One of the very few upsides to Matt being on tour and me being off work…
Wait, let me restart this…
The only upside to Matt being on tour and me being off work is that I get to travel around the country and visit him. So far, I’ve only made it to Birmingham which wasn’t the best trip I’ve ever had, as 5 hours into the trip I got struck down by one of the worst migraines I’ve ever had, and spent the next 11 hours asleep in the hotel. As far as trips go, Birmingham wasn’t the greatest.Last week, Matt was in Edinburgh, and I was able to pop up to Scotland for two days and join him in one of, if not the most, beautiful cities in the U.K
Apparently, I’d been to Edinburgh before, in 2005 to march in the G8 Summit march urging world leaders to drop Africa’s debt. I was 13 at the time, so I barely remember it, and I was surrounded by adults so I don’t think I’d have seen much of the city anyway. I’d also passed through Edinburgh dozens of times as a child, as my parents used to take us on day trips to Scotland – so I feel I should have known a bit more about the city than I did. In fact, my knowledge of Edinburgh totally lacking. I knew of Edinburgh castle, and I knew of The Elephant House, where J.K Rowling penned the first three Harry Potter books, but other than that I had no idea what to expect.
I arrived at Edinburgh at half ten on Tuesday night, feeling pretty travel sick as usual, so we didn’t start out exploration until the following morning – however even from the short journey from the train station to Matt’s digs, I could see how steep Edinburgh was. Wednesday began at Matt’s favourite place – the zoo. I understand a lot of people have mixed feelings about zoos, but Edinburgh Zoo puts so much money, research and effort into conservation we were happy to go. We were able to see many of our favourite animals, and a few we hadn’t seen before like pandas and koalas. Edinburgh Zoo has a pair of breeding pandas, however we only saw the male. He was asleep at first, but he woke up for a few minutes to patrol his territory. He was a lot smaller than I had imagined, but much faster! His keeper told us she’d seen him reach speeds of 20mph, when he’d accidentally hit himself on the head with some bamboo he was eating and gave himself a fright. The koalas were nothing like how I pictured them – on screen they look fluffy and cuddly, but in real life they seem stretched, and they have no fat on them, so when they’re hunched over a branch they look a bit…alien. Their faces were cute, of course, but their necks were odd!
We also got to see a Sumatran tiger having a roam, a penguin who is also a Brigadier, a tapir having a bath, some baby rhea, a rhino, lemurs, and many other animals! I’d only ever been to Chester Zoo, so it was nice to see animals in different habitats. It was a bit more difficult to navigate than Chester Zoo though and, like the rest of the city, seemed to be built on a million hills, so by the end of it I had a tremendous headache. Not wanting to repeat the Birmingham trip, we headed to the gardens beneath Edinburgh Castle. The plan was for me to take some painkillers and carry on exploring – but the headache didn’t go, so we carried on exploring but at a much slower pace. Much slower.
Seeing as we were next to the castle, we made our way up another insanely steep hill to explore Edinburgh Castle but a company was building a stadium for the Military Tattoo on the castle grounds and we could not work out how to get in! We walked around what we could of the castle, but we really didn’t get the best view. If we were to go to Edinburgh again, the first thing I would do would be to go to the castle, but with the headache getting worse and there being no obvious ways in, we decided to stop and get a cup of tea and a cake at The Elephant House.
The Elephant House is known for being the café J.K. Rowling wrote in while she was penning Harry Potter, but it also sold a really good cup of tea! Inside, the café is filled with warm colours and dark wood, and wouldn’t feel out of place in Hogsmede, but it seemed they kept their Harry Potter connections close to their hearts, showing just a few newspaper cut outs of J.K Rowling. The toilets however, told a different story, and had been signed by Harry Potter fans from all over – rather like the walls of the Cavern club! I have to be honest and say, as much as I love showing my Potter pride, I couldn’t bring myself to write on a wall. Some people had simply signed their names, others had written messages of thanks, and one person had drawn a very detailed picture of a griffin, sparking the question ‘how long were they in there for?’
After eating some cake at The Elephant House, we wandered down The Royal Mile. I had no idea what The Royal Mile was, I’d only every heard it spoken about in regards to Edinburgh Fringe. The Royal Mile is a collection of streets running at a Scots mile in length, from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Abbey. The architecture is very traditional, and it’s very easy to feel you’ve stepped back in time a little. On the street is St Giles’ Cathedral, a gothic style Presbyterian Cathedral filled with amazing stained glass windows. We couldn’t take pictures inside the cathedral sadly, but even from the outside you can see how beautiful it is.
At this point, my headache became unbearable, so we went to a restaurant to sit down, and then called it a day.
The next day, we woke up early intending to go to Real Mary King Close, a 17th century close preserved underneath the current Royal Mile but we underestimated just how popular it would be and we couldn’t get tickets. Instead, we chose to carry on from where we finished the day before, and continued walking down the Royal Mile. I’d like to remind you that I had no knowledge of Edinburgh, so I was gobsmacked when we encountered this.
The peak of this (which, you actually can’t see on this picture…sorry) is Arthur’s Seat, which is the highest point in Edinburgh. It was a beautiful day, and I was feeling determined to walk up a hill without my head feeling like it was going to pop, so we marched up to the almost top, and then I stumbled the rest of the way. In my defense, I was wearing Primark pumps because we hadn’t set out to climb a hill that day. It was a beautiful walk, and we got to see so much from the peak. I did panic a lot at the top, as a huge wind picked up and I was convinced I was going to slip off the edge, so I just sat down and got to look at everything around me. I wish there were more hills to climb in Liverpool!
Matt had to go back to work at 4, so we were limited with what we could do as we had to go back to his diggs to pick up my bag before I left. Seeing as we were right next door to it, we headed into Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. We really were in a rush, so we flew around the palace but it did contain some significant historical items that I’d have loved to have been able to really study. The palace is closed when the Queen is in residence, but I’d really like to know if she uses the historical rooms, or if there are newer apartments we don’t see. The bedsheets in the old Queen’s apartment certaintly looked newer than those in the King’s! At the back of the palace are the well preserved ruins of Holyrood Abbey, ruined since the 18th century. It is a stunning building, and it’s incredible that it was made by hand, with no machines. It feels like a lost art really, I doubt many modern day buildings will have as much as an impact in 300 years.
After we’d finished admiring the Abbey, we headed back to Matt’s digs so he could go to work and I could catch a train back to Liverpool. As sad as I was to leave such a beautiful city, my feet were looking forward to walking on flat land again.
And that, sadly, was the end of my trip to Edinburgh! My next trip is Bristol, and I’m very excited about it, but I’d love to be going back to Scotland some time soon!
Have you been to Edinburgh? If not, would you like to?