I took my first trip with people in about six years to visit Edinburgh, Scotland, for an extended weekend. Booking the flights about six weeks in advance they cost about €30 with Ryanair, and we got six-person room (for six of us) in a rather nice, very central hostel called Budget Backpackers for £52 per person, for three nights.
The only problem was we couldn’t check in ’til 1pm, and we had naturally arrived at 7am to make the most of the day. But we were able to drop off our bags and wander freely. We visited the National Gallery which was free, but took donations.
We were quite surprised to find some very famous paintings in it! We also spotted our first bit of Gaidhlig !
After this we spent an hour being tired, eating ice-cream and coffee in McDonalds. As the time approached 1pm we decided to each chip in and buy a heap of lunch stuff (bread, cheese, hummus, fruit, water – £3.50 each) and made our way back to the hostel.
Two of our party proceeded to take a nap while myself and another went to buy towels, pharmacy stuff and postcards. We returned and sat down and had lunch, with two others, then woke up the rest of the party. We finally headed out again and wandered up the Royal Mile (which is in fact a mile and one-eighth, between Edinburg and Holyrood castles) to Edinburgh castle – where we bought more ice-cream and took many touristy pictures.
We got dinner in Mamma’s American Pizza, in the Grassmarket (a minute’s walk from our hostel); the nachos are good. Tired out, we returned the hostel and played board-games before going to bed, which would be our evening ritual.
Saturday we all got up at various times and hunted down breakfast. Myself and two others went to Auld Jock’s Café, just around the corner, where they had breakfast sandwiches they were very happy with, and I had an insurmountable amount of porridge. The tea was also very good!
We then walked to Arthur’s seat, the highest point in Edinburgh. The weather was great though very windy and dusty up top. We sat and took in the view, played some very windy frisbee (“Why don’t you just throw the frisbee over the edge and be done with it?”), until it started to threaten to rain.
We began wandering aimlessly, and passed an Occupy Scotland camp, in favour of Scottish independence.
We came across the Parlamaid na h-Alba (Scottish Parliament). Their sign had Gaidhlig on it, and being fluent Irish speakers we were curious and went inside.
We were able to go around a lot of the building. They had exhibitions on the policies and politics of Scotland, and all their signs were in English, Gaidhlig, and some were in other languages, too.
We also found someone in the gift-shop who spoke a bit of Gaidhlig and we compared it to Irish. Their restaurant was very reasonably priced so we had tea there – and shortbread which was the best shortbread I’d ever had.
We headed back for the hostel, stopping in Tesco on the way for lunch again. Two of our party then headed out to watch a match while the rest of investigated the Chill Out room in the hostel, with board-games and books and writing postcards.
We then all met up again and went for dinner in Ong Gie Korean Restaurant (about 15 minutes from our hostel), which did Korean Barbeque. Myself and one other of our party are vegetarians so we ordered deep-fried tofu and yakisoba noodles. It was my first time having tofu and I wasn’t a fan, but the other vegetarian was. Everyone else was very happy with the food, though the said they would have eaten a lot more. We also ordered a bottle of Soju between us, which is a bit like weak vodka, and deep fried cakes and ice-cream for dessert.
On our walk back we stopped in a fish&chip shop across from our hostel that did deep-fried Mars bars (and Snickers!) which we had to try. I personally found it gross but everyone else enjoyed them. We then returned to our room and drank a few beers while playing board-games and re-watching [and quoting] ‘Napoleon Dynamite’.
Sunday we had the leftovers from lunch yesterday for breakfast, and three of us went on a mission to find the grave of Tom Riddle. Sadly we only croissants in Tesco. We also then got caught in torrential rain (“Just like home, eh?!”). We arranged with the rest of our party to meet at Camera Obscura, which had been on the list of attractions for us.
It is a building full of visual and optical illsuions, beginning with the most famous part the Camera Obscura itself, which lets you see all of Edinburgh. It costs £14 (£12.50 for a student) and I thought it was very much worth it. They had about six levels, starting at the top with a great view of the city, binoculars and monoculars.
The other levels had different things including holograms, fun-house mirrors, kaleidoscopes,a mirror maze, and – our favourite – The Vortex. Which is basically a gangway you walk along that has a spinning wall, which sounds ridiculous but we genuinely went through it about ten times.
We then visited the sister hostel to Budget Backpackers, Kickass Hostele, and got coffee and muffins – AND THE FIRE ALARM WENT OFF. And no one moved until we were told we had to get out. We took a short break after and went for dinner in Byron’s, along the Royal Mile. Well known for its burgers, they also had great milkshakes and nachos. We then returned to the hostel and played games.
Monday was our last day. We had to pack up our stuff and be out of the room by 10am, but could also leave our bags in the locker until 6pm – for £1 per locker (they’re quite big so we only needed two between the six of us). We went to a park near Edinburgh University where we passed most of our time playing frisbee, eating bread and drinking coffee. I headed off after a while to send my postcards (which took TEN days to arrive to people in Ireland) and by biscuits. I bumped into the rest of the party on the Royal Mile.
Our final meal was in Frankie and Benny’s on the Royal Mile, where we all got pasta. It was okay. We then left for the bus, thinking we’d have a little while free before our flight. Which ended up being a long while free because we were delayed.
But at least we boarded and were no length before we arrived back in Dublin airport where we’d started.