopping and met a (very handsome) Bulgarian shopkeeper, who gave us a free map of Edinburgh and spent 20 minutes pointing out his favorite spots.
Afterwards, we all waiting in a 400+ line for tickets to the Saturday day trip to St. Andrews. Absolutely determined to get seats, Aidan and I arrived an hour and a half early…and were the very first two people in line. I don’t think I have ever been so cold in my life. At least we have plans for Saturday!
Today (Thursday), I took the bus to the science buildings across the city, and then Aidan and I did some shopping on Princes St. The temperature has dropped severely over the past few days, and we desperately needed more blankets. I picked up a few chunky scarves and thick socks at Primark, my new favorite store. I also bought a real tartan wool blanket. It has kept me very warm!
We went on another impromptu pub crawl last night. That’s something that I still haven’t gotten used too–the students here go out nearly every night of the week. All of us Americans have all agreed that we are exhausted! We first stopped at the Royal Oak, but just popped our heads in–we realized very quickly that it was an old man’s Scottish pub (very cool), and not the place for six American students ready for a fun night. We went to the Brass Monkey (where I had a weird encounter with a Scandinavian man who thought that I was Russian) and then back to Malone’s, our favorite place from Saturday night. It was just our group and a group of Irish girls who really, really liked to dance.
Now that I have ventured from Nicholson’s St and into other parts of Edinburgh, I keep falling more and more in love. It’s so cool to walk on the very streets that my professors are talking about. I have to read The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott by next Wednesday…and walked past his monument on Princes St this morning. It’s the most surreal experience to be in a city that has history that is so easily explored and met.