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kwongmei Edinburgh - A travel report by Sharon
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Edinburgh,  United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom
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kwongmei's travel reports

Edinburgh – A city of inspiration for the soul

  10 votes
Some weeks ago I came across an irresistible offer to Edinburgh, and i thought,'the weather there can't be worse than here in Denmark.' And it was. I saw more sunny moments during that week and fortunately it was not so much hit by the snowstorm.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh is not only a World Heritage Site, but also the first UNESCO city of Literature since 2004. After 4 full days in this place, it becomes my new found favourite city in Europe.

It is built on a volcanic landscape, formed about 350 million years ago, with its castle perched on the top where you can see it from any direction of the town. The old town is encompassed with those grey medieval buildings, narrow closes and terraces constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some closes are so narrow that only one person can pass through at a time. They lead you through one street to another. It seems quite confusing in the first place but they are indeed very clever short cuts. I got some sort of mysterious and bewitching feelings when wandering around the old town surrounded by all these grey old houses especially during the night.

Next to it is the neoclassical new town constructed between 17th and 18th century. Whether you are up on Calton Hill or Edinburgh Castle, you can have a little bird's eye view over the beautiful old and new town of Edinburgh.

Favourite spots:
Painting of Robert Burns inside The Writers' Museum
Painting of Robert Burns inside The Writers' Museum
This city is indeed not big; most parts can be reached on foot. Nonetheless, museums and galleries are plentiful. After 4 days, I still hadn't been able to finish everything I would like to visit. Edinburgh Castle is of course the must-see landmark where many big moments in the history of Scotland took place and it is one of the few sites at which an entry fee is charged. Many others like National Gallery of Scotland, City Art Centre, The Fruitmarket Gallery are for free and the quality is never disappointing.

As this year marks the 250th anniversary of the Scottish greatest poet and cultural icon Robert Burns, I visited The Writers' Museum to know his life and 2 others' (Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson) as well as their works a bit more. The 17th century Lady Stair's House and the area around is also worth a visit.

What's really great:
The tour
The tour
On the first day, I joined the free city tour organised by Sandemans New Europe Tours. New Europe free tours are also available in some other major cities in Europe but this is the first time I joined their tour and it is surprisingly good. The idea is one can travel no matter what budget one has, and you can pay tips to the guide at the end. Our guide was a student studying Scottish history who is to me quite knowledgeable and told many historical stories throughout the whole tour. We all know to a greater or lesser extent that the Scottish tortured past which may well be one of the reasons why they can create some of those spooky legends. Probably it is within most Scottish blood that they are not afraid of telling the brutal part of their history openly and sometimes even swing it to the other angle that makes the historical stories more satirical and less terrifying. I quite like this attitude.

View of old town from Calton Hill
View of old town from Calton Hill
The Homecoming Scotland 2009 programme has just been kicked off and it is definitely not a bad idea to check out online in advance what events are going on during the time you will be visiting. I went to a small showcase 'As Others See Us' in Scottish Parliament telling how the Scots today found Burns' poems in their lives. It will be toured around other cities in Scotland in the next months.

Beautiful songs by Scots Music Group in TheScottish Storytelling Centre
Beautiful songs by Scots Music Group in TheScottish Storytelling Centre
On the other hand, Scots could be very proud of themselves. In such a small place, there are so many great writers, poets, philosophers, musicians throughout their history. Legends/folklores, ceilidh and whisky are also what Scotland is famed for. You can test yourself by going to Scottish National Portrait Gallery and see how many famous people you have indeed heard of. One afternoon, I spent an hour in The Scottish Storytelling Centre listening to Burns' songs by Scots Music group...quite touching. It was very informal and reminded me of the garden in Temple of Heaven in Beijing where mostly the elderly get together and play some traditional instruments or dance for fun and practice. By the way, storytelling is one of the Highlanders' traditions to pass time by sharing lores, legends, myth, fantasy, history around the fire in the cold evening after a whole day work. You can find books or sit in their storytelling sessions organised from time to time.

Old town view at dusk
Old town view at dusk
I stayed 6 nights in the SYHA Edinburgh Central Hostel and I can tell that it is truly a 5-star youth hostel comparing with many other hostels I have been. Since it was off season, i enjoyed the quietness in the dormitory and the interaction with other travellers in the shared kitchen.

Last Drop Tavern
Last Drop Tavern
I like the atmosphere of Grassmarket. Again, it has its dark past as the public gallows apart from a normal marketplace, it is now full of little shops, pubs and restaurants...should be very lively in the summertime.

Highland Cow
Highland Cow
Finally, in the Year of the Ox, I show you a Highland cow – Hamish. It is really cutie the way how he was looking at me. In the north of China there are yaks and in Scotland there are Highland cows. They look pretty different, though. The long fringe keeps wind, rain away during winter while insects and sun during summer. A friend of mine wondered whether they can still see. I think so...perhaps not much but enough.

Other recommendations:
Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle
In Edinburgh, you can easily find organised tours to the Highlands. I took a 2-day North West Highlands tour which is quite relaxing, entertaining and enjoyable. And the weather was brilliant!

Published on Monday February 9th, 2009

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Tue, Feb 24 2009 - 09:52 PM rating by robynallen

Great report. Hamish is a cutie! Great pic

Thu, Feb 12 2009 - 12:16 PM rating by confusemuse

Good solid report, Sharon (with good pix to match)...I went to Edinburgh about 10 years ago and was wow-ed by the city, so this is a good update :) Take care + travel on! Oh and thanks for checking out my report! :)

Wed, Feb 11 2009 - 10:32 AM rating by frenchfrog

Great report, thanks for tip of the free tour! I love the pic of hamish!

Mon, Feb 09 2009 - 08:58 PM rating by krisek

A good report with personal touch. I like the bit about storytelling (it must have been great - I love the Scottish accent!).

Mon, Feb 09 2009 - 07:09 PM rating by pesu

Nice, interesting report with fine pics - Hamish is really great! ;-)

Mon, Feb 09 2009 - 06:37 PM rating by porto

Very well written report.You have managed to mention a lot of the must sees of Scotlands capital city and the beautiful Highlands as well.
Well Done,Fred.

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