Wanderlust Wednesdays: 12.16.20
Scotland Day 3: Edinburgh Part I
Are ye ready for an adventure, lads and lasses?
Day 3 of this amazing trip, and our first full day in the gorgeous city of Edinburgh!
It was entertaining, to say the least, to find ourselves rooming in dorms with British guys. Especially when said British guys discovered that they only had about 20 minutes to get cleaned up, get their stuff together, and then check out of the hostel.
Abbie and I started the day by simply watching the chaos unfold around us.
While the original plan had been to get up early and set out to explore the city, the day and a half of traveling had really done us in - we didn't end up leaving the hostel until about 10:30 am, and by that point we were ravenous.
Being the OCD Cruise Director that I am, I had already compiled a list of potential cafes and coffee shops in Edinburgh to check out while we were there. First on the list?
Black Medicine Coffee Co on Nicolson Street, about a five minute walk from our hostel, which was a fantastic coffee shop with a really unique decor. It's quite large for a coffee house, with a basement level below that provides additional seating to the main floor, and yet retained its cozy and slightly bohemian vibe. Everything was done up in hand-finished warm wood benches, tables, and chairs, with a definite inspiration nod towards the American West (no matter where we go, we can't escape it!)
Our first sampling of coffee in Scotland was a hit - the coffees were smooth to drink, and the detail put into the foam art on the cappuccinos was well-done without being pretentious. They also served a variety of teas and baked goods, as well as sandwiches and paninis - for the record, both the ham and brie panini and the fruit scone with butter and jam were heavenly.
Black Medicine was definitely a college/university hot-spot. For one, the WiFi, which was free (vive le WiFi!) was actually quite good, which when you take into account how many people were either connected through their phones or their tablets and laptops, makes it even more impressive. There were a wide array of student types, everything from undergrad to PhD level, in addition to the every-man, but overall it was a very relaxed, cool atmosphere. The food and coffee were good, and the employees were really friendly and amiable - if I ever decide to live in Edinburgh (and I am tempted, believe you me) I could definitely see myself here on a regular basis to get some work done.
After we were filled with caffeine and food, we wandered around a bit to do some casual shopping - stopping at a local Tesco (similar to like a Walgreens, but more grocery heavy) for some essentials, and even popping into a souvenir shop for woolen scarves (yes, it was uber touristy, but the scarves were made of lamb's wool and kept us warm). This proved to be an essential accessory, since it had been raining intermittently throughout the day and the wind was cold and merciless.
A quick pit-stop at the hostel to drop off our purchases and we were officially off to see the castle! High Street Hostel was located right off the Royal Mile, so we were able to head straight up Castle Hill and to the towering medieval structure of Edinburgh Castle. Royal Mile was filled with charming shops, signs for haunted tours of the city, and even the occasional bagpiper - it's an iconic view of Edinburgh that never fails to take your breath away.
But the view from Castle Hill - now that was something spectacular.
Depending on where you stand up on Castle Hill, you can experience a practically three-hundred and sixty degree view of the entirety of Edinburgh. From this vantage point, you can actually experience the development of the city - the harmonious intermingling of old and new, of weathered stone from centuries past and shining metal from a few hours ago. For me, it was as if I got to inhale and breathe the history of the city, to taste the life that had existed in the past as well as the present.
The castle itself is a historic fortress dating back from King David I (12th Century) and acted as the official royal residence of Scotland's Kings and Queens until about 1633, where it then began its history of housing the barracks of the Scottish military. Most recently, however, it has been restored and opened to the public as a place of historical and cultural importance, with both guided tours, cafes, and a few souvenir shops (with an excellent selection of whiskey).
We spent a solid two hours wandering around the castle grounds and its interiors, including the prisons, the garrisons, and the royal chambers where Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to James VI (aka James I of England). They even had an area where you could look up your family name and they would be able to print up your ancestral coat of arms in addition to a history of your family name (you best believe that I bought one for myself).
The castle closed early that day, so we said our valiant farewells and made our way down Victoria Street (*insert giggling here*) to try and find a pub that wasn't entirely inundated with rugby devotees.
Dear Readers, 'twas a struggle, let me tell you.
Alas, our worthy travelers prevailed, finding themselves at The Last Drop, a pub off Grassmarket Street with an, shall we say, interesting past. (It's supposedly haunted by a myriad selection of woe-begotten souls who like to move things around from time to time). It also happens to be one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh, which you all know made my heart happy.
While we did not experience any paranormal activity, we did have our first (of many) fish and chips as well as the ultimate in traditional Scottish cuisine.
That's right, dearies...we tried Haggis.
And for that review, Dear Readers, you'll have to check in for Part Two.