View of the Castle, from Castle Rock Hostel’s front door!

Yes, you can tell that I really worked for the punni-ness of that title there. I’ll have to keep this one short (comparatively speaking) because once again I’m dead tired from walking all over the Old Towne of Edinburgh today, even after my amazing sleep last night (I must have slept 11 hours without flinching!) at the Melrose hostel.

No problems catching an hour-long bus ride up to Edinburgh this morning, putting me at about 9:15 for arrival time this morning. I found my hostel just as it started to rain, but enjoyed the view of the castle (which really is literally a mere couple hundred yards from my hostel!) and quickly decided to get out there and experience it (just carrying an umbrella too, thank goodness I brought it).

It was kind of a win/lose situation. I did enjoy Edinburgh Castle (especially since I had a special “Explore Scotland” ticket I had picked up yesterday that allowed me to skip the lines, like an amusement park) but on the other hand, I was wistfully comparing it to Conwy Castle and not in a positive way. I know that a big structure like Edin C. is going to draw a lot of international tourists (myself included, obviously) and some are going to need special accommodations. However, all of the ramps and guide-rails and screaming children trompling on everything quickly destroyed any sort of historic majesty to the castle and instead it became a mere tourist trap in my mind, the ancient black stones lost behind the umbrellas and the tromp of footsteps and the shouting of the aforementioned children. That was combined with my dislike of the large number of “authorised personnel only” and “keep out” signs in every corner leading off to somewhere.In comparison with the comparatively quiet and peaceful Conwy Castle, in which you could go pretty much anywhere and was deserted, I found myself wanting to get away from it all.

So when I got back from the castle, I dropped off what remained of my stuff and decided to hunt for the quieter parts. I had lunch at a little place off of the main road called “The Elephant’s House”…it was famous for a certain writer getting her start there, doodling ideas on napkins about a boy named Potter and his wizarding world…yes, it was the favorite haunt of JK Rowling when she started writing, which they proudly proclaimed on a flyer on the counter. Me, I was just happy they offered 10% off for students! I then continued down the High Street (their word for our Main Streets) away from the mad tourist rush around the tartan/kilt stores and the castle and towards Holyrood Palace at the bottom of the hill. However, no tourists were currently allowed to visit the Palace…there was some dignitary visiting or something…some bloke named Prince Charles I believe, who actually has the title of the Duke of Rosyth (a Scottish locality) as well. I looked at it this way: I was probably within 300 yards of the Prince of England. It was a shame that I didn’t get to see the nearby Holyrood Abbey because of the visiting royalty either; I think I’m becoming an Abbey buff.

However, one glance to my right down the street and all thoughts of palaces vanished. There was a huge bluff stretching into the sky and consulting my guidebook told me it was “Arthur’s Seat” and was 823 feet tall. Following my new motto of “The best things in life are either free or are computer components” I knew that it had to be climbed. Umbrella in one hand and guidebook in the other, my shoes slowly filling with water (ugh) – I scaled to the top of the peak before me, only to realise that…………I had just climbed, not Arthur’s Seat but the Salisbury Crags instead! Drat. I had to suit myself with the second-highest point in the Edinburgh region.

Not a bad view of the city, despite a misting of fog/rain

By this point it was coming into the evening, so I descended and began my walk back, chatting with some of the police force dispersed around Holyrood to guard the Prince. They were quite amicable (probably out of sheer boredom) and told me some of the history of the city and of the areas around Holyrood and the hills. The Scottish accent varies quite a bit, I’m noticing; my tour guide in Edinburgh Castle was barely comprehensible with his thick brogue, but the youngest police officer I spoke with just sounded like an Englishman with something in his throat instead.

At 19:30 I had my final plans for the night: a Scottish Literary Pub Tour that started near the hostel. Even though I didn’t understand everything that was going on because of the constant literary references to Scottish writers and poets, the tour was made up of about a dozen people, mostly Americans like myself and I chatted with a friendly New York native (although she had been living in London for 6 years) who bought me a pint at one of our stops at a few of the pubs on our tour. The two guides were quite funny, playing a snobbish intellectual “against” a streetwise smart-aleck actor. Both of them were advertised as trained actors and I thought they did great. The weather was still pretty bad which would explain why more people didn’t come down. However, they even pointed me out to some great restaurant/pubs for me to visit, as by this point it seemed like my light lunch had been hours ago.

I ended up walking back down High Street again but I couldn’t find the one they recommended, and since it was almost exactly 22:00 at that time, all of the restaurants had stopped serving food. With a heavy heart, I took my seat at…McDonalds. Ordered myself a few burgers, and watched morosely out the window at the trees waving as it grew darker. It was almost embarrassing to be eating burgers and fries in a beautiful historic place like Edinburgh, but I definitely plan on haggis within the next few days.

Wow, falling asleep where I sit here in my bed in the hostel. This hostel is quite nice (and busy too) and the rooms are named and the bunks are named appropriately. For example, I’m in the “underwear room” and my bunk is named “bloomers” – I’m across the way from boxers, briefs, and “crotchless”: I kid you not. The room around me is filled with snores from my sleeping roommates, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be joining them in the next few minutes…