Post 3- Visiting the capitol of Scotland
It wasn’t long after I moved to Scotland that a trip from Aberdeen, my home base to Edinburgh was planned. I returned a few times but the first visit was completely a stereotypical tourist experience and I loved that.
A friend who was very familiar gave us a tour of the amazing city with wonderful insider secrets and showed us spots I doubt I’d have seen in any other situation. The weather was beautiful and inviting and set a calm, exploratory pace that made discovering this city highly enjoyable. This initial introduction to Edinburgh opened my eyes to the amazing history of this ancient fortressed city, showed me stunning architecture, winding cobblestoned streets, eccentric, colourful shops and cafes and definitely saw me addicted to this city. There’s a feeling of catching a glimpse of the past when walking down a street abandoned by people, constructed with stone that holds stories and whispers secrets as you run a hand over its course, cool surface. Rounding a corner, descending steps worn by centuries of feet, seeing the outline of Edinburgh castle dominate the skyline just stops you in your tracks. Built atop ‘castle rock’ settlement dates from the Iron ages with the castles construction dating back to the 12th century, that to me is truly amazing, thinking if all that has happened from then to now, the things the castle has seen and caused, the lives that were lived. Honestly, no matter where I go one of my favourite things is learning the history of a place. To see and learn even half there is to know of Edinburgh would take far more trips than I’ve presently made but I did manage to soak up just enough to appease my appetite temporally. We explored the dungeons, walked through gardens and greenhouses, saw ruins that tempt your imagination, tease to what might have been.
One of the most surprising finds in out tour of the city was Calton Hill. After walking a little away from Princes street, we came across what looked like steep steps to a tropical garden. Intrigued by the unique entrance and seclusion, the lack of an clue as to what lay atop the stairs, we ventured on. Reaching the top I was amazed.
Monuments that look like they should be in ancient Greece stand proud and tall high above the city. The view allowed for a peak over the part of Edinburgh that faces the sea and shows a different side of the city from this hidden oasis.
Another unbelievable experience was discovering that there is a mountain in Edinburgh city that is virtually unheard of by the majority of people. Anyone I asked regarding their knowledge of its existence replied with ‘No, I’ve never heard of that’.
Arthurs Seat rises above the city to a height of 822 feet and after surviving this substantial assent the view over the city is beyond comparison, completely breathtaking. Castle rock on which Edinburgh Castle is built, was formed by an extinct volcano system approximately 350 million years old and was eroded by a glacier moving from west to east approximately two million years exposing rocky crags and creating a striking feature in the city. Arthurs seat provides stunning panoramic views of the city. With the option of a relatively easy to climb this is an incredibly popular walking spot and was dotted with people using this natural wonder as a fantastic outdoor exercise venue. It can be climbed from almost any direction, the easiest and simplest ascent is from the east. A soft, gentle slope, tall reeds and an expanse of quietness with an air of calm makes this walk beside Dunsapie Loch and beneath the shadow of the towering hill tranquil and very enjoyable. There is also Salisbury Crags which has historically been a rock climbing venue with routes of various degrees of difficulty. No matter your fitness or your inclination for a challenge there is a route to suit everyone and once atop this mountain the climb is worth every minute of struggle. Even taking a quick rest while picking our way up one of the more challenging avenues, sitting on a mass of ancient volcanic rock the view to been seen from any angle, at any height is spectacular and an experience I will never forget.
Each time I visited Edinburgh I managed to take full advantage to its electric night life. It was really mesmerizing to see the city in contrast like that, transforming from day to night and adopting a new atmosphere. Equally vibrant and busy by day and by night however the change in the light does completely create a different city, one no less colourful that its day time counterpart but also sharing no similarity in the mood it creates in you. Coming from a place with very few options for night time venues, the shear volume to choose from here was a little over-whelming. Again thankfully we were accompanied by someone who already had experienced this sense of unknown and spent time finding spots they liked and could direct us towards the less overly tourist populated and more unspoken of delights that made for some very enjoyable and unpredictable nights. Once I found myself in a tiny bar that transported you to the 20s, hanging chandeliers, all manner of cocktail and clientele. Another time I was in a bar that seems to only serve shots and encouraged salsa dancing and total abandonment of self consciousness, then I happened upon a darkened room that called itself a bar, served only beer and played heavy rock. I loved that no matter where I went, choosing never to repeat the same place twice, there was always surprise, everything was always new and uniquely wonderful.
Living in Scotland during the summer and missing Fringe festival would be a crime. Not wanting to waste the opportunity I just had to return again to Edinburgh to take full advantage of the festival known the world over and respected as one of the most diverse celebrations of the arts and the worlds biggest arts festival. Streets lined with stalls, performers entertaining audiences gathered in every available space, pop up shows of every theme and performance style, plays, comedies and concerts meant that every minute was beyond expectations and full of variety and incredible artistic experiences. One of the best things I attended was called ‘Flown’ and it was a modern circus performance show that put the behind the scenes of a circus onto the stage, showed incredible acrobatic and musical displays. The finale saw the performers take to harnesses and swing over the crowd, twisting and turning, grazing the tops of heads and spiking adrenaline to unbelievable heights. The band even joined in the spectacle with the entire drum set lifting into the air and creating music from above a crowd that gasped and was dazzled by the unbelievable feats being achieved. We attended dance performances, satirical sketches, unknown bands and other performances I don’t quite know how to categorize nor would I ever want to. I would highly and without any doubt recommend the experience of Fringe Festival to all.
Edinburgh for me was an intoxicating experience. I met so many new people, created dynamic and unrepeatable memories, discovered hidden wonders and awe inspiring structures, saw more colour than anywhere else I have been and felt captivated by the constant electricity of the culture and people of this one of a kind city. I have no doubt I will return to Edinburgh many times in my lifetime and with each trip discover something I have never seen or felt before. A real highlight of Scotland, potentially a trap of tourist attractions and the overly advertised but once you wander off the beaten track, be brave and look in the opposite direction to the crowd, it is a really special and powerful place.
Tune in Friday for more Scottish adventure stories….