My flight landed early in the morning. I cleared the lengthy immigration and officially entered Europe! The airport has a unique double-decker bus serving the city center for a convenient ￡7/$10. I hopped right on it, and rushed to the front seat of the second floor. HELL YEAH!
the blue double-decker bus
It was a scenic and quick ride. I had not seen so much greenery for such a long time. However, to welcome me, Scotland maintained a classic gloomy weather. I got off at the center of the city, called Waverley bridge, and started walking towards the hostel. I looked at the map and thought it was just an easy short walk, as I looked up into the real world, I realized it was wayyyyy uphill. I struggled my way into the iron gates of the hostel 20 minutes later and checked in around 10a.m. only to realize it doesn’t matter at the end as my dreams and aspirations were dead long before, so who cares if I die carrying myself up a hill? I walked back outside after a short break, and found out the hostel conveniently named Castle Rock is right underneath the famous Edinburgh Castle. It was only a few steps away from all the actions, and I was such a smart guy to choose that as my base in Edinburgh! (shameless haha) I walked all the way back downhill to the Scottish National Museum, one of the best around the area. It surely did not disappoint: it was absolutely free.
Scottish National Museum
Its content, however, was more or less average. It has almost everything you could cram into a museum, any kind of museum. You have your stuffed animals and fossils from a natural history museum; you have your antiques and artifacts from a human history museum; you got your airplanes, trains, steam engines and car models for a transportation museum; you also have walls covered with maps and indigenous clothing from a folk museum; and of course why not include some fine paintings and visual arts from an art museum? It felt like a KFC lunch-deal mega-large-extra-humongous portion value-bucket, it is cheap, and it looks fine, and it feels great when you are enjoying it, but when you finish it, you walk out and realize: hey, it may not be the best idea to shove so many things down my throat in such a short amount of time.
After the museum, I took a walk around the city, and surely it was a beautiful day in the Scottish capital. The blue sky was reflected on the bronze statues, and the cobblestone streets echoed on the walls as flocks of people wandered up and down the main road: Lawnmarket, otherwise known as the Royal Mile. I found a pizza/middle-eastern joint which is very popular in Europe, and I knew it is usually very cheap, and I ordered a shwarma with lassi.
this is what I love about Europe the most: shwarmas for $5
Quickly after I devoured the food, I took a stroll back onto the top of the hill along Lawnmarket, trying to pay a visit to the famed Edinburgh Castle. Of course it was extremely crowded and the line just to buy a goddamn ticket was longer than my bucket list. I prompted decided to come back another time, preferably earlier so I could avoid human interaction and the swarming tourists.
Edinburgh Castle from the outside, facing the gate house
I knew there was another great place for me to visit, which is a mountain called Arthur’s Seat. It lies to the east of the city center, and sits mightily above the skyline of the city. I just finished flying from another continent, but I guess climbing a mountain should be fun with severe jet lag. As I walked down the streets towards the green hill, I passed by a cafe that sounds awfully familiar: Elephant House. This is the place that J.K. Rowling got her inspiration to write for a book series called Harry Potter.
the birthplace of the wizarding world
I continued down the streets and up the hill, and I found a lovely castle-like house by the road that is now some kind of private club. Money surely gets you places I would say.
won’t this be nice if you can have a home like this?
Finally I reached the park proper. I loved the fact that the mountain was simply covered by flowers and grass, not trees. Not many people were there walking around on this cloudy afternoon, and it was perfect since the summer wind was dampened by the ocean and cooled by the lack of sun, yet it was quite bright and the air was crystal clear.
I scaled up the mountain quite easily, as Kilimanjaro was no joke for your body. The view from up top was definitely charming, and I sat on top of it, played some music, and felt the wind brushing through the grass. It was a great afternoon, despite 24 hours ago, I would be in Africa! Yesterday I was still shivering in the African cold, and now I was feeling the summer breeze on my face. This kind of feeling is what makes you realize the world is small, sometimes, too small.
view of the city
I slowly descended from the other side of the mountain, and I found myself by the ocean on a grassy hill. Flowers bloomed in the steps, and the swans bent their necks as if they were greeting me. I walked around the hill, and decided to take a little detour of the well-trotted road, and head up the mountain ranges again just because I could. I was quickly surrounded by flower fields, with occasional rustling of the grass patches by the wind, or a little rabbit, or perhaps, some rare Pokemon. After a difficult ascent and descent, I came across a ruin of an old church that had more than 500 years of history.
a shard of the past
I walked back towards the city center, and I was quickly attracted to a beautiful little store selling fish n’chips, and it would be a blasphemy if I do not enter and treat myself once! I climbed so much in the past hour for fish and chips’ sake! I ordered the biggest fish and waited for happiness to hit me on the head like a Taylor Swift song. They say love is mad. They are right.
Newton’s 4th law: fish+chips=life
I promptly finished my dinner and hopped to a square right beside a statue on Lawnmarket, and I was joining an underground ghost tour! It takes you through the most haunted, scariest, most dangerous narrow lanes in the city, and showcases the most incredible stories that happened on this piece of land! We started with public execution, which happened right on this square where people would be lashed until their blood, bone, muscle, and skin mix into a lovely red pulp, and people would get to witness how far the blood can spill from someone’s severed neck after his head was chopped off, or how strong the human body could be when it was being torn apart by 4 horses dragging it in different directions… We then continued to the narrow allies, where the old stories of an executed felon was told. This slightly limped man was executed but before anyone noticed, his hand went missing. Thus, it is said that on the darkest nights or the foggiest days, people would hear a set of hurried, uneven footsteps around the alleyway, as if someone was very, very fond of looking something. The most unfortunate motherfuckers would sometimes feel a tap on the shoulder, and usually the last time they were heard was their awful and painful screams echoing in the small damp lanes. The elders always say, it was the missing hand looking for its owner…
on a foggy night, when someone taps you on a shoulder here, DON’T.LOOK.BACK.
We then continued down to an underground tunnel system. Lawnmarket used to be a bridge, as the Edinburgh Castle was high up on the hill, and the road leading to it was somewhat of a bridge. All other roads go beneath it, and there are of course, a lot of good space under the bridge. However, as the city slowly developed, the roads were cushioned higher in order to connect with Lawnmarket, making the space under these bridges connected caves through a large system. Lots of the poor lived in these damp, dark places, and some commerce even emerged. Not only were there general shops and food distributions, there were also carpenters, shoemakers, and other skilled workers. A lot of people used some to store wine, and of course, dark dealings such as murder, kidnapping, human trafficking, prostitution, drug dealing, and others all thrived like hippies after WWII. Thus, this dark place also holds a lot of unbelievable secrets, and of course, some rather peculiar supernatural beings. A lot of ghosts were said to have been spotted down here, and a lot of the rather dangerous encounters were rumored as well. As I walked down the crooked stairs, I realized it was dark, very dark. The guide took a candle by himself, and that was it, no lights, no emergency exit lamps, and not even a fucking patch of glowing moss. (seriously maybe I should stop playing games that have glowing moss in dungeons) One after another scary story was told, one after another girl in the group lost her shit, one after another room with dripping water and rancid air was explored, and suddenly, puff! He blew off the candle, and the entire dungeon became absolutely pitch black. It was so dark that your senses became hyper-alert: I could feel the person beside me breathing, and another person nervously shaking his legs, and another person so scared that some kind of liquid was dripping down… We then finally retreated back to a room with lights, and had a drink together, and ran back home scared shitless as an ominous wind blew onto our feet as the candles suddenly went out.
Scotch trials: a drink in the dungeon
Haha I promise I am done with this kind of nonsense, for today. I slept exceptionally well despite all the ghost stories, proving that jet leg is the real demon in our hearts. I woke up early to take another tour to the famed grasslands in Scotland, and I was more than excited because it had sooooo much packed in a short day! Loch Ness, Inverness, the highlands, and so much more!
The highlands & Glencoe
We started early, and quickly made our way to the west of Edinburgh. We passed by many heavily forested areas and many other towns along the highway, and we stopped at a little coffee shop by the road around 9:30a.m. It was a touristy operation, so the price and the souvenirs offered was not surprising for me. I could not care less about fridge magnets. However, they did have two beautiful Scottish highland cows. They looked like two hippies who decided to get out of the city life and live in the countryside while beginning accumulating facial hair. In other words: they are fabulous.
to say they are not pretty is just bovine excrement
After the short break, we started our climb up the slopes to the highlands. The journey was fast and easy, and before too long we were on the steps of the famous Glencoe. This place not only has breathtaking scenery, but also a lot of history. A lot of men of clan MacDonald were brutally murdered in this area and many still mourn their loss as a tragedy of history. The green grass and the formidable mountains, coupled with gentle streams and wild flowers, made the place even more unforgettable.
Glencoe in all its glory
To truly experience greatness, you have to be part of it.
After a long gaze down the windy valley, we continued down to Fort William, and had a lunch stop. We then passed by many beautiful lochs (lakes) and small towns just blooming with flowers and little shops. Every place had such nice character, and all I found in Scotland was pure amazement and great scenery.
on the road
We then passed by a memorial which I promptly forgot its name. The weather started to turn grey and lots of water fell from the sky, as some others would call it rain. But after passing another town called Port Augustus, we finally reached the famed Loch Ness. We drove along its shore for almost 5 miles and continued through to a headland on which the famous Urquhart Castle was located.
Loch Ness & Pitlochry
The castle was beautifully constructed by many of its leaders during the long struggle between Scotland and England, and of course, plundered by Vikings numerous times because why not. It was now lying in ruins and only had a shadow of its previous glory. The lack of artifacts found around the castle suggested that it was abandoned not in a hurry, and the gatehouse was deliberately sabotaged by the last occupants by dynamite so that nobody could use it ever again. Lots of workshops were found there, as leather, copper, timber, and other goods were processed there. There were also lots of food storage and production. There was a pigeon tower, a bakery, a yard for grazing cattle, and many other patches of land in the Ness valley that grew wheat, barley, etc. It was fully self-sufficient back in its heyday, but now it was nothing more than a pile of cubic rocks.
Urquhart Castle and its strategic position
I explored the grounds with a local guide, and learned a lot about the changing of hands between English and Scottish lords that took place in this castle, no matter it was by siege or by negotiation. I also learned about the ways they train the pigeons, regulate the economy, defend the castle, ship the goods out to the outside world, and the quality of life in the castle. It was an interesting walk at this rather gloomy afternoon, but that all brought me back a few hundred years as if I was one of the villagers in this mighty stronghold.
looking through a few hundred years, and still, the same Loch Ness
I then took a cruise around Loch Ness, and to be fair, the weather was miserable and that made the trip rather pointless. I was there mainly for the fact that I might get a chance to spot the Loch Ness Monster, or as the locals call it, Nessie. However, I still enjoyed it somehow as I am a masochist, uh, I mean I am very positive about things. Though I did not find a Nessie in the lake, I did find one on the shore after we landed, so I guess I will call it a successful expedition.
Nessie sightings confirmed?
We proceeded to head for Inverness, and on the road we encountered a very very low rainbow that was generated by the mist caused by the heavy rain. It lied straight across Loch Ness and looked like a unicorn was about to appear above us and vomit candies all over our faces.
Nessie Pride Parade 2016
We passed by Inverness, the capital of the highlands, and we started our journey back. We then passed by many small towns full of craft markets and flowers, which made my heart scream like a 13-year-old girl on Bieber fever. We finally made a stop at the town of Pitlochry, which was famous for ice cream. Though it was a day as wet as my roommate’s dream, and I was shivering after the rain on the cruise as it completely drenched me like a salad overdressed in vinaigrette. But hey, it is ice cream! The day I say no to ice cream is the day that I am ready to be laid to rest.
my beautiful, beautiful lover with her ephemeral beauty
heading back to Edinburgh, more rainbows!
I finished the ice cream and wandered around the village, the weather was slightly better, and it was a pleasant little touristy town. I kinda had to avoid all the crowds since they were just swarming all the shops. We got back to Edinburgh, and I just met up with two new friends in my hostel room, and we headed up for a fast food restaurant. We went into this popular joint, and it turned out it had poutine! As a Canadian, it is my duty to test out all poutines in the world, and so forth I went with it. It was great as always, and the restaurant had its own special touch with different sauces, more bacon than any nutritionist would suggest, etc. Of course, I paired it up with the Scottish national non-alcoholic drink, Irn-Bru. It tastes like toothpaste flavor coca cola, ummmmm~!
I slept very well that night, given the sheer amount of calories I had and the early rise. I woke up with no idea what I should do for the day, and the hostel receptionist suggested: “why not Saint Andrews?” So here I come, Saint Andrews!
I went to the Waverley Train Station around noon after sleeping in, and I asked if any train was going to Saint Andrews. “Oh you need to change to bus at another station, and the last train going that direction leaves in 3 minutes.” I ran like I saw a free Tim Hortons coupon, and hopped onto the train with a ticket clutched in my hand right before the door slammed shut. I sat down by the window, started breathing normally, and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery as we passed the Scottish shores.
the enjoyment of being on the go, passing Forth of Fife
I arrived in the transit train station Leuchars with absolutely no idea how the fuck I was supposed to get to Saint Andrews. A few buses came and went, and just as me and a few others started to lose hope, a small bus marked with “Saint Andrews”showed up. The travelers quickly filled the small bus, and the bus slowly pulled into the countryside. After twenty minutes, I got off the at the center street, and found myself in an incredibly beautiful town. The entire place had no modern architecture, yet retained some kind of updated feel. There were so many cute little shops and coffee shops, and I could not tell if I was in a movie set or a real town.
I walked right into St. Andrews University without me even realizing it, and I found myself in a lovely courtyard with impeccably green grass, and century-old buildings still used as lecture halls. Some couples of students walked across the field while having smiles as bright as the afternoon sun, making it quite painful to watch for me. Roses were blooming, and so were all kinds of other flowers meticulously planted at the sides. Dating back to 1410, this university had been one of the best in the entire kingdom since its earliest days. I found my university have nothing compared to this small place.
shall we lunch here, m’lady?
After I walked out from the other side of the campus, I quickly ran into a small Lutheran church. It was simply the best small church I had seen in my life so far. The flowers, the tinted glass window, and the worse-for-wear rooftop along with the summer breeze made me wish I had learned how to sketch and just sat there for three hours so that I could record such perfection. Sadly I did not learn enough to put down this kind of beauty, and I had to resort to my camera.
shall we marry here, m’lady?
I then proceeded to the famous cathedral. It was actually the remaining parts of what used to be the biggest religious building in perhaps the entire Scotland. Now what remained was a just a few broken walls, a tower and a dwindling number of tombstones. I found it to be a kind of hauntingly mesmerizing experience. It was so beautiful, yet so sad. Time had devoured almost all of this once-majestic structure, just like what it could do with almost everything in this world.
be brought into a different world via this gate brocken by time
The great worshiping hall only had a few stumps of columns now, and I felt incredibly small just by standing on top of these remnants.
look how big the stumps are!
I slowly skimmed my hands through the weathered walls, as if I am absorbing from the history of this place full of miracles and tragedies. The wall abruptly ended at a side, leaving me a bit lost. The battles and rebellions may had not only broken the walls of this grand cathedral, but also a piece of history here that we would never be able to recover.
a half-sided wall, or a well-constructed fence?
I went to the visitor center, and asked for the receptionist to get me a ticket so that I could see the artifacts uncovered from this site. She explained that if I had not visited Edinburgh Castle, it would be actually cheaper to buy a visitor’s pass that included both destinations. I gladly obliged, and then I realized she had one of the bluest eyes I had ever seen. Seriously, as a regular reader, (if you are still reading this 12-part journey I am pretty damn sure you are one of the die-hard ones, thanks by the way) you know I almost never comment on people’s looks because I think we are all just walking pieces of bones and muscles, so nothing much to talk about. However, I have to make an exception here, and seriously I am not even kidding. I usually don’t care about people’s eye color, because I cannot see very well without my glasses, but this person holy shit I bet 300 Thai Bhat that everyone has to notice her eyes the moment the conversation starts. It was almost as blue as those fake-ass 3 dollar contacts being sold as a second hand in Ebay. It is the kind of blue that you get to see in a Hollywood movie in which the protagonist is a robot or something. I literally was speechless for a solid three seconds. I had no idea that human eyes could be so blue. It is not biologically possible! Anyways, I thanked her and moved into the dank moist cellar of the church, in which a lot of artifacts were stored, including a lot of covers for coffins. The common theme for coffins around that time in Europe was death, so there were just countless numbers of skulls, grim reapers, and his scythe. It was a bone-chilling experience, and the main attraction, a sarcophagus was also a masterpiece coming from the dark ages with intricate carvings of god in many forms, which incorporated some Egyptian myths too. I came out of the dungeon to find myself in a broken tower filled with light. It was a spiritual experience I am sure.
the sun, like love, finds its way
I climbed up top the remaining old church tower called St. Rules Tower, and found myself at the tip of this city. The view of the city was like one from a map, the streets clearly laid out and landmarks vibrantly colored.
the view from St. Rules tower
Of course, being a large cathedral, the church needed to have a graveyard for all the believers who wanted to be buried with God. Thus, a few of the most prominent people of St. Andrews history was buried here. If any one of you plays golf, you definitely know that St. Andrews is the place where the golf was born, and also where one of the best courses was in. The inventor of golf, Tom Morris, nicknamed Timmy, along with his son, were buried alongside in this place. Rest in a hole, my man.
Timmy and his beloved golf
Then I started walking towards the shoreline and passed a little crabcatcher harbor. The city by the ocean was just full of relics from older times, and sometimes the city has to be built around them!
the road under an old gate
Then around the corner I saw the famed Saint Andrews Castle. It was in ruins but in style. Sitting right on top of the crashing ocean, it surely entells a lot of history. It had served as the housing place for all prominent bishops and wealthy since the early 1200s, as St. Andrews was the ecclesiastical center of the entire Scotland. I approached it with great reverence, and as the sea breeze slowly dissipated near the castle walls, I entered the front door with my explorer pass. There was a small museum display that details the most significant siege of this place that happened here during the Scottish Reformation. After imprisoning a Protestant priest in the Sea Tower in 1546 as the Protestants were viewed as threats to Scottish Catholic elites, Bishop Beaton at that time found himself dead and hung on top of the very castle walls he reside in as a small group of Protestants infiltrated the castle disguised as masons. A siege was ordered and a stalemate started. John Knox, the famous protesting Protestant, served as the preacher of the defenders for a while, before the French decided to come fuck shit up and blew their asses into the cold wavy North Sea.
I am a princess, I have a castle by the sea
I walked within the ruins, and I was immediately infected with the tales of the past. You could clearly see the areas where they kept the livestock, where the governing personals resided and where the lower classes lived. There was a well in the middle of the courtyard, likely supplying water during a siege. The watergate were securely guarded, and the walls thickly patched. However, it was still in a strangely renaissance style thanks to one of its previous owners who decided it was not just enough as a giant fortress but a piece of art as well.
What interested me the most, however, was the mine and countermine dug during the long lasting siege in 1546. The year-long battle was so drawn out that the attacking party decided to dig a tunnel underground and get inside the castle. Of course, that was noticed by the defense, and they decided to dig a countermine to literally undermine the others’ efforts. However, they had no idea where the mine was and had to listen very closely where the digging was coming from. The attacking mine was dug to be wide and supportable with light because siege weapons would be needed to initiate the devastating blow. The countermine, however, was dug in a hurry as they had less materials at disposal and their only goal was to find the mine and thwart it. I crouched down and still could barely move in the countermine, and the conditions truly were horrific. Both mines cut through solid rock, and mosses and algae dominated the surfaces where light could reach. The water dripping through the cracks and flow through the little holes and trenches, forming a long line of green algae. The ladder connecting the mine and the countermine was also incredibly small, which forced me to drop my backpack into the other side and then slide through the small opening in order to pass. The opening of the mine was initiated in a house, so that acted as a disguise. However, exiting that way would mean I exit the castle! So of course, I doubled back, crouched down, and re-emerged within the castle wall boundaries.
mine and countermine diagram
Then I further explored the castle, and after a while, I voluntarily exited the building, and found myself in a lovely plot of land facing the ocean that was one part of the old castle river. It was so beautiful that I had to take a note of it so that I can dream of coming here with my imaginary girlfriend.
when it is so green, that it makes your eyes shine
I came face to face with another University of St. Andrews complex. This one has a beautiful castle-like building facing the ocean. It is probably the best university building I have seen in my short but pathetic life. I was in awe, and in love.
university property, much-better-than-my-school version
After admiring the beautiful, antique structures scattered all around the coast, I walked around this charming little town even more just to fully absorb the history in this gem of Scotland. The houses were decorated from bottom to top with roses and other flowers, and ivy slowly marked its territory on the jagged path provided by the old maroon bricks forged by a smith hundreds of years ago. Sea birds and land birds alike adorn the skies with their wings and caws, and the dew on the leaves of roses was barely evaporating, and acted like small prisms, scattering the lazy sunlight into tiny rainbows on the walls.
St. Andrews street
I was enjoying the scenery so much that I completely forgot about the time, and god damn I was good at picking the right time to forget about time. (haha it’s all about time) It was a Sunday and the entire Scottish Railway system was on fucking strike, as usual. There was only one more train going from Leuchars back to Edinburgh, and I needed to run like Usian Bolt to the bus station to catch a bus. I met a mom with her son waiting anxiously at the bus terminal as well, and we both voiced our concerns but since it was Scotland it was useless. We hopped onto the bus, and got off just in time for the train to arrive, except the train was delayed for a solid 15 minutes…
We talked a lot on our way back, and the little son loved my energy bar, which made him call me “the best brother” he had had and both me and his mother laughed. The train slowly shook its way into Waverley Station as the sun descended into the horizon, and I waved his little hand goodbye. It is the random people you meet during the travels that make the experience so much better, and I found out those strangers never disappointed me. On my way back, I realized I had not had a real Scottish meal yet, and I asked a pedestrian which restaurant his favorite was, and he pointed me towards this little pub on Lawnmarket. I ordered a haggis and a glass of scotch, and hereby beginning my scotch trials.
nothing better to end this day with a Scottish dinner
I know a lot of people really cannot take haggis as it is made of liver, but to me, a Chinese (I guess I still am?), it is really nothing too much to handle. It was topped on creamy mashed potato and dressed under a tasty sauce. It was a great experience, as I sat at the corner with my scotch, and looked at the entire pub being filled with people. It was lonely, but I did not mind, as watching people chatting and drinking and toasting made me happy as well, as I like to imagine I was one of the group as well.
people watching in a little pub in Edinburgh
I walked out of the pub feeling slightly dizzy, and the summer sun had already started taking back its light. I walked my way up the Royal Mile, and slumbered like a baby koala. I woke up to my last day in Edinburgh with a grand mission: the Edinburgh castle. I turned around the corner and entered the castle with my explorer pass right as it opened, and thankfully there were not too many crowds so that I was not reminded of China. I joined a guided-tour of the castle and the lady started detailing all the history inside these cobbled walls.
the entrance to the castle, Portcullis Gate
The castle is likely the most besieged in the world, and after the two Scottish wars of independence, there were even more drama to take place in its 1100-year history. The most notable one is of course, regarding Mary, Queen of Scots. 1542, King James V of Scotland died, leaving the throne to his 5-year-old daughter, Mary. In 1561, the Catholic Mary began her reign despite the entire elite class in Scotland was Protestant. In 1566, her son with another Catholic nobility somewhere in the then-messed-up Europe, was born in the castle, and was named James VI. The elites rebelled against her as she married the murder suspect of her ex-husband in 1567, and she was forced to abdicate, fleeing to England. The people loyal to her, and the people who controlled the 1-year-old James, began a long civil war, and the castle was in a siege called the Lang Siege.
It continued to 1573, and the Catholics, those who were loyal to Mary, had been confined to defending the castle, and the town of Edinburgh was already occupied by the Protestants. 1000 English troops arrived and bombarded the shit out of the defenses, leading to the end of this struggle. However, King James VI eventually became the first king to rule all Scotland and England, which made this entire struggle a win on Queen Mary: King James VI was raised Catholic. Ironic, isn’t it?
Then Civil War happened in 1600s, Jacobite uprising in 1700s, and the castle became a major garrison and did not see much action ever since. Nowadays it is just a tourist trap and houses some museums and some military administrative headquarters. Enough with the history, now I introduce you to all the things inside these glorious walls. THINGS~!
National War Museum within the walls
Once you enter the castle through the gatehouse, you pass by the main Portcullis Gate, you walk up a road to the first open area with a few battery and a one-o’clock gun. The gun is fired every day at 1 p.m. in order to keep track of time during the old times, and now is kept as a tradition in many places, mainly used to attract more tourist traffic and scare the pigeons shitless.
a map showing some remaining time guns in the world, and I visited the one in Fremantle not long ago!
Continuing on the road, you would enter the administrative area. The place had the administrative headquarters and old hospital, as well as the old mint, and the museum, and of course, a giftshop. There were also the army barracks built during the 18th and 19th century, which used to house hundreds of soldiers as the castle served more like a military compound than a seat of power.
a statue to the west side of the compound
Keep going uphill and pass Foog’s Gate, you would see the top of the hills divided in two parts. To the north is the oldest building in the castle complex and the only one that had survived so many bombardments, St. Margaret Chapel, arguably the oldest building and likely the smallest in whole of Edinburgh. In front of it is a the biggest siege gun I have ever seen called Mons Meg, which was recorded to fire a crazy 3 kilometers distance!
looking up to Foog’s Gate
To the south you have the famous Crown Square, with four royal buildings surrounding it. The Scottish War Memorial recorded every Scot who died in all wars, civil or foreign, in the history, and houses a solemn chamber for all posterity to remember. Queen Anne building now houses a lot of Scottish crown jewel, and the coronation stone for kings of Scotland called Stone of Scone, was also displayed there. This rock is legendary in its own right. The rock was used for coronation of all Scottish kings, and it was brought back to Westminster Abbey as a spoil of war by King Edward I in 1296 and a chair was made with a compartment to house that exact stone. English kings were coronated on that chair ever since it was made, showing their thought that England always had Scotland underneath. It was stolen and accidentally broken by 4 nationalist students in 1950, and returned back to London. It was eventually returned to Scotland officially after 700 years in 1996. The Royal Palace is another place that was long not-used, as there was no monarch living in it ever since King James VI became the king of both England and Scotland after Elizabeth I’s childless death. The Grand Hall is still kept to be in its original shape, and stepping into this giant hall designed to look like a ship upside down easily makes someone reminiscent of the past.
the great hall’s ceiling is designed to look like the skeleton of a boat
The walls were adorned with all kinds of armors and weapons, and the windows were colorfully stained to have different houses and coats of arms on them. It was clearly meant for very grandiose feasts and celebrations.
the windows facing the city
fireplace guarded by armors
From top of the hill, you can also have a brilliant vista over the city. The city is an ancient one, so more church domes and park trees dominate the skyline than modern glass windows or advertisement boards. I sat at the edge of the castle walls, and looked into the distance. It had been more than 2 months since I departed for Australia. I had been through so much, and I could barely believe that I was now in Europe, and more importantly, I had more to go! The fluffy grey clouds suddenly opened up, pouring the summer light onto the city, basking it in glory.
the view from the castle
I walked out of the castle after my visit, and I walked on the Royal Mile for the last time in this trip. The sheer amount of people made it more like a leaf flowing with the river kind of struggle than actually walking, but I was enjoying it anyway. Street performers played magic tricks, dressed up as clansmen, or were blushing red blowing a bagpipe. The shopkeepers were busy selling Kashmir and other souvenirs. The city felt so alive because it was so attractive.
walking on the Royal Mile
I had my lunch at a Thai restaurant, and left for the airport. I walked back down to Waverley Bridge, took the double-decker bus back, and checked in for my Ryanair “Business” class flight. It was more of a seat in the front row with priority check in, a free checked bag, and pretty much nothing else. But hey, it costs less than 30 dollars, so I am not complaining. The flight landed at London around dusk, and I waited for a solid 1 hour for my luggage, because the motto of London Stansted Airport is “Fuck you”.
a stroll in Edinburgh
On the flight, I couldn’t help but think about my experience in Scotland. Before I was there, I always knew it was a place of incredible history and beauty, as everyone was praising Scotland in movies and novels. However, I never had any idea how that could be presented to me. After my visit, I realized it was not presented, it was exuded. Every person, every street, every city, every church, every brick, and every blade of grass, all inherently contains a scent of history, a little piece of the past. Arthur’s Seat, the ghostly dungeons, Glencoe, highlands, Loch Ness, St. Andrews Church, and Edinburgh Castle, they are all shrouded in a thin layer of mysteriousness. There was always a secret tale behind something, and even the smallest object can have hundreds of years of history. That could not be more different than my previous month in Africa, and I definitely welcomed the change. The beautiful Sottish people and the beautiful Scotland, I will miss you every day, until the day I return.
a bar’s blackboard
I decided to take the airport shuttle bus that costs almost as much as my flight ticket, and stood at the bus terminal waited for the bus to depart. It was a classic drizzly night in London, and I was smiling because the stereotypes could not be more truthful. I had never properly experienced this city, and I was more than curious to check out what it has. Come on! It is London after all!