• Mckenzie Dow

A Quick Little Adventure: Scotland

I recently went to Scotland for the first time and I thought it was about time I shared my experiences, and possibly some recommendations!

I'll start by saying that Scotland was awesome. I did not find the people "intractable" by any means! I spent most of my time in Edinburgh exploring the small city and appreciating its history, art and architecture. There was so much to see and do and I seriously appreciated having a break from class and work. I'll be honest, I had planned to go to Scotland in 2015, but couldn't be bothered when I saw how ridiculous the exchange rate for Sterling was at the time. Finally, the trip was a bit more affordable in 2017 and all the Outlander episodes that I've been watching definitely pushed me to go (can you blame me? Look how GORGEOUS Sam Heughan from Outlander is in that GIF!!)

On the first day, I just wandered around the city like a lost puppy. It was so enjoyable to enjoy the rare sunny weather and attempt to get lost in the hilly streets. Edinburgh is small, so it turned out to be impossible to get lost, but still, it was great. The architecture in Edinburgh is really beautiful to look at. My eyes were constantly gazing upwards through the streets. The city is split into two parts, Old Town and New Town. If I had to guess, Old Town is mostly gothic architecture? While New Town is definitely of Georgian Influence. The two parts come together nicely and it was fun to wander between both sides throughout the afternoon just to get a feel for the place. I definitely had an odd feeling while I was there because Edinburgh is very similar to Dublin, but also very different so at times I felt as if I stumbled into a slightly-off parallel universe of sorts. (Pardon my shitty iPhone pictures, I'm waiting for my tax returns to buy a nicer quality DSLR).

The first evening, I indulged my cheesiness and decided to go on a walking ghost tour. It was a blast and our tour guide was really fun. The tour had three parts. First we stopped outside the old parliament building and learned about how Scotland became a part of the UK (with some horrific canablism tales thrown in). The second stop was in the Greyfriars cemetery where we learned about the haunted tombs and such. I really liked how spooky it was in the Graveyard but was also grateful that no one jumped out at us at any point. Our final stop was in an old underground tunnel where the poorest of the poor often had to reside centuries ago. According to the tour guide, a family living in there had been accused of witchcraft and were murdered!

The second day involved hitting a bunch of different attractions I had scoped out. I started my morning in St. Giles Cathedral. For anyone who follows me in Instagram, you know how much of a cathedral fangirl I am (despite being a staunch atheist). It was absolutely gorgeous in there and free of charge to explore, though if you wanted to take photos, there was a small fee, around £2 I think?

After St. Giles, I wandered back to Greyfriars cemetery in search of Tom Riddle's grave. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter Series wrote her first books in Edinburgh, meaning that she was inspired by the city quite often. In Greyfriars, there is an actual grave marker that has the name Tom Riddle (a.k.a. Voldemort). Next door to the cemetery is a prestigious private school that supposedly inspired the concept of Hogwarts. On my way back down the street from Greyfriars, I stopped at the Elephant House Cafe, where J.K. supposedly wrote the first Harry Potter novel.

After going to the cemetery I made my way to the Scottish National Gallery to get my art history fix. Despite the small size of the collection, I was ASTOUNDED at the variety and impressiveness of the collection. There were so many works from the Italian Renaissance which is probably my favourite period in all of art history (cliche I know). I highly recommend for anyone to stop by the gallery if you're visiting in Edinburgh because it's small enough that it won't take up your whole day but big enough to see really great works from amazing artists.

After the gallery, I made my way up to Edinburgh Castle. By this time it was nearly 3:00pm and went to purchase a ticket, the man working the booth informed me that the castle was still open but many of the museums inside would be closed and that I should reconsider coming at a time when they would be open, considering the entry fee was £16. Since I didn't want to waste £16 on only half the exhibit, I decided that I would go try something else. Oh well! The castle is definitely huge and you can get right up to it without having to pay anyways.

I wandered down around town once again and stumbled upon the Royal Surgeons Museum. The entry fee was only £5 and IT WAS SO WORTH IT. I am not that squeamish of a person when it comes to the science of the body. In fact, anatomy and physiology was my favourite science subject in high school (besides psychology of course). If you're not squeamish and interested in the human body, I highly recommend wandering around through this place. It has three floors, each with different preserved specimens of the human body. All of them are explained and most of the have something abnormal about them. Most of the specimens are sorted by medical specialty such as Neurology, Pediatrics and Cardiology. As a psychologist, I was most interested in the brains and nervous system items they had. I had never seen so many preserved brains in one place!! I spent a significant amount of time looking at brain tumours, hemorrhages and other abnormal brains. They also had displays about different tools and the history of medical surgery. I actually learned a lot roaming around the place and found it to be a creepy/super cool museum as a whole. The only part I breezed on through was the history of dentistry exhibit, simply because dentistry freaks me the f out and going to the dentist definitely terrifies me.

NOT MY PICTURE: It's from Jamie Bell Designs in the UK

The next day was my day for adventuring in the Highlands. Even though it was pissing rain I absolutely loved it. Not only did I get to go to Castle Doune (a.k.a Castle Leoch, looking at you Outlander fans), I was able to stop by the William Wallace monument and got to enjoy some of the best fish & chips I have ever had, despite being inland. I did all this on a day trip through the Hairy Coo tours company and they were absolutely great. My driver/tour guide was named Donald and he was so kind and fun. My favourite part of the tour was seeing the Hairy Coos! They were so cute and Donald really cared about their wellbeing which was great.

Hairy Coos!

Castle Doune

The William Wallace Monument

Overall, my whole trip was fantastic. It was a perfect balance between exploring the city and the country, the food was good and I had a lot of fun! If I were to go again, I would definitely want to maybe see some other towns across the country.

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