Surprise! About 3 weeks ago, we went to Edinburgh! I've wanted to visit Scotland for at least a decade. Every time we've had a long weekend or extended time off of work, I've tried to find good (aka cheap) flights to Scotland and when we found out that we'd be staying in Germany for a few extra months, the perfect flight landed in our lap. It actually wasn't a perfect flight... our return turned into a catastrophe, but I'll address that later!
I went insane booking our first day in Edinburgh. Our first stop was Costa Coffee (my go-to coffee shop in the UK) for some tea and a muffin, but then we made our way to the National Museum of Scotland. We were SO on top of things that we arrived before they had opened and were first in to the gigantic airy space. Normally, I like to start on the top floor of a museum and work my way down, but we were immediately distracted from our initial plan of action by a gigantic T-Rex. The museum was full of skeletons (always a plus in my book), Tibetan prayer wheels, leaf cutter ants and bits of knowledge from around the world. We could have spent all day there, but we had tickets for the Scotch Whisky Experience!
We had about 40 minutes before our tour, so we ducked in to the Amber Room restaurant (on the lower level) and ordered a sandwich. Despite repeatedly informing our waitress that we had a tour and were in a hurry, our food never arrived. We had to walk out on our order. Never have I ever had to do this. Luckily, I had a few granola bars and some Thin Mints tucked into the bottom of my backpack! Phew!
The "Experience" itself was fun but a bit pricey. We only got to try one type of Scotch, which for the 14 quid we paid/person seemed a bit skimpy to me. The tour starts with an automated ride through the process of making whisky. You then meet in a tasting room where a guide talks a bit about the different types of whisky from different regions of Scotland, you taste one whisky and then move into a room that houses the largest privately-owned collection of whisky in (Scotland? The world? The facts are failing me). Then, you get shuttled into another tasting room where they want you to buy more Scotch, followed by a gift shop where guess what? They want you to buy more Scotch?
Enough of that! Our next stop was at Edinburgh Castle. This was another pricey ticket, but is well-worth the cost. The castle is amazing and has been well-preserved. Audio tours and guided tours are available for those that wish to partake in a more structured visit. We started out with a guided tour, but found ourselves wandering the grounds to explore every nook and cranny. I will share more about this adventure tomorrow!
Once we were all castled out, I lucked out and managed to get the last ticket on a tour of Mary King's Close, which I saw on an episode of "Ghost Hunters" years ago and promised myself that if I ever made it to Scotland, I'd go. SB wandered around the city a bit more while I was on the tour, came back to get me, we made a quick dinner stop and then it was on to the....
Ghost tour! After much deliberation, I booked the Double Dead tour with City of the Dead and I was not disappointed. Our tour started underground in the South Bridge Vaults; a place where in the late 1700s, people lived and did business (yep, underground). Our guide shared lots of stories of personal experiences to the point that I was genuinely afraid that I'd pass out in one of the vaults, in the pitch black. I managed to pull through, though felt my heart pounding in my ears the whole time we were in the underground chambers. The second stop on the tour was to Greyfriars Kirkyard and the Covenanters Prison, where our guide crammed us (all 50 or so people) into a mausoleum and let one of his co-workers jump out and scare the bejeepers out of at least half of the tourists. Not me, of course. I was total Zen mode.
We went back to the cemetery in the daylight several days after the tour. I'm hoping to share those super creepy photos on Halloween! Boo!
Overall, our first day in Scotland was incredibly busy, but well worth it!