The first thing you need to know about our experience in Edinburgh is this: Scotland is usually cold and gray and dreary. It often rains. We were prepared for a chilly, gray day.
Instead, we got this:
The weather was BEAUTIFUL and warm and sunny, and everyone was in an extra joyful mood because of it. Bret and I got to spend half the day with a local who was a friend of a new friend we met on our tour, and he was completely in awe of the weather, too. Everyone was eating ice cream cones and lounging outside. All this is to say, my Edinburgh experience was not typical.
We arrived in Edinburgh in the late afternoon, settled in our hotel, had a walking tour of the city with our tour group, and then we had a wonderful dinner. We spent the evening in our hotel lobby’s bar planning our free day adventures. We made an agenda that looked something like this:
- Hotel Breakfast
- Explore Edinburgh castle
- Walk the Royal Mile
- Harry Potter Tour
We woke up early and enjoyed a traditional Scottish breakfast which included baked beans, eggs, and other delicious things. And then we began our venture to the castle! It was a fairly long walk from our hotel, but we didn’t mind. The walk was beautiful! And on this rare clear day, the views from the castle were amazing.
After traveling in a large group with so many people for a few days, I enjoyed spending the morning walking through the city with Bret. We were able to do everything we’d hoped, plus we found wonderful unexpected adventures along the way. We stepped into St Giles Cathedral. We just went in to grab a bottle of water from their cafe, but we were so happy that we walked inside. It was gorgeous.
The Harry Potter tour was epic. A young (American) college kid with a cape and a backpack showed up, and we were skeptical of our free tour, but it was amazing. We started in the GreyFriars Cemetery which served as inspiration for several Harry Potter character names like Tom Riddle. I took pictures of all of the tombstones. They were so cool. I’ve had to stop writing this part twice because I just keep thinking of the pictures that I took that are gone, but if you google GreyFriars you’ll get a good glimpse.
We learned so many neat facts on this tour like because of all the different Harry Potter book translations, Tom Riddle has some pretty funny names in certain languages in order for the letters to create Voldermort. We learned that the Elephant Cafe (which claims to be the birthplace of Harry Potter) wasn’t even open until after the first book was published. But this tour wasn’t only about Geeky Harry Potter Facts! We learned so much about Edinburgh, too. We got to see the Boarding School with 4 houses and 4 colors that were clearly the inspiration behind the 4 Harry Potter houses. And we got to see the street believed to inspire Diagon Alley, and our tour guide led us there through a narrow passageway and then we emerged and saw the store fronts that inspired the shop. There is a whimsical place called Ah-Ha-Ha and a place that could manufacture wands. It was such an impressive tour – definitely one of our highlights!
After the tour, we spent some time with one of our new friends from the tour and her real life Scottish friend. We went to the Elephant House and I did a little bit of writing in my Scottish notebook.
I didn’t write much, but I felt inspired sitting in that cafe. Plus I got to see the epic bathroom that has been signed by so many fans – I mean Dumbledore’s Army – from all over the world.
I already had so much respect for JK Rowling, but I learned even more details about her during this tour. There are so many rumors (she wrote in a cafe because she was poor, homeless or had no heat), but really, she wrote in the cafe because she had a baby and the white noise kept him sleeping so she could work. And you may already know that the Harry Pottery publisher wouldn’t let JK Rowling publish the book under her own name because he was afraid boys wouldn’t want to read a book if they knew a woman wrote it (UGH!). She doesn’t have a middle name, so he made her make up an initial. She won a lawsuit about that later, though, and donated all of the money to charity. I admire her so dang much.
Edinburgh was just so good. We had the best day and the best sticky toffee pudding! (I’m glad Bret took a photo – see below). We just genuinely enjoyed the day.
I took so, so many beautiful pictures of Edinburgh that I wish I could include, but I lost allllllll of my pictures. I remember some particularly adorable ones, too, like of Bret memorizing the map outside of our hotel in the morning. He was such a good navigator as always. We talked to so many people who spent half the day lost and this never happened to me because I was always with Bret and he always knew where we were. I really don’t understand how someone can look at a map and just internalize it. This was not an easy place to navigate, but I’m grateful for his gift.
We spent the whole day in the city. The sun didn’t set until we were walking back after 9pm. We stopped in a store to get snacks (kinder eggs!) And then walked back to our hotel. I was sad to be leaving Edinburgh – I wanted to spend more time pretty much every where we went – but I loved getting to sample so many cities. And, as I’ve said, my favorite part of this experience was meeting people and developing friendships with them.
In my next Great Britain post, we’re going to look for the Loch Ness Monster!