Friday, October 9, 2015

Our England Journey: Last Stop, Edinburgh

I had a cousin who lived in Edinburgh for a year while we've been in the Netherlands, and we never managed to visit while she was there.  Once we arrived, we quickly realized that our not visiting sooner was probably a big mistake, because Edinburgh seems like one of those cities that would be a very different experience with a local guide.  Full of tourists, it's also full of little alleyways and little shops and cafes.  And there was definitely too much to see for our brief 2 days.

For much of our first day we simply wandered the streets of Old Town and the 'Royal Mile', the name given to the main stretch of the city.

St. Giles Cathedral:

 And a random parade:

We didn't go in to Edinburgh Castle, but it's not hard to find as it's built on a really big hill.  Below it's framed by two of Edinburgh's art museums.

On the second day, Dan and I split up.  I visited Holyrood Palace, where Mary Queen of Scots resided after returning from France.  No photos of the inside, but you can enjoy the outside.

The Palace is adjacent to Holyrood Abbey, which was initially built in the 12th century, partially destroyed during the Reformation, rebuilt but poorly, and is now really beautiful ruins. Yep, that's definitely the short version.

While I was exploring the Palace and Abbey, Dan was off hiking Arthur's Seat, which is the large hill at the other end of town from the one Edinburgh Castle sits on.  You can see part of it in the background of the photo below.

And a full view of it in this photo, which was taken from the top of another hill (which I did manage to climb!)

Each city we visited on our trip was amazing.  Almost three months later I still can't decide which I liked best.  But I know I want to return to, and explore a lot more of, Scotland.  Bath was iconic, Canterbury absolutely stunning, but the vibe in Edinburgh (and even Fort William) felt like 'us' somehow and I really want to return someday.  I guess I had better start planning Our Scotland Journey.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Our England Journey: Fort William

Fort William is well in to the Highlands of Scotland, about four hours by train north of Glasgow.  We were only there two nights, but it was possibly the most amazing place we went.  Fort William itself is what I'd call a large town of about 10,000 people and is the second largest in the Highlands, after Inverness.  It's definitely friendly to tourists, without feeling touristy, and we saw a lot of backpackers and hikers either starting or ending one of two LONG Scottish walks that have an end point in the town.

Mostly what I loved about Scotland was the green-ness of it.  So many shades, that I was never going to be able to capture on film.  Also, the wetness.  It did rain for much of our time there, and everything sparkled with it.  Nothing was dried out, there were tons of little waterfalls cascading down the hills and mountains nearby.

We didn't take advantage of the hiking trails on the surrounding hills as much as I would have liked, mostly because I had enough stamina to hike for about 5 minutes before I needed to rest for 10.  Silly pregnancy. But we did do some walks around the town that were mercifully (mostly) flat.

We walked over to Old Inverlochy Castle, which had some sheep penned in to keep the grass short (at least I think that was their purpose). It's mostly in ruins now, but being 800 years old, one can forgive that.

We did manage to hike up part of Cow Hill, and the views from nowhere-near the top were quite lovely.

If you're ever debating a trip to the Scottish Highlands, I can give an extremely hearty endorsement. It's an absolutely amazing region (I say with confidence after having visited only one town (and riding the train to get there)).