During my semester abroad in London freshman year, a group of friends and I decided to take a train up to Scotland for the weekend. As I had never been to Scotland before, the only image I had in my head was people in plaid skirts playing the bagpipes. Although I did end up watching many street performers play the bagpipes, I also experienced so much more. I ended up falling in love with the streets, the people and the ambiance of the city of Edinburgh, where we stayed and had such a good time. Maybe one day, you will have the pleasure of ending up in Scotland as well! Until then, let me tell you more about it.
First off — and this probably isn’t healthy, so don’t do this if or when you visit — I had a soda called Irn-Bru, which I drank practically every meal. Irn-Bru is a Scottish carbonated soft drink that is so popular it might as well be Scotland’s national drink. It is orange-flavored, fizzy and absolutely delicious. I wouldn’t recommend having it with every meal like I did, but you have to try it at least once! Beware: The added caffeine and high sugar levels definitely increase your adrenaline.
I am not usually a fan of the rain, but in Scotland, it was such a vibe that I was fine letting my hair frizz and piling on three scarves. It made the experience feel adventurous and all the more fun. For my entire stay, I felt as if I had time traveled into another dimension where I was surrounded by castles and a sense of mystery. All the people were welcoming and friendly, laughing as they splashed through puddles together and ran into cafes to grab warm cups of coffee.
One of my favorite parts of this trip was going on tours. Like many other cities are beginning to do, Edinburgh offers homeless individuals the opportunity to lead city tours. Through an organization called Invisible Edinburgh, homeless people provide their personal perspective of the streets of Edinburgh and, in return, giving tours increases their confidence, establishes a sense of purpose and allows them to share their stories.
Another reason I fell in love with Scotland was Arthur’s Seat, the main peak of an extinct volcano that overlooks all of Edinburgh. It’s about a two-hour hike, but there are plenty of viewpoints earlier on if you don’t want to hike all the way. I remember it started raining, and we definitely weren’t wearing the right clothes or shoes, but seeing the rainbow from the top of Arthur’s Seat and laughing about how ridiculous we looked were worth it.
On our last day, being big “Harry Potter” fans, we went to have tea and croissants at The Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling used to eat and write. If you are a “Harry Potter” fan, Edinburgh is definitely the place to go. Tombstones near the cafe show character names Rowling used, and the secondary school nearby looks extremely similar to Hogwarts.
Being a history buff, I had so much fun walking by the cheese shops through Edinburgh’s Old Town, going down the cobbled streets and passing by historical houses. You can’t help but develop a deep fascination with the city and the buildings as they tower over you, waiting to be noticed. I was in awe of everything the entire time, and I loved seeing how much history is embedded into the city. Feeling like I transported myself back in time to a much simpler world, I felt calm and reflective.
I can’t emphasize the endless number of things you can do in Edinburgh. I felt like I saw so much in just two days, but imagine how much you could see if you visited for longer. Everything about Scotland, from the crisp air and the historical buildings to the cobbled streets and Irn-Bru, made the trip one I’ll never forget.
If you get the chance, you should go!