A Day in Edinburgh Touring Castles and Climbing Tall Hills

On July 15th, we got up in Edinburgh ready to tour the city. We started the morning with a bus tour and would later tour the Edinburgh castle. After that, we would have free time to see what we wanted.

On the bus tour we drove up to the heights overlooking the city, where we learned that the Scots have developed approximately 17,812 words to describe various types of bodies of water. The massive amount of rain they see seems to have had a traumatic effect on their linguistic development.

For instance, the estuary below is a firth, known as the Firth of Forth. Just as the Scots believe that there can never be too many words to describe a body of water, they also believe that you can’t have too many words that start with the letter “F,” preferably in the same sentence.

From the heights, we could also see the rock formation known as “Arthur’s Seat.” Laura kept mistakenly referring to the Seat as “Arthur’s Chiar,” as if Arthur were a crotchety grandpa who constantly shooed the grandkids away from his favorite plaid recliner, a seat he loved because of it’s proximity to both the television and a stack of newspapers dating back to 1987.

Currently, Arthur is up there napping in his chair as the TV plays reruns of “Matlock.”

We also learned some of the history of the city. The square below was where the Scots executed people by hanging, hence the name of the pub below, “The Last Drop.” In squares like this, the Scots would nail thieves to the wall, leaving the thieves to rip off part of their ear deliberately or as an effect of exhaustion, which is the origin of the phrase “ripped off” in shopping.

Basically, medieval Scotland was worse than living in the Game of Thrones world.

This was the fifth day of the tour, counting the travel day, and the pace of the tour tires people out. As a result, it is essential for bus tour guides to stop frequently for people to get off the bus and wake up.

Alas, this did not happen.

There was a chance of rain on this morning, and we had been in the British Isles that we could decode the secret message in a British forecast of a “chance” of rain.

So when the rain came, most of our travelers were well prepared.

And some who were not prepared ended up with a fancy souvenir raincoat.

Let this jacket always remind me of the 11 times it rained in Edinburgh in 24 hours. Never forget.

Then it was time to visit the main attraction in Edinburgh – the castle.

The castle was built at the highest point in the city, and our guide explained that successful sieges relied more on starving the defenders into submission than in scaling the walls.

The Crown Jewels of Scotland were in the castle, but the image of the jewels had been copyrighted, so no photography was allowed of the jewels. Alongside the jewels, there was a huge ceremonial sword with an ornate hilt plated with precious metal.

The rain finally began to subside, giving us the chance to tour the castle walls. 

Here, Laura is pretending to give Ian the order to fire and not berating him for, once again, separating from the group.

From the walls, we could see all of the fiths, lochs, waters, burns, lallans, and other water formations.

Right outside of the castle was a place that offered whiskey (“Scotch”) tours, and most of the travelers wanted to go on that tour. Since the line for the tour was long, we opted to eat lunch first and then do the tour.


Lunch was clearly needed. This is what low blood sugar does to people in Scotland.

We had hoped for a quick lunch, but this restaurant was on European lunch time, and our food took about an hour to reach the table. During the lunch, Ian had gone across the street to the House of Illusion, and just prior to the time the food arrived, we saw him on the roof of the House surveilling the restaurant with binoculars.

Finally, lunch was complete, as most of our travelers consumed “hamburgers” that were closer to “chunks of meatloaf encased by a bun.” At this point, it didn’t look like there would be time for the whiskey tour and to climb up to Arthur’s seat. Some in the group chose to wait in the Whiskey Tour line, take the tour, and then emerged in whiskey paradise.

Others in the group chose to ascend to Arthur’s Seat. Lexi, Ford, Arthur, and Brennan had gone to the top in the morning, leaving before 6am and running from the hotel to the hill and part of the way up the incline. The night before, Lexi was able to get over half of our group to commit to this dawn run/climb; then, when their alarms went off at the crack of dawn, most of these volunteers reconsidered their decision to go. In their defense, “waking up at dawn” and “running” are two activities I have pledged never to combine. Instead of running at dawn, Ian, James, and I strolled to the top at 2pm.


As is his habit, Ian took point.

The climb involved 850 feet of elevation gain over less than a mile.


I could definitely see why Arthur would want a seat at the top. On the plus side for those who sweat a lot when they climb that many stairs, the higher we went, the windier it got.


Look! Views of the Firth of Forth to Fife and Fidra!

When we reached Arthur’s seat, we found that it was pretty crowded. People had even brought dogs and young children.


Maybe Arthur needs to upgrade to a couch or a love seat.



After taking pictures and enjoying the top of a mountain with 500 of our closest friends, we began the descent.


We managed to find a bit of color on our way down.

Even though I held to my pledge to avoid running at all costs, we still made it back into town with a few hours of free time left before dinner. We stopped in at the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter.

IMG_7353 (1)

There was still plenty of time to buy a souvenir representative of Scotland, like a t-shirt, or some Celtic jewelry, or…


The sword of Aragorn

Since we were in the capital of Scotland, our dinner, of course, was at a French restaurant. Following dinner, we took part in a ghost tour of the city, starting in the city’s most famous graveyard.


Among the items we learned on the tour was that murderers in Edinburgh would remove the teeth of their victims and sell the teeth to prostitutes. The prostitutes would then wear the teeth to appear more attractive.


Good times!


At the end of the tour, we came to a place where famous people who stayed in Edinburgh had left their handprints in the stone. The most noteworthy was the handprint of J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series.


My hand is the same size as J.K. Rowling’s! I AM J.K. ROWLING!!!

Next up – castles and York in northern England.

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