Long overdue.. as in months overdue.. but here it is- better late than never, right?
Our first stop was Edinburgh, Scotland. We got there and were pleasantly surprised to see the sun shining, even if it was cold cold cold. We stayed in a nice little hotel that was once a house, about 20 minutes walking time from New Town. This is what the locals call the part of the city that was built on the drained Nor Loch in the 18th century. The Old Town includes Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and Holyrood Palace, and is where Tyler and I spent most of our time.
Our first real day there we made a point of checking out the old Castle, a huge piece of architecture overlooking the city- you really can’t miss it no matter where you are! As is par for the course with castles, the structure was added onto bit by bit over the centuries. Tyler and I love history and spend lots of time inside wandering the many mini museums and were lucky enough to see the shooting of the One O’Clock Gun, a tradition that started at the Castle in 1861. After getting our fill of the Castle, we proceeded down the Royal Mile.
It’s cold and drizzly but we’re excited to be there!
After exploring the Royal Mile, and buying a much needed set of wool gloves for my numbed fingers, we made our way to Holyrood Palace. I was very interested in this place as I had read about it in my favorite book series, Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. Holyrood (meaning Holy Cross) is a very elegant palace that the Queen still uses today when she visits Scotland. We spoke with the very helpful staff who answered many of our questions, and showed us the menu the Queen used when she was there last, only a couple weeks before. We also learned the significance of the Unicorn and Lion on the British crest- the unicorn represents Scotland, and always wears chains to represent the taming of such a wild (physically and socially) country. When you are in Scotland, the unicorn will always be on the left. In England, the unicorn is on the right. Holyrood is also home to the jawdropping ruins of an ancient abbey, and the photographer in me squealed in joy when we found it.
Holyrood Palace, as seen through my oh-so-fun fisheye
The beautiful Holyrood Abbey Ruins
Also worth mentioning regarding our wanderings of Edinburgh are the Whiskey Tour (Awesome and a MUST SEE even if you don’t like straight whiskey), the Elephant Room (where JK Rowling started Harry Potter- squee!), and the Real Mary King’s Close (a tour of the city underneath the city, haunted by souls long gone -insert ghost noise here-).
Sometime during our few days in Edinburgh we took a half day trip to Melrose and Roslin. We were part of a group tour with a fantastic tour guide who was extremely personable and full of fun facts. Our first stop, Melrose, is home to more ruins. The ruins were the former abbey of the Cistercian monks, and was quite obviously a very lavish place back in it’s days of glory. Even in ruins, the scale of the abbey was breathtaking. Tyler and I took an audio tour around the abbey, climbing up the narrow staircases and even checking out the ceiling before making our way to lunch and getting back on the bus.
The amazing countryside on our day trip
Tyler and Melrose Abbey
The next stop on our day trip was Roslin. I’m not going to lie, one of the main reasons we wanted to see the chapel is because of the mystery surrounding it in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code (Spoiler alert, if you haven’t read it.. or watched the movie… Roslin Chapel is where the bloodlines of Christ were stored and Mary Magdalene buried). In its own right though, the Chapel is truly beautiful, made out of many different colors of stone. Apparently it was falling into a state of disrepair before Dan Brown’s book, and now attracts the same number of tourists in one month that it used to see in a year! Unfortunately they do not allow photography or videos inside, so I do not have evidence of our visit. The intricate carvings and mysterious stories (for instance they “won’t” excavate beneath the Chapel, even though X Rays show something down there) made it a neat stop.
Roslin Chapel from the outside
After our stay in Edinburgh, we took an 8 hour train ride (read: caught up on sleep) to Inverness. Inverness is located way up north in the Highlands, which is a breathtakingly wild looking place with beautiful snow capped mountains and rushing rivers. It’s a very cute little city with lots of charm. Tyler and I felt a bit foolish when we first arrived, looking like tourists wandering about with our huge suitcases. We got out of the train station, took a right and walked for 5 minutes before realizing the street numbers weren’t going the right way! When we finally reached the train station again we saw that the hotel was actually in the same building as the station *slaps forehead*. Our hotel was our favorite of the trip- here’s why:
Inside our Inverness Hotel
Inverness is also where Loch Ness, and the Battlefield of Culloden, are located. The first morning after we arrived we went on a cruise on the Loch Ness, which took us the Urquhart Castle and then back again. The Loch was really beautiful, but we had to suffer through frigid temps and wind in order for me to snap photos. Tyler and I really enjoyed touring the Castle (once the largest in Western Europe), so much so that we almost didn’t make it back to the boat!
The Loch Ness
Hanging out at Urquhart Castle
The next morning we got up bright and early and attempted to make our way to Culloden. It being Sunday, I had forgotten that public transportation was at a minimum. We spent at least 20 minutes chasing after buses i the rain and attempting to divine the complex bus schedules before finally catching one that looked to be heading to Culloden. The bus took us out into the country, and dropped us at a nondescript spot on the edge of a neighborhood, with the advice to head “thataway”. So we did, walking along the edges of fields in a mist that was turning into rain, and praying we would see a sign, or something, that would tell us we were headed the right way. Well, after floundering about for 40 minutes, and getting increasingly worried that we were 1) stranded in the Scottish countryside and 2) that we wouldn’t make it back to Inverness to catch the only train out of town or 3) both, we finally caught up with a biker who told us the battlefield was a mere 1.5 mile walk from there.
When we finally did reach it, we had a quick bite to eat in the Museum cafe and then went out to explore the infamous field itself. Culloden is the site of the defeat of the Jacobite Army by the English in 1746. The battle was a blood bath, and afterwards Scots were prohibited from wearing tartan or speaking Gaelic, and banned from many historic traditions. I am particularly interested in Culloden because of my obsession with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, which centers around the battle.
Tyler and I in front of the Cairn dedicated to those fallen at the site
Me with the memorial stone for the Frasers, a family written about in Outlander
Closeup of the Cairn, with wreaths placed at the anniversary of the battle, which we just missed
After exploring and taking lots of photos, we caught a cab back to Inverness and were luckily able to catch our train to York. Onto England!