A Wee Trip Up To Scotland


Edinburgh Castle.

The second stop on my Christmas tour through Europe was Edinburgh, which I’d been dying to visit since I hadn’t been getting quite my fill of rain in Bilbao. In Scotland I had planned to reunite with my friend Luc, whom I met studying abroad in Granada but who also went to college with me at UC Santa Barbara. He is currently an Auxiliar in Malaga, on the southern coast of Spain, so unfortunately we couldn’t be farther from one another while still living in the same country. It was great to see him again for the first time since graduation in June. We had a wonderful time exploring Edinburgh, although both agreed that a winter trip to Scotland, with frigid wind-chill, rain, and a 3:45 p.m. sunset, wasn’t the ideal time of year. Nonetheless, Edinburgh is a magical city, and here were the highlights:


  1. A (free, plus tips!) guided tour of Old Edinburgh, which is so charming of a city that it almost begs the question: Do real people live here? Castles, spooky graveyards, the cobblestoned road that inspired J.K. Rowling’s vision for Diagon Alley, old pubs in a square where people used to eagerly assist public hangings. Our affable guide’s tales of medieval life made the whole city come alive–I could almost picture myself a 14th-century housewife, disposing of my family’s excrement onto the street, and scrubbing down my one-room house to get rid of the plague. Ah, the days of yore.
  2. An all-day bus tour* through the Scottish highlands, where we were lucky enough to witness the beautiful landscape “in truly authentic Scottish weather,” our guide encouraged us, as we attempted to make out the hilltops through sheets of rain. The ultimate destination of the tour was Loch Ness, where unfortunately Nessie was too cold to poke her head out, but in reality my favorite parts of the day were simply driving through the beautiful landscape and hearing about fascinating tribal Highlands history through our guide’s melodic Scottish accent.


Luc and me at Loch Ness.

  1. A Christmas market, which, framed by the towering castle and the medieval stone buildings of the Old City in the background, was as quintessential a holiday scene as you could get (even on Dec. 27th!). There I tried my first “hot toddy,” and witnessed people braving the outdoor ice rink in the pouring rain.


  1. A (free!) visit to the National Museum of Scotland, where one can explore everything from secrets of the animal kingdom to Scottish inventions and Japanese art prints. I learned how snakes move without legs, how Dolly was cloned, and in less than 2 hours, the entire history of the wee country of Scotland. It was fascinating, and I even found myself wishing I had more time there, which I’ve never said about a museum in my life. Well done, Scotland.

The street that inspired J.K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley.

Overall our 3 days in Edinburgh were a success, and it’s one more city to add to my list of loves in Europe. I would recommend, if you have flexibility, that you visit Scotland during the summer, when you’d have about 20 hours of daylight to explore the city, instead of 7. That said, you travel when you can, and you enjoy it nonetheless!

Next up: London for New Year’s.

*We went with Highland Explorer Tours, which we were happy with, but there are several tour companies that all do essentially the same route and are very similar in price.