Scotland Series: Post #1
Anne and I hopped on a train to Edinburgh to begin our fourteen-day holiday in Scotland. There were so much to write and so many pictures to choose from. I decided to make a Scotland Series out of our trip, and it starts with when we arrived in Edinburgh.
All Aboard to Edinburgh
Happy New Year, everyone! It’s 2009 now and I just got back from a fourteen-days trip with Anne to Scotland. This entry is the beginning of a series of journal or notes that I made during the trip. So, there will be multiple parts of it that I am going to post in a week or two weeks time frame. By the way, I won’t apologise for the length of this post or other posts. There were too many interesting experience when we were in Scotland, and all of them deserve their fair share of a post. So, how was it that we hopped on a train to Edinburgh and got stranded further north?
It all began with a painful and disappointing story about Paris which I am not to speak of anymore. But after the kerfuffle we had with the French Embassy, Anne and I had an idea to divert our trip northbound. I forgot how this plan came to light, but we were mighty disappointed about Paris and needed to go as far as possible from the Channel—and perhaps, a better option.
The closest but farther, not requiring any Schengen, and friendly to the bank account is… Scotland. Paris trip was planned since our first month in Britain and things went wrong in a matter of weeks. So, fuck Paris. Let’s do Scotland instead. We rearranged our itineraries and thought to stay in two of Scotland’s major cities. As it was nearing Christmas holidays, we booked hotels early and decided to arrive two days before Christmas.
The plan was for Anne to travel northward from Leicester and we will depart to Edinburgh from Sheffield by train. The downside was Anne had to wake up very early to catch the train from Leicester. Autumn semester exams are done, suitcases packed, tickets booked, we’re ready to go. Our train was due to leave Sheffield quite early. I honestly do not remember how long the train journey took to reach Edinburgh. It was quite a hazy morning, we slept through the journey and woke up past Durham.
Arriving at Edinburgh
We arrived at Waverley and were dragging our suitcases along Princes Street in search for Queensferry Street. Luckily, it wasn’t that difficult to find Caledonian Backpacker. It looked small at first but our room was huge. We chose the all-female bunk beds with lockers and padlocks for our stuff. It’s that Jugendherberge feeling all over again.
Check-in time in Caledonian Backpacker is 3 pm. As we arrived early, at 1 pm, we couldn’t check-in yet. But the receptionist told us that we can leave our bags there if we want to walk around the city and spend times before checking in. So we did. We shoved our suitcases in a spare room and decided to waste time checking out Edinburgh.
Stories of Edinburgh
Scotland is not unknown to me. In class, we’ve touched upon well-known sites of Skara Brae, Ring of Brodgar, Standing Stones of Stenness, and Maeshowe—especially Maeshowe, which kept surfacing during my Funerary Archaeology class. All of those sites date back to the Neolithic period when people are thought to have started with agriculture. Cue in “Neolithic Revolution” here. I have always thought the Neolithic Revolution is the beginning of a complicated life. But that’s just me. So far, there are no experts saying that—that I know of—therefore, that statement is a baseless conjecture.
Scotland is similar but different than England. This is not meant to be an offensive remark at all. It’s merely an observation of a visitor from a country far away. Scottish atmosphere has a different umph, even though it’s also adorned with Greggs, Costa Coffee, Pizza Express, Tesco, and all urban necessities. Since I hopped off the train in Waverley, I can tell Edinburgh exudes the smell of history, fuming with various stories of the people living in the city thousands of years ago. At this point, I think we forgot about Paris and embraced Edinburgh and what lay ahead of us during this visit.
Edinburgh itself has origins of settlement tracing back to the Early Medieval before it became a part of the Kingdom of Northumbria. The story goes that the descendants of the Votadini (the local tribe) built a hillfort known as Dun Eidyn—now known as Edinburgh. In 685 AD the city area became the most northwest limit of the Angles’ kingdom. Symeon of Durham wrote that in 854 AD there was a text mentioning a church at Edwinesburh under the authority of Bishop of Lindisfarne. During the mid-tenth, the Northumbrian dialect of Old English gave the suffix –burh to how people call this place.
Edinburgh was damn cold. Colder than Sheffield. I thought I might regret getting aboard the train and travel up north towards the coldness of Northern Europe instead of going southwards. It took a while for my body to acclimatise with to a few degrees less on the temperature. But a new city rich with history is waiting for us. No time for lingering under the duvet.
We got our arses off the hotel nearly immediately after we pushed the padlocks in our lockers. I remember the feeling of absorbing the new neighbourhood of Queensferry Street, our home for the next foreseeable week. Across the junction, I could already see the tower of St Cuthbert’s & St John’s Churches. Perfect. So, as we waited for the check-in time to arrive, we decided to spend our time checking out Edinburgh for the first time.
We were trying to find our way to the Royal Mile to do some reconnaissance of which spots to tackle tomorrow. Royal Mile is where most of our itinerary items are located. But little did we know, there are many distractions along the way, namely Grassmarket. Rows of shops and restaurants greeted us and we tried so hard to remain as determined to reach Royal Mile.
That afternoon, everybody was out—on the cafés, loitering, or just hanging out—oh, and last-minute Christmas shopping. As easily distracted as I am, when I saw The Cadies & Witchery Tours black-painted threshold, I couldn’t resist not to come in.
I ended up purchasing several items and the guy at the counter informed us of their ghost tour available for booking tonight. I guess, since we looked quite foreign, we could fall into such an advertisement. But that Scottish accent he has—he could sell me anything, really. We agreed, though not immediately. We told him that we just arrived and wanted to get a feel of the city first before deciding and that we would come back to the shop if we’d like to join the night-time ghost tour. Oh, heck. It’s just a talk.
We returned to the shop after completing our check-in at Caledonian and registered in their tour after thinking that we get the gist of what Castlehill and Royal Mile have to offer. Things were looking up since we got aboard the train. I was beginning to be hopeful of this trip. Yes, forget Paris! This is better and I am ready for our Witchery Tour.