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25 September 2012

Scotland Road Trip 3: Sunny Edinburgh, Lake District, and Total Exhaustion

It was the Sunday of our crammed weekend road trip to Scotland. After a full day of driving around the highlands and a night living up Edinburgh's nightlife, waking up at a decent hour was really not easy at all.

By some miracle we were up and ready around 11am. We left a few beers for our host with a thank you note scribbled on a paper plate, then we departed to do a quick exploration of Edinburgh itself.

Since I had visited Edinburgh previously (despite getting stranded in the city), I was the expert on the city and gave my friends the best 2-hour tour that I could muster. We started on the royal mile, not far from where we found a place to park the car (there was the Edinburgh Marathon finishing up that morning, which led to a lot of road closures and parking restrictions).

The warm and bright sun really contrasted the dark neo-gothic architecture of Edinburgh. It made it feel more like an amusement park than an actual city. Nevertheless, it is impossible to avoid being charmed by the history and Scottish culture around every corner.

We walked past St. Giles' Cathedral and all the way up to the castle itself. The castle was crowded with tourists, and we were strapped for time, so we didn't go inside. Also, the esplanade outside was largely roped off with construction as they were setting up large sets of bleacher seating. So, we walked down the stairs, passing by my previous hostel, the Castle Rock Hostel, which has a spectacular view looking directly upon the castle itself.

We proceeded down to the Grassmarket, where I explained the story of Maggie Dickinson. And then around to Greyfriars Kirk, where I told another great story, that of Greyfriars Bobby.

Not far from Greyfriars Kirk is the Elephant House, which proudly proclaims itself as the cafĂ© where J.K. Rowling frequently sat as she wrote the first Harry Potter book. Here's the view of the castle from the back window. Think it would inspire you to write a world-famous story of wizardry?

Maybe a brilliantly sunny and warm day isn't the best day to experience the expected brooding, dark atmosphere of Scotland. Nevertheless, in this part of the world, you simply do not complain when the temperature is 27˚C and there is not a cloud in the sky! So, after taking a quick peek in the National Museum to see Dolly the Sheep, we wandered over to the Princes Street gardens. There, we joined the growing masses of people to soak up the ephemeral Scottish sunshine!

I got a small ice cream and an order of fries (always a winning combination!) and we relaxed for a few moments in the gorgeous gardens. But we couldn't waste the rest of the day, we had a long drive back to London ahead of us. And we had a few amazing stops along the way.