The Scotland Diaries -- May 13-14 Edinburgh

Written by: Anne Gavin

My trip across the pond could not have gone any smoother, save for a short gap leaving Newark, New Jersey due to air traffic delays over the busy skies of New York.  Not surprising!   But, the moment I landed in Scotland, the spirit and the soul of this amazing country seeped into me and my first couple of days here have exceeded ALL expectations… Read more about my visit to Scotland’s capital city after the jump…

Every single person I met my first day here in Edinburgh was incredibly friendly, warm and welcoming.  No sooner had I touched down when I got several texts and Facebook messages from my friends who live here in Scotland.  I think they were as excited about me being here as I was!  But, as a solo traveler, it’s lovely to know there are those looking out for you who are nearby.   My hotel – The Waldorf-Astoria Caledonian -- is beyond fabulous.  I have a corner room with large picture windows on two sides looking across the city rooftops.  Very comfortable, expansive bath and really great restaurants and bar off the lobby.  It seems as if there are 5 staff for every one guest although they are not over solicitous – just very professional.

After my overnight flight, I fueled up on coffee at the hotel.  I learned that when you ask for “coffee” you must know what kind.  When I sheepishly said “black” – I was brought a strong expresso which I found out is known as “Americano.”  You can also ask for “cold milk” or “hot milk” for your coffee.  Learn something new every day! 

Coffee slurped, I struck out in the direction of Edinburgh Castle – just a 15 minute walk from the hotel.  I can tell you that NO photos of Edinburgh Castle that I have ever seen do it justice.  The structure is massive, majestic and breathtaking in real life.  It’s quite a hike up with Scottish souvenir shops seemingly on every corner.  There is also a wonderful area called the “Esplanade” just below the Castle where you’ll find some fun pubs and restaurants that looked decidedly non-touristy despite their proximity to the Castle.

The views from the top are stunning.  I ran into the Visitors Office and picked up my Historic Scotland Explorer Pass – which gives me access to Edinburgh Castle as well as countless other Castles and historical attractions around Scotland.  I bought the pass online quite some time ago but you have to go by and pick up the actual pass once you arrive in country and then it’s good for seven days.  I’m not sure how much I’ll use it but even if you just went to 2 or 3 castles, you would be saving money as admission fees are quite high.   I didn’t go into the Castle that day knowing I am back in Edinburgh next week.  Instead, I started my walk down the Royal Mile – the most famous stretch of pavement in all of Edinburgh.  I stopped in to browse at a few shops including Hamilton & Young but did not see Gordon or June the owners.  I made it about three-quarters down the mile before veering off near the Train Station.  And, then I walked and walked and walked…  It is no wonder I didn’t bump into a person or a wall as I couldn’t stop looking up at some of the city’s amazing architecture.  The city’s mix of old and new is fascinating.    

But, all of what I just described has been experienced by many and I’m not sure I can add anything to it other than to say that Edinburgh is amazing.  The Castle, the Royal Mile, everything.  But, what has made these first few days so incredible for me are the people and the spirit of the city.  

When I got back to my room mid-afternoon, I was indeed, tired.  I realized I had essentially been awake for nearly 24 hours.   I took a minute to add some photos to Facebook and while doing so, took a look at one of the Scottish Travel Groups I follow.  I noticed a post from a woman who mentioned she was traveling solo and was looking for some ideas for backpacking the following day.  She had arrived in Edinburgh a few hours after I had and was spending one day here before heading off on her backpacking adventure.  I commented that I was also solo and if she wanted to meet up later, I was game to meet her.  I mean—why not?   

We agreed to meet at a location that I chose.  Ironically, I got hopelessly lost but my traveling friend stuck with me as we Facebook messaged back and forth until we finally found each other.  Honestly, I am usually pretty good with directions!!! Femke is from Holland and works in Marketing and Communications – but she is also a horse whisperer!  What I mean is she teaches “horsemanship” about the relationship between the horse and the human, very similar to the main character in the book and movie “The Horse Whisperer.”  I had peeked a little at her Facebook page and so mentioned the horse photos and then got the whole story.   However, what subject didn’t we talk about??!!  And, all the while, we were being entertained by our Scottish server who had a story about just about EVERYTHING.  And, Femke has recently binged Outlander Season 1 .  Little did she know who she was talking to!!!!   As Femke said after dinner – “We met as strangers but left as friends.” I seriously think there must be something in the water here.  It’s palpable – the joie de vive – of everyone you meet here.  More than once I thought maybe it was odd to go meet a total stranger for dinner.  But, I am SO glad I did.  As it turned out, we had quite alot in common and it was an experience I won’t soon forget.

This brings me to today. 

I had met and corresponded with a number of Scots here who happen to own the same dog breed as I do – the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Cavalier owners have a special kinship. I have been an owner for over a decade and have found this to be the case without exception. Over the last year or so, my Scottish friends and I have bonded over the dogs and they have teased me about my obsession with Outlander -- which most of them had not heard of! Once I knew I was coming to Scotland, I was sure that I had to meet these wonderful people and their dogs. And, today I did!

But, I came this close to making a very bad first impression when I unwisely decided to watch Episode 2.06 just before meeting my Scottish crew. My VPN service worked like a dream and I logged into quivering with anticipation about an Episode I knew contained THE SCENE I had been waiting for all of Droughtlander -- the Duel. I had exactly 55 minutes until I met my friends and so I started to watch. As you know by now, it was a electrifying episode. Non-stop action. And, the final scene literally left me hyperventilating and in tears. Mark me. I literally had to take a couple of minutes to pull myself together before going downstairs. Nothing like meeting people you have never met before with tears streaming down your face and gasping for breath!

But...eyes wiped, nose blown and regular breathing restored, I met my friends in the front of the hotel and the three of us and 10 Cavalier Spaniels set out for South Queensferry – just outside Edinburgh. We hopped a ferry over to Inchcolm Island – a little speck of an island that sits in the Firth of Forth. Atop the island are some remarkably well preserved ruins of an Augustinian Abbey.  Inchcolm means “Island of Colm” (from the Gaelic innis, meaning ‘island’). Colm was a mysterious hermit who inhabited the island but who later became St. Colm. Throughout the Firth of Forth are scattered various fortifications that provided defenses during many wars in Scotland’s history. The Abbey itself is wonderful. So many narrow stairs to climb and passages to explore. And, the weather today was brilliantly sunny so the views of Edinburgh and the Firth were astounding. Temperatures were in the high 50s but I wasn’t the least bit cold especially with the sun beating down. I am SO grateful for this wonderful day. I probably would have NEVER thought to make the ferry trip to Inchcolm and then I would have missed this beautifully serene island and its treasures. My only regret is that I couldn’t better understand the combinations of Glaswegian and Edinburgh accents of my Scottish friends. It was a study in concentration and listening! But, they were all delightfully welcoming and the dogs warmed my heart – as I have been missing my own at home. Nothing like spending the day with locals to truly get the real Scotland experience.

Tomorrow morning I am off to join my Tour Group – The Jamie and Claire Tour. We head north to the Highlands. I do love you Edinburgh, but can’t wait to put on my hiking boots and really experience the country and the beautiful Scottish landscape that I have dreamed about. Hope to talk to you again soon, Obsessenachs! Only bad news is I am running out of adjectives to describe this spectacular country and it’s only been two days! Slainte!

Read ALL my Scotland Diary entries here:
A Sassenach Abroad
Ready, Set, Scotland
May 13-14 Edinburgh
May 15-17 Castles, Kirks, Cairns and Culloden
May 19-21 The Highlands Part 2
May 24-27 Over the Sea to Skye
May 27-30 The West Coast and Scottish Hospitality

Have you been to Edinburgh?  Tell us about it.  If not, what would you like to see here?


  1. What a delightful post Anne & lovely,lovely photos.Having a wonderful time by the sound of it,what an adventure with meeting new friends!Sadly I never got to Edinburgh,heard about it though.Thanks a bunch Anne,enjoy the S&C tour.

  2. Aach! So jealous! But loving every minute of your sharing and the photos! I HAVE to get to Scotland again!

  3. MORE! Waiting with baited breath!

  4. What an amazing journey you're having! I was in Scotland years ago - now with Outlander, I'd return in a heartbeat!

  5. Anne, thanks for taking us along with you on your trip!!! It's so amazing!

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