I was aiming for the highlands.
When I saw several pictures of Scotland; they contained rocky cliffs that broke out and into the sea and snow topped mountain with lakes, brooks, and castles nestled in forests. I envisioned myself as a hiker. A great explorer somewhere I had never been; camping wherever I found myself when the sun went down and taking in the beautiful and powerful forms of nature I found myself surrounded by in a beautiful country. Of course, there was a problem with this vision becoming a reality.
- I had never been to this place, and I knew little about it outside of what I retained from BBC programming, Trainspotting, Lemmy’s show, and a paragraph I half remember from a public school world history class.
- I get winded on my three block walk to work.
So, instead I set my sights a little more southern, in the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. It allowed me easy access to the railway I would use to visit all the other towns I ended up visiting (St. Andrews, Glasgow, Stirling), and was full of historical landmarks and museums I couldn’t wait to see.
Edinburgh (and all of southern Scotland) was beautiful, close to nature and the sea, and rich in art, music, and literary history (plus no wandering into the mountains like an overzealous dumbass [aka your typical American tourist] and having to call rangers to come get me because I’m scared and lost and woefully unprepared. The kind and lovely woman who owned the home I stayed in had stories, and I was determined not to become one.)
As I said, Edinburgh had a lot of museums. Something my 98 year old soul trapped in a 19 year old body absolutely loved. The one that truly took my breath away was the National Art Gallery. Every painting was so painfully rich in detail, color, and meaning. They were all so large and perfectly juxtapositioned against the dark, vibrant colors of the walls they hung on. It felt more like a castle than any of the historical ones I had visited the rest of the trip. Although the castles were breathtaking too.
Stirling Castle had such clear views of the mountains. It almost made up for not getting to track into the highlands. The sight of them was awe inspiring enough; the elaborate ceilings inside the castle had all been restored and repainted and the dining hall made me feel like I had stepped onto the set of Merlin. My trip was during the off season so couple all of these old, rustic and lovely sights with a deserted atmosphere and it was easy to feel as though I had traveled back in time.
I ended with the Elephant Room, “Birthplace of Harry Potter”, or so the sign says. (I have a memory of J.K. Rowling saying in an interview that she wrote the first Harry Potter chapter when she was little on the walls of her childhood home. I guess the birth of a book is relative in definition. It’s definitely where she wrote the manuscript and final chapters.)
The cake was amazing! And the tea was delicious. The windows have a stunning view of Edinburgh Castle up the Royal Mile, and I see exactly what inspired the architecture of Hogwarts. I’m surprised I didn’t leave having had or written a mythical adventure of my own.
There were several other stops and small moments that made me fall deeper in love with the country of Scotland, but I think some things should be cherished secretly. However, below is a gallery of some of my favorite pictures.
To hear what it feels like to let your 19 year old travel solo half a world away, check out my post: