Good Times – and Places – in Scotland
We at BTSB looove Scotland! Check out Laura’s Scotland article from last year. In March I took a semi-spontaneous trip to Scotland with a bunch of friends. We had decided to go in a fit of late night wanderlust after a night of some university partying about a month before. The great thing about it was that we actually ended up executing this plan, conceived after midnight and a few glasses of wine!
It was the first time in the land of the unicorns for all of us, and also our first time arranging our accommodation through Airbnb – which, by the way, worked out really well, in case you are considering it. We got our own apartment with all its comforts and amenities – for a really good price. The place was very nice and everything with the owner went smoothly.
Here are some of my favorite places and experiences from the trip.
Arthur’s Seat is the highest point in Holyrood Park, just a short walk away from Edinburgh’s old town. If you like nature and are ready for a bit of a hike, this is a great way to do it without having to go out of your way to actually get to a place where you can hike. Ultimately though, Arthur’s Seat is for anyone who likes nice views since it certainly boasts the best ones in Edinburgh. Reaching the top can get surprisingly sweaty and tough – you won’t realize how high it really is until you’re there climbing – but the result is worth it, as Arthur’s Seat overlooks the city, the sea and the highlands all at the same time. Highly recommended, this was one of my absolute favorite things about the whole trip.
The Elephant House
What can a devoted Harry Potter –fan do? The Elephant House in Edinburgh is the café where J.K. Rowling wrote the first installment of the series – by hand. Nowadays the café doesn’t shy away from its fame acquired by a twist of fate, as the façade tells passers-by that they are walking past the “birth-place of Harry Potter”. Other than that, you can see the café’s Harry Potter history in the bathrooms, which are full of Potter-related inscriptions from fans all around the world. The café hasn’t abused its fame, though: the prices are reasonable, the food is good and the place hasn’t become a junkyard of Potter-memorabilia, but has rather retained its original spirit.
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh has quite the variety of buildings; many of them are uglier than our own Porthania, and not really worth visiting. However, the Law School building of the university has the charm and feel of an old, traditional British university, with its brown stone, symmetrical features and a beautiful courtyard. It is worth visiting simply for the atmosphere – and the photos.
Arthur’s Seat didn’t take away our desire to climb some more! For a slightly less hardcore climb for nice views around the Edinburgh, go for Calton Hill. The ancient Greek style temples and buildings are a beautiful and quaint add to the backdrop that is the city. Here you are at the very center of everything: bagpipes can be heard from somewhere down below and the atmosphere couldn’t be more quintessentially Scottish. Calton Hill is one of the most well-known tourist attractions of Edinburgh – but it is not crowded and it is free!
Old Town Edinburgh
The heart and soul of Edinburgh is the old town. We were lucky enough to have our apartment situated in the very center of it, which was great. Edinburgh is in general a very walkable city, and obviously old town is the most charming part of it. I loved just wandering around the streets – with a bagpipe player always somewhere to be heard – and exploring all the nooks and crannies, and the super narrow alleys that were always called “close” (e.g. “Advocate’s Close”). The old town also had an abundance of nice shops, bars and restaurants, but my favorite thing about it was simply the architecture and the general atmosphere.
Our daytrip to Glasgow included a visit to Necropolis, the old cemetery adjacent to the Glasgow Cathedral (which was beautiful itself). Necropolis is situated on a hill overlooking the city, and has a variety of interesting old graves. Quite memorable among the graveyards I’ve visited, Necropolis was very green and pretty already in March, and made for a nice day walk in a peaceful environment high up over the city.
There are no words of enough praise for Drygate, our accidental find upon coming down from Necropolis. This brewery houses a restaurant of the same name, selling craft beer (that even our beer-haters liked) straight from the adjacent room. And the food is heavenly; you get ciabattas and burgers with different fillings on the side for you to assemble yourself. The sides were clearly well thought out, since all of us had a flavor combination that just made our taste buds sing. And on top of it all – the prices were very student-friendly, and the atmosphere rad. If you’re in Glasgow, Drygate is a must.
Buchanan Street is the main pedestrian shopping street of Glasgow. It houses all the chain stores, malls and cafés you’d possibly want to stop by, plus all kinds of cute speciality stores, like the place that had all kinds of papers, notebooks, calendars and maps you could wish for. For some stellar Scottish retail therapy and true big city vibes, this bustling street is the place to go! (Also worth checking out is the nearby Argyle Street – a store specifically dedicated to American candy, anyone?)
All photos by Eveliina Kammonen.