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Edinburgh: the windy city

Another one from the archives. This time from when Steve and I spent a week travelling from Manchester to Edinburgh. It was my second time to Scotland, but Steve, despite having lived in London had never explored north. There were coy pubs and cold days spent walking, live music and football games. Excellent.
First published April 2012. 
I have recently discovered one thing about myself – if I were ever to live in a city with an honest-to-goodness castle in it the first words out of my mouth most days would be “holy shit, there’s a castle in my city!”.
And there may or may not be a little jig-like shuffle that goes along with that.

Now I know that I already have more than a few palaces in my own city that I pass every day, but there’s something about visiting a city like Edinburgh, with a gothic-looking medieval castle looming high above the cobblestone streets which is still absolutely surreal to me and images of knights in shining armour and damsels in distress – or vice versa – immediately flash through my head.

Edinburgh is an amazing city, even second time around there was plenty I still wanted to see and do and explore.

The first time I visited Edinburgh was a flying visit of only two days and just enough time to run through the castle, climb Arthur’s Seat and have a wander through some of the streets before moving on again so this time I was determined to do and see a lot more.

With labyrinth-like streets I had thought it would be a city to get lost in, to wander around aimlessly and imagine all that had taken place on those roads over thousands of years but The Boy and I very quickly discovered that was nearly impossible to do.

We set out just after dusk to explore, walking past the lit up castle and down some side streets only to wind up in centre of town but we did discover along the way one of the best pubs I’ve ever been to. The Brass Monkey. Cold and thirsty (hey, we are Aussies after all) we walked past the front door twice, only catching glimpses through the window of what looked like a small, generic pub which didn’t really take my fancy but The Boy was persistent. But walking inside there were rooms filled with board games and chessboards, couches as big as beds surrounded by tables where, we later found out the pub screens movies weekly.

Warm and toasty with a few ciders inside my belly it was hard to bring myself to walk back out into the frosty air but we had disgusting touristy stuff to do like go on ghost tours. Actually not the scary experience I was expecting but a good way to see the town and learn some history.

Bright and early-ish the next morning The Boy and I set out into the sunshine to hike our way up Arthur’s Seat to look over the city.

I’ve heard it described as a big hill, but still after two times I arrived at the top breathless and with shaky legs but amazed at the beautiful views over the city.

However my amazement didn’t last long as gale force winds kicked in, and the child in me took over. Jumping and leaping around like idiots The Boy and I were literally being blown away.

But with clouds gathering and the feeling in my fingers and toes gone we started the descent, picking new paths down to see what we could see before rushing up to the castle.

Small but beautiful, Edinburgh Castle is almost exactly what you would expect if you asked a child to describe  a medieval castle. Perched on an extinct volcano the small buildings play home to dark cobblestones and winding alleys, beautiful gardens, a quaint little church and wide halls for banquets and dancing. There’s even a little cemetery for the dogs of the soldiers. Most impressively the castle is also now the home of the Stone of Scone, the ancient rock Scottish Kings and Queens have been crowned on for centuries which the English captured and used themselves. Returned by Queen Elizabeth II the stone is now back where it belongs.

As night began to fall we took shelter from the cold, first in the Royal Oaks, a cool traditional pub where the locals all gather to sing Scottish songs, then in Brew Dog, a funky bar where they brew their own beer from traditional ales to beers so strong they are sold by the nip. But the threat of an early flight eventually drove us back to the hostel, and we took the slow walk back to the hostel along Princes Street next to the dark and silent gardens.

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