A couple friends and I were able to squeeze in a 3 day trip to Scotland for the last of our traveling. And I would say we saved the best for last. Scotland was a perfect way to end the last of our major travels.
The first night in Edinburgh we checked into our hostel and headed out to wander the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh and find a place for dinner. We settled on a pub on one of the more popular streets called Market Street. There was a sign outside that said there would be live music so we figured that would be our best bet. We ordered some food and got some drinks and then realized the sign said that the live music wouldn't start for another 2 hours... but we still decided to wait it out. As soon as we started to talk about leaving and finding another place a giant group of about 20 guys walked in and sat at the large table next to us. Before we knew it we were being introduced to our first dose of Scottish sarcasm as they pulled our table over to join theres. It turned out that they were all members of the British Army. To say the least, it was very interesting to talk to all of them and they had many jokes and stories to tell. A little bit later another group of people came in and sat on the other side of us. They asked us to take a picture of them and while we were making some small talk, we found out that they were from Ann Arbor, Michigan! When I told them I was also from Michigan they got really excited and yelled 'GO BLUE' for all of the pub to hear! We ended up having so much fun with all of the new people we met. Needless to say it was a perfect first night in Scotland.
The next morning we went on a free walking tour that our hostel offered around Edinburgh. The tour guide was great and had a lot of really cool stories to tell, and we learned a lot about the different landmarks and buildings in Edinburgh. During the tour we also went to a famous graveyard called Greyfriars where we heard the story of Greyfriars Bobby. There we found the gravestone of Tom Riddle which J.K Rowling used to write Harry Potter. We also saw the school which Hogwarts was based off of. For lunch we went to a famous cafe called the Elephant House. This is the cafe where J.K Rowling wrote the first two Harry Potter books, and if you didn't know that fun fact you would have known as soon as you walked into the bathroom. The place is famous for its bathroom walls which are coated with signatures, quotes, drawings and about anything about Harry Potter. Everything from the door, to mirror, to sink were absolutely covered! The cafe itself was also very cute and everything there was about elephants.
After lunch we headed to Holyrood Park to climb to the top of a small mountain to get to Arthur's Seat. On the way there we saw a little candy shop and stopped to get some candy for the walk. We ended up talking to the owner for quite awhile and she gave us tips on the best way to get to Arthurs Seat! She said if we went the hard way we would each need to bring about a gallon of water with us and some hiking shoes, but if we waited until there was a fork in the road and started to head up the mountain, it was a much easier walk. She was so friendly. She also sold buttons, pendants, and magnets all made of maps. And crazily enough, we all found a button that had Kingston (where our university is) and London on it! Also, my friend who has lived in England before, found one button with the small town she had lived in on it! After we purchased some souvenirs and some candy of course, we got back on track and headed for Arthur's Seat.
Long story short, we ended up venturing up the side of the mountain when we saw what we thought to be the fork in the road. But after about 45 minutes and a couple breaks to look at the view (to catch our breath) we realized that that was far from the fork in the road the lady had told us about. Keep in mind we all had our purses and other stuff we had carried around for the day and we were nowhere near dressed for an intense hike up a mountain. We saw a couple walking down towards us and as we got closer we saw that they were definitely dressed for the occasion; hiking sticks and all. When they told us it was at least another 30 minutes if steep walking to the top. To say the least, we got our workout in for the day and it was quite the adventure. We were all very glad we decided to take that way up because the views the whole way up were spectacular.
When we finally made it to the top the views were absolutely breathtaking. All around us was a beautiful panorama of all Edinburgh. Although I will say that I am to blame for what started to happen within seconds of us reaching the top. On the way up I had commented on how lucky we were that it was not raining, because it was supposed to rain the whole time we were there. And sure enough, once we reached the top, not only rain came down on us, but mother nature decided to throw some hail and hurricane winds in there as well. We were holding on to rocks and quickly began taking pictures and then hurried down the 'correct' side of the mountain where it was a very easy walk. But the hike and the weather still could not make us say one bad thing about that adventure. We had so much fun singing silly songs on the way up like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "The Climb". And the view was my most favorite thing about the whole trip.
Once we reached the bottom, we found ourselves in a little area of Edinburgh called Duddington. The lady we had met earlier that day had told us about a little pub there that we needed to check out if we had the time. After a little bit of wandering we found it once a runner ran past us, noticed where we were headed and said "the only thing that way is a pub!"And we said that was exactly what we were looking for. We were freezing and wet from all the rain and we needed somewhere to unthaw. Once we got there, we found out that it was the first pub in Edinburgh! It was really cute and the people were very nice.
After that we made the long walk back to our hostel to meet up with another friend who came to join us. After we went out and got some dinner we called it a early night and headed back to the hostel. We stayed in a 10 person dorm so when we got there we met some of our roommates. We met 2 Scottish guys who were our age. They had really thick accents so we found ourselves saying 'what' more than having an actual conversation. They laughed every time we couldn't understand them and it truly was quite funny because it wasn't like they were speaking in another language or anything. We quizzed them on some American slang and their guesses were quite funny. But as soon as they turned it around and started quizzing us, we also made some pretty silly guesses. And the fact that they used the popular Scottish slang and refereed to us as lassies was also pretty funny.
The next day we had a very early start and headed to Edinburgh Castle to meet for our all day bus tour through the Highlands. We boarded a coach at 7:45 am and did not get back until almost 9:00pm, it was a long day, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!
There were many stops along the way and the scenery around us was breathtaking. The highlands surrounding us the whole way was filled with valleys, hiking trails, trickling waterfalls, and beautiful vegetation. It looked as though we were just traveling through a movie scene the entire way! We made frequent 'photo op stops' and stopped at some popular landmarks as well. Our tour guide was hilarious and made the tour so much fun! He had enough interesting information, fun facts, and of course jokes and sarcasm to last us the whole day! He had many jokes about England, on of my favorites being the one I used as a title for this blog. He even wore a kilt and played bagpipe music throughout the tour as well!
Some of our stops, and sights of the tour included Fort William, Stirling Castle, Great Glen, Britain's highest mountain (Ben Nevis), Fort Augustus, Glencoe, Inverness (Capital of the Highlands), Grampian Mountains, Pitlochry, Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness. We also were able to meet many people on this tour! We met a couple American families, but the coach was filled with many different languages being spoken.
Although it was a long day, we did not let that stop us from enjoying our last night in Scotland. We headed out to a pub for some dinner, and after going in and out of many, finally found one with an available table. In one of the pubs we were in and out of, we ran into one of the American families that was on our tour!!! We laughed about it for awhile, but we never thought we would end up running into them 2 more times the next day! Perfect proof that it really is a small world!
The pub where we at dinner was blasting Scottish music and because it was a Saturday night and getting late, many Hen and Stag parties (Bachelor/Bachelorette parties) were making there way in to enjoy their nights. So we decided to head to another pub. There we tried some famous Scottish Highland whiskey (I don't recommend it!!!) and ended up meeting 2 other study abroad students from America who were traveling! (Again small world) Also, one of them was celebrating her birthday! We ended up hanging out with them, and playing card games at the pub, and dancing for the rest of the night. It was so awesome to be able to meet new friends and have so much fun on our last night in Scotland. The only downfall of the night, was finding out that those who say that Scottish men wear nothing under their kilts are 110% correct. Needless to say we left after a Scottish man in a kilt decided to prove that rumor to be true to everyone around.
The next day was quite rainy, so we spent it wondering around some more and huddling under umbrellas. We decided to go to the National Museum of Scotland (which was free)! We spent a few hours there and it was an awesome museum! There we again ran into the American family from the tour, TWO separate times... It was quite crazy, and funny. At the museum we were able to see Dolly, the first cloned mammal ever, and some other interesting treasures and displays. We then headed to the top floor terrace of the museum where we were able to get yet another incredible view of the beautiful city of Edinburgh.
The long train ride home was just as beautiful as the long train ride there as we passed through many fields full of sheep and other landscapes. We all had a wonderful time in Scotland, and I definitely hope to go back someday! The people were great, and always telling jokes, and everything about Edinburgh was beautiful! I was sad it was our last major trip outside of England, but I was glad we saved the best for last.
As soon as I was home I spent much of my time studying for my last exam which I just had today! So my summer has officially started. I will say I wasn't exactly as thrilled as everyone else was who was cheering and throwing papers as they left Kingston University. Yes of course, I am happy to have a break from school for awhile. But being done at Kingston University was the first sign that makes it real that I am really coming home. Time has gone by so incredibly fast that sometimes I almost forget that I will be home in just a couple weeks. I had such an amazing experience at Kingston University and came out learning so much more than just lecture material. I am happy with the opportunity that Kingston University offered and the students and faculty I was able to meet, but I still can not get over that fact the it doesn't seem like that long ago that I was anxiously awaiting my acceptance letter.
Of course between studying I managed to find a day to take a break and explore London with a friend who was leaving the next day. We managed to check the rest of the things off of her 'to do in London' list including strolling across Abbey road just like the Beatles, having lunch and riding bicycles through Hyde Park, doing some last minute souvenir shopping and some last minute wandering through the city, touring Little Venice, climbing to the top of Primrose Hill, and of course saying goodbye to Big Ben. It was another wonderful day in London to add to many. We ended the night at our favorite pub and met up with some friends to say goodbye. She is the first of my friends to leave, and that was another shot of reality that soon I will have to leave too. We were all very sad, but I can't wait to visit her in the Fall at her school in New York! I was so thankful to have met such a great friend across an entire ocean and find out that she lives just over 6 hours away from me at home. Another study break we were able to make was one last trip to Richmond which was gorgeous as always. And I can only wish to be back and living there someday. It is by far my most favorite part of London.
Tomorrow I am going to start my summer off right by exploring London for the day! The more I realize that the time is ticking the more I am making sure that every second counts.
Here is the URL for my 'Final Countdown' photo album of my last weeks in London
Also here is the link for my album of Scotland pictures!