About the Photo Above: Edinburgh Castle
I took this picture from in front of my hostel. I must say that it put a smile on my face every time I walked out the front door to be greeted by a castle hovering overhead and be surrounded by the wonderful Grass Market plaza.
Home of Harry Potter Book Series
Again, I was caught by surprise upon arriving in Edinburgh to learn that Rawlings authored the first several novels in the series while sitting in local coffee shops in Edinburgh. Certainly the first two books were written at small wood tables at the Elephant Room and Spoon Coffee shops. Rawlings claims she was so poor at the time, that she couldn’t afford to pay her heating bill during the day and sought out the coffee shops to be inside where it was warm. All sorts of interesting connections can be found in the area. Many book names like Thom Riddell, Sirius Black, and McGonagall can be found in the cemetery. Diagon alley may have been inspired by Victoria St. near Grassmarket and the Hogwarts school was most likely inspired by George Heriots School next to the graveyard which divides its students into four “houses” (although I don’t believe they use a sorting hat). I spent a couple days wandering around looking for the various connections between the books and local sights and ran into more than a few people dressed in Hogwarts student robes carrying magic wands. It was really fun! For a detailed page on Harry Potter connections to Edinburgh (and the surrounding areas), check out this page for Harry Potter sights.
World Heritage City
Even if you are not into Harry Potter books, the city of Edinburgh is fantastic in an archaic, haunting way. The old town has been declared a world heritage site and construction of new buildings in the zone is prevented by law. It is one of the most beautiful older cities I’ve visited and originally I had only planned on spending three nights there. My first afternoon I fell in love with the place and extended my stay to a full week just to soak up the ambiance.
Trying Sheep Haggis
Haggis is a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach though now often in an artificial casing instead. Mine was served on a circular stack of mashed potatoes with green garnish on top and actually tasted a lot like meat loaf with mashed potatoes. This cost me £7 (about $9).
It is rare that I pay for tours; usually I prefer to go to areas on my own, or view them from the outside. For example, I didn’t pay $20 to enter Edinburgh Castle, instead choosing to snap photos from the outside and look through some random photos of the inside (from an online search). However, I did pay $50 for a one day tour of the Scottish Highlands which included stops at a handful of castles (it seems castles are on many hilltops all around Europe).
My European Travel Map
Want to see where I’ve been in Europe and where I am now? Check out my map of European travels).
Costs (I try to budget about $30/day for food, lodging & tours)
Hostels: $15-20/night. Finally my housing costs dropped to a reasonable level!
Food: Super markets in the UK offer a “meal deal” of £3 (about $4) for a simple sandwich or salad, drink and snack. Except for trying haggis, in order to keep costs down, most days I had the meal deal for lunch and dinner and oatmeal for breakfast.
Transportation: I never rode on public transport while in Edinburgh (preferring to walk)