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One Summer in Europe: Scotland


Edinburgh as seen from Calton Hill

Since walking around different cities in Europe was starting to get old, I was pleasantly surprised to really enjoy my time in Edinburgh. It had a medieval feel with Edinburgh Castle in the middle, but also many old stone buildings and churches surrounding it. I wandered the narrow, maze-like streets and climbed up Calton Hill, which provided superb views of the city. In town, some of the grave yards were hundreds of years old, with large headstones, confined spaces, and lots of moss. They were not scary, but instead had a very neat, but slightly creepy, feel.

I took a guided tour of Edinburgh, which went along the Royal Mile, pointing out the sights and giving some history on the “Athens of the North” and the first city with skyscrapers. From the spot where robbers were nailed to the wall by their ears, to where the first couple Harry Potter books were written, to a loyal Scottish Terrier, and stolen royal stones, the guide did a great job of explaining the city’s history in an engaging way.

Even wandering about Edinburgh solo and not knowing anything specific about what I was looking at was fun, and I very much enjoyed absorbing the unique, old ambience of this city. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo was occurring near the time I was in town, but unfortunately I could not work out logistics or find tickets to attend.

Pictures from Edinburgh

Creepy gravestones around Edinburgh
A bagpipe player

Fort William

The Jacobite steam train chugging across the Glenfinnan Viaduct on its way to Hogwarts

Glenfinnan Viaduct

I rode The Jacobite steam train from Fort William to Mallaig and back. A modern diesel runs the same line and is cheaper, but would have been much less fun. I truly enjoyed the old steamer, even after having already spent so much time on trains around Europe. The clickity-clack of the tracks was relaxing and the scenery was great — with lakes, hill, and the coast. The best part was the staff was not concerned with people sticking their heads out the windows (even though trees encroaching on the tracks occasionally scraped against the train). I felt like a care free dog with its head out the window, enjoying the wind in my face. Some soot got in my hair, but I still stood at the open window most of the way, barely even using my seat. We crossed the Glenfinnan Viaduct — an amazing, long curved stone bridge which was made even more famous from the Harry Potter films. Several more lochs and mountains were along the line before we arrived at Mallaig. There was not much there besides a few tourist shops, but I did take a short walk in the hills and enjoyed the seaside.

On the way up to Ben Nevis

I climbed to the top of Ben Nevis, the highest point in Britain, a paltry 4,000 feet. The climb up was very well marked on a well built and worn path. It was not technically difficult in the slightest and not overly steep either; it just kept going up and up. The path was also very popular, especially on a day with decent weather. As I walked there were nice views of the surrounding valley. Nearing the top though, I climbed into clouds and visibility was greatly reduced. Upon finally reaching the peak I could not see out at all. The remains of an old meteorological survey point were at Britain’s apex, along with a bunch of other people that made the trek that day. Since I was not in a hurry I tried to wait out the clouds, despite occasional spitting rain. An intermittent small hole might open up showing a quick glimpse of the country side, but for the most part all I saw was the inside of a cloud.

The inside of Urquhart Castle

Loch Ness

Since I was so nearby I visited Loch Ness. Urquhart Castle was on the shoreline and a good place to stop that did not have a monster theme. The ruins of the castle were in pretty dilapidated shape (and overrun with tourists), but wandering around the castle that was once the powerhouse of the area was still interesting. The main gate had been intentionally blown up when the castle was vacated, so others could not secure themselves inside. Most of the other walls had crumbled, and only with the informational signs plus a little imagination could you figure out what an area of the fort had once been used for.


A statue of William Wallace upon his monument

Stirling Castle was in the middle of town perched dramatically (and securely) atop a hill with interesting old walls, buildings, and churches. I had been in enough old castles lately so I did not go inside, but enjoyed the looks from outside its fortifications.

I visited the William Wallace Monument so I could learn about FREEDOM!!! The monument was an elaborate tower atop a hill. Inside was told the story of William Wallace, who was beat by the English a couple times, but also had a decisive victory over them and campaigned for Scottish independence. He died a horrible death after being betrayed and was later elevated to sainthood. Watch Braveheart for further details. The top of the tower was very windy, but gave great views of Stirling and the country side.