Not so little known fact: I have an obsession with accents. I sometimes sit at the computer and watch how-to video after how-to video on accents, trying to learn all the little nuances. I guess it comes with the language fascination. I love hearing the differences from city to city, from country to country, from region to region. I love figuring out how to speak in English with an accent from another country: why they say things the way they do and how they pronounce words based on how things are said in their own language. Anyway. Two of my favourites are Scottish and Australian, and the Scottish accent written is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I have also, for years, been reading these books by Diana Gabaldon, which are time-traveling historical novels based in the Highlands of Scotland and in Edinburgh, written the way the accent would be spoken. I was, understandably, incredibly excited to get to Scotland. I had also thought that I would have to leave it out of this trip because there were just too many places I wanted to go. So, when a travel agent actually suggested a flight to Edinburgh and a train down to London as being cheaper and better than a ferry from Dublin to London, I wasn't going to argue with her.
Edinburgh didn't disappoint. It was old, but modern, and beautiful and slightly cold, a little bit grey, but lived up to everything I thought Europe should be in the little slice I had so far seen. I stayed here, at the Caledonian Backpacker's hostel, which was awesome. They had a bar/commons room, a movie theatre room, wifi, free brekkie, and so many nice people! The rooms were bright and comfy and it was in a really great spot for exploring on foot, but super close to bus lines and such as well. Plus, look, they have wheetabix!
I was fond of this chair.
Now, what I know about Scotland is mostly random historical information about the Highlands. I know a lot about Culloden. I know a lot about what went on in the 1600s. I didn't know all that much about Edinburgh, as it turns out. I arrived early by plane and took a bus to the hostel, and so it wasn't until heading out to explore that I noticed the giant freaking castle in the middle of the city. I had no idea they had a castle. And so began the theme of this trip: see something in the distance that looks cool, walk to it. This is how it went everywhere. Right across from the hostel was a lovely old church surrounded by an immense graveyard. The ceiling was pretty:
The park and such were pretty as well:
As for the castle, it was immense, and the views were spectacular, unsurprisingly. It was my first castle. There were to be many more on this trip. There was a dungeon, some bagpipers, a few canons, and on the windy cobblestone road leading away from it, there was a tartan shop. The Diana Gabaldon books, the main character in them is named Jamie Fraser, so I had to buy a Fraser hunting colours plaid while I was in there. Also, the factory was insane - the tartan weaving looms were so large they took up entire rooms.
And the castle (how did I miss that??):
Leaving the castle, there was a loooong cobblestone walk down a row of shops, and a store called ness. This, if you knew me as a teenager, should have been a store that I named. The fact that I was in Scotland and this store existed was very exciting (did I mention I was jetlagged?).
Really awkward picture with the bagpiper, because he didn't stop playing, no matter what (or how much money you threw in his hat).
As the sun went down, it became very obvious that whisky was going to need to be had, post haste. A day spent wandering and walking around definitely called for at least an hour of sitting and drinking. So I asked around at the hostel for a good whisky bar, and someone recommended a place called "Dirty Dick's", which I had to have repeated because I was pretty sure he was messing with me when this was his immediate response. The place did, in fact, exist, and it was fantastic. Done up in the same plaster-the-walls-in-everything-you-can-find style of the Irish pubs, it was dark, it was crowded, and the ceiling over the bar was full of whisky (and all my photos of it are appropriately blurry). Someone had written on a narrow panel of wall in white chalk, "Scottish by birth, British by law, Highlander by the grace of god." I love Scotland.
(Scotland to be continued).