Road-Tripping Scotland v.1: Edinburgh Sightseeing

dean village in edinburgh scotland

Airport Adventures to Glasgow

Ah, travel days. The best thing everrr. Nevertheless, a means to an end. Just think: I will be in Scotland… on vacation… in just a few hours. We’re headed into Glasgow before some Edinburgh sightseeing.


Pre-Scotland Scramble

The usual part work, part frantically pack, part get-the-house-in-a-manageable-place-so-it’s-not-disgusting-when-we-get-back, part make-sure-the-cats-will-stay-alive-while-we’re-gone, part sit in gridlock, part pre-flight libations (duh), and finally, the part where you just sit and try to be comfortable for however many hours. Which ends up seeming like the best of all after the pre-holiday marathon. (Does anyone else feel like this before vacations?)

scotland and faroe islands tour books

Pre-Flight Libations

Pre-flight libations were only interesting because we had to watch this insane storm roll in right on top of our departure time. The sky got five shades darker every time I looked up from my beer. Also of note, a girl left her phone charging in the restaurant outlet when she scampered off in a hurry and Boy Scout Jeff chased her down the terminal, which required him to… run. Yes. Run. So dutiful, my husband.

traditional pre-flight libations

The Over-Eager Flight Attendant

While waiting for boarding, we came to realize the gate attendant was incessantly attached to the intercom. I don’t think more than a minute went by without an announcement. Or a repeat of an announcement. Or a repeat of that announcement. This went on the entire boarding period (and well before it, too.)

I told Jeff that, if Group 4 wasn’t in line and ready to go by now after hearing they should be there fifteen times, all the way through Groups 1, 2, 3, special needs, expectant mothers, families, military, anyone who buys their way into special upgrades, and then their own group announcements, they should be put on punishment and be relegated to an imaginary “Last Group” for boarding. Get your shit together, Group 4! I’ve got places to go.

scotland view from flight

Center-seat woes

I was fortunate enough to land a center seat. I tried to look on the bright side by arguing in my head that it was only a six hour flight, but then we sat on the tarmac for two hours waiting for the insane thunderstorm to pass, so… yeah. Still on my way to Scotland, I told myself.

The lady next to me, while sweet, had 120 bags stuffed under the seat and I think she had a bunch of craft stuff pulled out of every one of them. How she managed to stay organized to create anything is beyond me, but there she was—knitting and beading away. Alright, lady. You do you. Just stay out whatever tiny amount of elbow and foot space I have available to me and we’ll be fine.

The awesome person in front of me already took the liberty of leaning their seat all the way back like a twat waffle. We also had a delayed landing. Also awesome. Not too bad really, just had to circle the airport. A few times.

flight path while circling heathrow

Heathrow Bagpipers & Questionable Whiskey

Heathrow security was a touch amped up and ran at a glacial pace. Even though I already had all my three-ounce liquids in clear bags, they made me separate them from the non-liquid items in a whole ‘nother bag. That’s okay. I understand, guys. Can’t be too careful. Plus I’ve gotten all snobby now that I have TSA pre-check. Gotta check myself every once in a while.

Had planned on taking the train into the city upon arrival, but just got lazy and took a cab. As luck would have it, bagpipers were there upon on our arrival. That, and a sketchy ATM built into a graffitied phone booth right in front of our hotel. Needless to say, we won’t be withdrawing cash there. Happy to say we were upgraded to an executive suite, but wondered what a regular room looked like when we opened the door.

They offered complimentary whiskey in the room, which was sitting in a nondescript glass decanter. I just… I have a lot of questions. Like… What kind of whiskey? Why is it complimentary? How long has it been there? If no one drinks it, do you refill it for the next guest? What if the prior guest didn’t drink it and did something to it? …I think I’ll pass. But I also don’t drink whiskey, so we’ll just wait and see if Jeff takes the bait. Oh! We have tartan tile in our bathroom. Just in case you forgot you were in Scotland. It’s horrible. But who doesn’t love a little kitsch every now and then?

Walking on Graves While Touring Glasgow

We decide to get a couple of sights in before we crashed and burned for the day. Our hotel is right on George Square, which we thought would be more interesting, to be honest. But the weather is beautiful and the locals are all out enjoying the square, soaking up the sun.

Walked to the Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis right behind it. The walk there was a little sketch, but we actually discovered it’s a city college area, the University of Strathclyde, so that made it seem a touch less threatening, I guess. Lots of amazing street art to photograph.

The Cathedral was lovely and is actually three cathedrals built on top of one another. I preferred the underground chapel myself, with all its mystery and low ceilings. The docent down there said some portions of the building date back to 1100.

We walked around outside to try and find the path to the Necropolis. We thought we found it, but discovered we were actually walking on really old graves and not a stone pathway. Er… whoops! So creepy. Then we had to run all the way back to get off them. We did eventually find the path and made our way up the hill. Some impressive stones and mausoleums up there with good views of the city.

Introduction to Scottish Slang

Stopped for dinner, some drinks, and to relax and soak up the nice weather for a bit. The interesting thing about the Scottish accent is that they’re speaking English, but it sounds like another language most of the time. And I’m half-English. I can decipher all kinds of heavy English accents and bad slang that most Americans are confused by. Not so much here.

Did hear some good ones at dinner with the waitstaff. Here’s the “wee” menu, he’ll get me a “wee” box for my leftovers, we’re probably “knackered” from flying in this morning. (I love “knackered,” by the way.) One of the waiters asked where we were from and, when we replied, “DC,” he said, “Oh, where all the magic happens.” “Way too much magic happening for me right now,” I replied. He laughed and mentioned something about John McCain that I couldn’t make out.

Tartan Shopping & A House Divided

Made one final stop at a tartan store before heading back to the hotel. An interesting tidbit for everyone—Jeff and I are living in in a house divided! The Todds (my maiden name) were a sept of Clan Gordon, whose rival was… none other than Clan Campbell! Very Romeo and Juliet, but like, the Scottish/American version. Forbidden love. *Gasp!*

Anyhow, in my readings, it sounds like the Campbells were pretty much rivals with everyone and owned most of the Islands region, where we’ll be spending much of our time, coincidentally. I also read that the name is either revered or met with a certain level of hatred and that business establishments (jokingly, I hope!) have signs that say “No Campbells Allowed.” …I think we should go to one and wait to see what they do when we use our credit card to cash out, what do you think?

scottish tartans

Tomorrow, we’ll be training to Edinburgh and checking out some of the city sights. For now… I’m going to attempt to manage my jet lag. (Why am I awake right now?!?)

Drunken Edinburgh Sightseeing

Where to begin today? We took our time getting up after some desperately needed rest and got some of my favorite European brekkie. We actually did most of what we wanted to do in Glasgow yesterday, so we just decided to go straight to the train station for some Edinburgh sightseeing. I don’t think you’d need more than a weekend in Glasgow. (Not road-tripping quite yet, by the way. That’s to come.)

Edinburgh was drastically different than Glasgow the moment we stepped foot off the train. Historical buildings left and right and streets filled to the brim with people. We made our way through narrow alleyways, up steep staircases to find our hotel just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Early check-in wasn’t available so we dropped our bags off and went on our way for some Edinburgh sightseeing.

stairs up to the royal mile in edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle & Dean Village

Stopped by the cathedral (duh) and wandered up to Edinburgh Castle. It was completely packed with people and, well, one of my worst nightmares, so we took the token photographs and steered ourselves away from the crowd. Took a side staircase to the bottom of the castle hill and found even better views of the castle that we figured no one else likely found.

We continued our Edinburgh sightseeing by heading to a small village on the outskirts of town. Took us through Princes Street Gardens, a nice walk filled with greenery and away from the crowds. Dean Village was a quaint little photography dream I’d seen on Instagram, and I’d immediately decided I had to go. It’s about a mile walk from the castle and we didn’t see many tourists on the way at all. Every bit as beautiful as the pictures, we strolled the River Leith to the next town over, Stockbridge.

edinburgh castle in scotland

Unwillingly Drunk in Scotland

Stockbridge seemed to be very local, though not typically part of one’s Edinburgh sightseeing list. We walked passed a blossoming high school romance, followed by a couple giddy teenage pot smokers. This, of course, sparked the conversation of what the marijuana laws actually are in Scotland. No idea. I’ll Google it later.

At this point, we’d actually been walking for several hours, so we stopped at a small restaurant in Stockbridge to get a light lunch and drinks. I ordered a small beer and what the waiter came out with was beyond gigantic. A little much for lunch. Even for an American, dare I say. I mean, what was the large? A 40? I was later inspecting the bottle and saw that it was 660 milliliters, which actually was the large.

My guess is the waiter either wasn’t paying attention, or was trying to pull a fast one on the tourists because I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t remember I ordered a small when Jeff and I had a whole conversation surrounding the idea that I should order… a small when he was standing right there. At any rate, I spent the next half hour sort of stumbling through the streets of Edinburgh slightly drunk. (Yes, it’s a Peroni. I just wanted a “comfortable” choice.)

big beer at lunch

I should mention here that, on our journey back, we kept seeing buses with ads on the side that read, “Make America Cheap Again.” I tried to get pictures, but… drunk… They were moving fast. No such luck.

Upgrade Perks

We checked into our hotel and got quite the surprise. I can’t say how, but somehow or some way, we got hooked up with a two-bedroom apartment. I only requested a studio with a king bed and… here we are. Two bedroom, two bath with a kitchen, dining area, living room, the works. It even has a washer and dryer. Same price. No complaints. I paid for this room with our rewards and it seems we got yet another upgrade. Gotta love the Scots!

Making Friends on the Royal Mile

We both decided we couldn’t sit down because we’d fall asleep for the night if we sat down too long. Trekked out to the Royal Mile again for some more Edinburgh sightseeing, but found a pub with outdoor seating. Did you know there’s such a thing as vegetarian haggis? What does that taste like? (Insert vomit emoji here.)

Made friends with two ladies from the Netherlands who were just finishing their Scotland journey and headed home tomorrow. Ended up having drinks and some laughs, which turned into dinner. We learned from them there’s an official Dutch gin (that’s not gin) called Genever. And they learned from us that puffins beaks fall off after breeding season.

Oh, and of course we talked politics. While we were expressing our views on our current president, the young daughters of an Austrian family next to us started peppering us with questions, which were immediately followed with translations to their parents. Good, solid, American questions, too, like… would Mike Pence be any better?

We asked what they all thought of our insanity and the Dutch and Austrians basically said they were doing pretty well politically right now, so they were just minding their own business and observing the US. Translation: eating popcorn and watching the show. Fair enough. (We would actually end up getting together with our newfound friends on a long weekend trip to Amsterdam less than a year later! So fun.)

After a full day of Edinburgh sightseeing, we’re catching a flight to the Faroe Islands for a few days. Then, we head back this way for a road trip through the “Islands and Highlands.” If you haven’t heard of the Faroe Islands, just do a quick Google Image of them. You’ll be awe-struck. And I’ll be there! Until then, my friends…

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