Written by Jamie Shannon.
As part of my Study Abroad trip to the United Kingdom, my group spent a week in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. What a magnificent city, Edinburgh is! I completely fell in love with the amazing architecture and the Scottish way of life. They are very proud of their beautiful country and more than willing to show visitors around.
We took the train out of the famous King’s Cross Station in London. The four hours it took to reach Edinburgh went by very quickly as we spent most of our time playing card games and staring out at the beautiful English countryside. We passed countless castles which towered over the tiny antique towns that served as their neighbors. When we arrived at the Edinburgh train station, we took a taxi to the University of Edinburgh where lectures would be held and we would stay for the week. The university was absolutely gorgeous and made Michigan State look almost new. With almost a 300 year difference between the establishing of the two universities, one can only imagine the variation in design and architecture (University of Edinburgh Est. 1583, Michigan State University Est.1855).
Our first night we decided to lay low and just find a nearby pub which inevitably became our favorite for the rest of the week. The Abbey was a short walk from the university and had fabulous pub food and over one hundred Scottish whiskeys for the neighboring university students to sample.
The next day we chose to wander up and down the Royal Mile, which is named rightly so as it is a mile long stretch of shops and pubs that ultimately end at Edinburgh Castle. The castle is a definite must-see when visiting the city. Just stepping inside the great fortress, is almost overwhelming as you began to absorb the amount history that the castles walls hold. The castle also has amazing views of the city as it actually sits high atop an extinct volcano.
Each little shop on the way to the castle fully maintains the Scottish feel as they contain traditional Scottish Kilts, whiskey, and numerous souvenirs. I bought my dad a bottle of St. Andrew’s whiskey that resembled an enormous golf ball which was one of my favorite purchases of the trip. We probably visited every shop on the Royal Mile seeking shelter from the rain. Scotland is an amazing country, but it rains at least part of every single day. Which surprisingly I did not mind too much and it didn’t seem like anyone else did either. The rain sort of “fits” the country and it makes everything that much more beautiful when the sun returns. When the sun would come back out, the street performers would coming racing back out to entertain for a little while longer until it would begin to rain again.
After lecture one day, our professors took us the National Museum of Scotland where everyone was instructed to participate in a scavenger hunt. They sent us around the huge building that housed thousands of ancient artifacts and sent us to find and photograph the most interesting of items. Needless to say, we were in there for quite a while.
While walking back to our dorm rooms, we passed by the Elephant House. If one of our groups members hadn’t have pointed it out we would’ve never know, but underneath the sign for the café it read “Birthplace of Harry Potter.” J.K. Rowling actually began writing the world-renowned series in the café on a few nearby napkins which has made the eatery a must-see when visiting Edinburgh.
For one of our class days, our professors took us to the BBC Scotland where much of the country’s television and radio shows take place. We actually got to sit inside of a studio during lecture and had speakers from their most popular talk shows.
Towering over the university is a mountain named (King) Arthur’s Seat as it is commonly thought of as a location of Camelot and the legend of Kind Arthur. One evening a few of the other students and I decided to climb the mountain to see the sunset. (Compared to most other mountains, it is probably more of a hill, but it is the tallest hill that I have ever seen and it took about two hours to climb so I will continue to refer to it as a mountain!) The views from the top are magnificent especially at sunset. You can city all the lights of the city on one side of the mountain and the ocean on the other. It is virtually impossible to describe to someone who has not witnessed such splendor, but if ever in Edinburgh I highly suggest ascending Arthur’s seat as it is quite the adventure. Getting to the top wasn’t so difficult, but getting back down in the dark was quite the challenge. I definitely lost my balance more than a few times on the way down, but thankfully I always had someone to hold to. It probably was not the best idea to wait until it was completely dark to climb down, but somehow we made it.
As we made our way to the train station on the last day in Edinburgh, a friend of mine suggested that we visit the Scott Monument which is conveniently located right across the street from the train station. Although we did not have much time until our train was to depart, I agreed and we set out just to see what this massive structure in the middle of the city was. The Scott Monument was built in honor of Sir Walter Scott and is about 200 feet tall. There are spiraling staircases inside of the monument that visitors can climb to get better views of the city. Since there was not a line, we decide to make the climb. It can get a little bit scary up there though as the stairs get gradually narrower due to the shape of the structure and the wind creates a feeling of movement inside the tower. With views of the city similar to that of Arthur’s Seat, the Scott Monument is an amazing way to get a better look at the stunning city. We made it back to the train station with not a minute to spare, but I’m so glad that I got to experience the Scott Monument.
Edinburgh is one of those rare places in the world that combines traditional elegance with the diversity of culture and history. I think the city may tend to get overlooked sometimes so I hope everyone decides to add this whimsical city to their bucket list!