Edinburgh is one of my favourite places in the world. Granted, I haven’t been to every place in the world (I wish!) but of the different cities I have travelled to, Edinburgh holds a special place in my heart. It is, as Alexander McCall Smith once wrote, “A city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again”. It is a truly magnificent place, and seems to have been the only thing to inspire me to write again after a year-long hiatus from my blog (totally unintentional by the way).
It’s difficult to articulate how amazing Edinburgh is or how much I love it. But having recently come back from my third visit to the city and once again being filled with awe, I really feel I must try. So here goes…
As you step out of the Waverly train station and into the thrumming heart of the city centre, your senses are completely overwhelmed. There are people rushing past you, late for their morning train. You can hear bagpipes being played somewhere in the distance, although you can’t quite locate the player in his characteristic kilt. The icy wind snaps through your many layers of clothes, and a fine drizzle of rain settles comfortably on everything around you. You turn to your right, where you see the enormous Scott Monument towering over the Princes Street gardens. It was built as a monument to Sir Walter Scott, a prominent Scottish author in the 1800s, and now stands tall as the gatekeeper to the ‘new town’ of the city. It has turned black from years of exhaust fumes and city grime, but this only adds to its character. You turn to your left, and you see the unmistakable skyline of the old town, dominated by the omnipresent Edinburgh castle. It is a big hunk of a building, sitting atop an extinct volcano. It looms over the city, keeping a watchful eye of the activities below. It can be seen from almost anywhere in the city, and so serves as a guidepoint for when you end up horribly lost (it happens). You pull your coat a bit tighter, wrap your scarf around a bit closer, and tuck your freezing hands into your pockets. It’s time to explore.
You take a few tentative steps towards the old town. Buses whizz past you and you can smell coffee in the air. You pull out your map, ensuring everyone knows you’re a tourist, and decide to head up the Royal Mile. This is a long stretch of road which essentially links the Palace of Holyroodhouse (where the Queen resides when she visits Scotland) and the Edinburgh Castle, no longer in use and now just a tourist attraction. As you ascend up the gentle slope towards the castle you become immersed in the multitudes of languages and accents around you. There are a jumble of people from all over the world next to you, and you wonder to yourself what they think of this beautiful city. You see churches with bright red doors, cobbled alleyways leading off the main road and a street with a row of buildings painted in various pastel shades. You can hear bagpipes again, far in the distance. You decide to take a detour, and get off the Royal Mile and into an area called Grassmarket. In its past life this area was known to be the site of public executions, but today it is full of lively restaurants and bars. You decide to stop for a break at a spot called Mary’s Milk Bar, where you have the most decadent and delicious hot chocolate with a scoop of hazelnut gelato on top (this is a must-try). You sit on a little chair in front of a large glass window and watch the city rush by, with the ever present castle in the background.
When you finally step outside you see the sun has come out and the clouds have disappeared, albeit temporarily. Suddenly everything is brought into sharp focus, and the clear skies cast out any doubts that this is a dull, grey city. The springtime daffodils shimmy in the breeze with the promise of spring and new beginnings. The castle shines in the sunlight, looking less like an overbearing father and more like a peaceful companion. You take a deep breath of the crisp air, whip out your map, and, filled with love for this amazing city, head up towards the ‘real life’ Hogwarts. Adventure awaits…
As always, thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear your comments if you’ve ever been to Edinburgh!