It was totally unprepared! I bought my flight tickets on Friday and flew to Edinburgh on the next day haha.
This is probably the first time that I went on a trip with Shuyiâ€™s parents, so it was a little differentâ€¦ and special. I mean, usually people dress up and prepare for a long time before meeting their bf/gfâ€™s parents right?
But Shuyiâ€™s parents had to suffer my puffy, whole-night-no-sleep eyes, long and ungroomed hair etc. In fact, when I look back at the pictures of this trip, I think that my hair was an EPIC fail, having not cut it for almost two months. I expect to look back at these photos 20 years from now and be absolutely horrified by myself.
Anyway Edinburgh is an enchanting, ancient city. As the capital city of Scotland, there are so many fascinating stories about the countryâ€™s history that could be relived in this city. I have a certain amount, but limited, knowledge of the countryâ€™s history, having read about the Scottish wars of independence and some of their famous monarchs.
However, with only three days in Edinburgh, we could experience only a small fraction of what the city had to offer!
Something that I would consider myself to have really missed is a ghost tour.
Apparently, Edinburgh is one of those few British cities that offer immensely spine-chilling ghost tours (given its long, brutal history), with participants claiming to have had â€˜unexplainableâ€™ experiencesâ€¦
Anyway, the City of Edinburgh is divided into the ‘newâ€™ and â€˜oldâ€™ city, and the latter is dominated by the majestic Edinburgh Castle.
Whenever I look at this castle I cannot help but marvel at the size of the ego of whichever king who built it LOL. I mean, right in the middle of the city there is a reasonably sized, steep hillâ€¦ Not too big and not too small, perfect for a castle of a scary king lording over its subjects!
Haha technically itâ€™s not just a â€˜hillâ€™, but rather an extinct volcano! All the more intimidating! Havenâ€™t we all learnt from the Dark Lord Sauron that building a fortress near a volcano is very bad ass?
If this was Sauronâ€™s castle, then we would all have been Orcs! On the first day we marched straight to the gates of Edinburgh Castle and entered without being killed. We had to pay the Dark Lord a tribute ticket of 14 pounds each but that was fine.
Behold the entrance:
Certain parts of this castle were almost a millennium old, and the area within the fortress walls were huge â€“ like a small town of its own!
In ancient times, I bet nobles and servants to the king would live in the fortress during peace times, and during war times civilians would be kept within the fortress walls while defending against a siege.
How would I know that? Because Orlando Bloom did that in Kingdom of Heaven and Theoden King of Rohan did that in Return of the King LOL.
Imagine sieging a castle like this! You would need to bring your army and go around and climb the hill, trying to get to the entrance with your battle rams and stuff while being showered with arrows by archers and (later) cannons from the fortress!
You would have 25% of your army dead by the time you reach the entrance.
AND thatâ€™s not all! Building a fortress on high ground (such as a hill) gives you another tactical advantage and that is enemy range attacks from below suffer a 10% chance to simply – MISS!
I know all this from years of personal experience defending castles against sieges.
Anyway I know all this is childish but I canâ€™t help it. We havenâ€™t got many castles in Malaysia (Kellieâ€™s Castle?) and as I walked on the castle grounds I imagined what it would have been like around me back in the Medieval ages.
For instance, this path must have been trodden by heavy horses of knights and riders rushing up to the kingâ€™s hall to deliver some news of war or famineâ€¦
This small hut must have been where a servant of a powerful lord lived with his deaf sister.
And Archers would line up along these walls and rain death onto the enemyâ€™s army below!
LOL anyway, back to reality. Hereâ€™s a fantastic view looking down to central Edinburgh from the heights of the castle.
There were several exhibits and displays within the castle and to visit them all would probably take half a day or more (our â€˜daysâ€™ were quite short as the winter sun started setting at around 3.45PM.)
One of the more interesting exhibits that we visited was the Prisons of War, where prisoners ranging from captured enemy soldiers to women accused of witchcraft had been held! Evil!
Itâ€™s interesting how the prisoners were made to sleep on these hammocks which look like those that you find on Pangkor Island beaches. Apparently this is to save space in the prison as the hammocks could be placed over above each other!
Many of the stuff on display here were real and actually used centuries ago.
There was a board detailing rations of food (and alcohol) that each prisoner was to be given, a small but detailed warship model built by (I presume) really bored prisoners, and even counterfeit money used to pay for extra food!
Imagine the freedom and time that these prisoners had in the dungeons that they could do all these things! If I were a prisoner I would probably start a food trading company and get rich!
Let me focus on what probably is the primary exhibit in Edinburgh Castle â€“ the Royal Palace!
This, obviously, was the residence of many Scottish kings and queens of old. There was a lot of educational displays describing the various kings and queens of Scotland and their lineages.
Accordingly, I sought out King James I.
Also inside the castle was the Kingâ€™s Dining Hall and the Birth Chamber where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to yet another King James, but the Sixth.
King James IV was perhaps the most famous Jamesâ€™s of them all, having survived Guy Fawkesâ€™ Gunpowder Plot, sponsored the King James translation of the Holy Bible, and united Scotland and England under one crown after ascending to the English throne, which eventually led to the formation of Great Britain as we know today.
This is all very interesting but perhaps the most fascinating part of the royal palace was the Crown Room!
The Crown Room houses the very precious Scottish Crown Jewels â€“ the Crown, Sceptre and Sword of State of Scotland! The Crown of Scotland was worn by several kings of Scotland and the Sceptre and Sword are gifts from Pope Alexander VI and Pope Julius II, respectively.
The Crown Room was extremely well guarded and the high-security transparent case that contained Crown Jewels looked like those in Mission Impossible movies.
Photography was naturally forbidden in the Crown Room and I dared not cross the guards! Haha therefore credits to the Edinburgh Castle website for the photo above.
After we were done with the castle we headed out to the street right outside Edinburgh Castle – the very famous, very beautiful, and very touristyâ€¦ Royal Mile!
The Royal Mile is about a mile long (of course), and connects the two historically important places in Edinburgh â€“ Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace.
I remember hearing from someone that Holyrood Abbey was where coronations of kings were held. Kings would be crowned in the Abbey and then parade up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle to be robed.
Today, Holyrood palace is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland, which makes sense – if I were the Queen, I would not want to seem so insecure as to live within the cannon-lined walls of Edinburgh Castle.
Anyway, there were many attractions along the Royal Mile such as the The Writerâ€™s Museum (featuring several famous Scottish writers), Witchesâ€™ Well (where over 300 women had been accused as witches and burned at the stake), and the Scotch Whisky Experience. Scotland is famous for scotch whisky, and regulations make it compulsory that all whisky in the world bearing the name â€˜Scotchâ€™ must be distilled in Scotland. Interesting!
Besides all that, fantastic architectures and marble statues of famous Scottish people could also be found along the Mile.
Canâ€™t possibly talk about all of them but one extremely popular attraction is Mary Kingâ€™s Close. We wanted to visit this place on the first day but tickets for the guided tour were completely sold out! So we had to purchase the following dayâ€™s ticket.
Mary Kingâ€™s Close is one of the many â€˜closesâ€™ in the Edinburgh â€“ streets with tenements or multi-storied apartments on both sides that were built several centuries ago for housing purposes.
Due to many people living close to each other, these closes were especially vulnerable to plagues, such as the bubonic plague which was responsible for the Black Death in Europe back in the 14th century.
Many, many people were infected in these closes and died during the plague. There are also rumours that people who got infected were eventually thrown into the closes and left to die. Later, the entire Mary Kingâ€™s Close was allegedly sealed with walls (on all sides and above) and the rumour goes that the plague victims were simply walled in and left to die in their now dark, underground apartments.
New roads and buildings were constructed on top of the entire seven-stories of underground tenements sealed underneath its floors. Imagine being left underground in a sealed, abandoned building while people above you simply build new buildings on top and forget about you!
All these myths and history give rise to a large amount of ghost stories, making Edinburgh an internationally famous destination for ghost and paranormal activity hunters.
In fact, I think several paranormal-hunting TV shows featured Mary Kingâ€™s Close in their episodes!
And so moving on we also found, in Edinburgh â€“ the University of Edinburgh!
The University of Edinburgh is one of the universities that kindly offered me a place earlier this year. UoE is an ancient and highly reputable university in the world. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like studying here in this fascinating city had I accepted the offer.
Would I visit the castle everyday? Would I have learned to play bagpipes? Would I have seen the Loch Ness monster?
Ahh, anyhow I still love Bristol more.
Other interesting things that we found around Edinburgh include this statue of Greyfriars Bobby, in memory of a world-famous dog with a very touching story.
According to the story, Bobbyâ€™s owner, John Gray, died of Tuberculosis and his dog Bobby guarded his dear masterâ€™s grave until he died himself after fourteen years.
It is a fact that John Gray and Bobby the dog both did exist. In fact, their graves are right behind the row of shophouses in the background.
The storyâ€™s authenticity, however, cannot be confirmed.
A few hundred metres down the road from Bobbyâ€™s statue is the Elephant House â€“ the cafe made legendary by J.K. Rowling herself having frequently visited and sat for long periods of time at the start of her career, writing the first few books of the Harry Potter series.
I would have gone in and sat for a long period of time trying to get inspiration to write a blog post worthy J.K. Rowling on James-Chow.com, but the cafe was closed by the time we reached.
So in the evening we ascended Calton Hill, one of the most famous and picturesque hills in Edinburgh.
Calton Hill was used as a place of public execution in ancient times and even in later times still remains a place of great political significance.
But I couldnâ€™t be bothered with history anymore and you wouldnâ€™t too if such an incredible view were in front of you.
There were several very important monuments on Calton Hill and the two that you see above are the Nelson Monument and the National Monument of Scotland, respectively.
The National Monument of Scotland has an interesting bit of story behind it and Iâ€™ll briefly tell it before I end this very long travel log (which I am lazy to split into parts).
The construction of the National Monument of Scotland was proposed back in 1822 and it was envisaged to be a grand and momentous project â€“ to build a monument after the Parthenon in Athens!
Long story short, all the rich lords in the city supported the proposal by promising money for its construction, but after the construction had actually begun, the rich guys decided that they would rather keep their money in the bank and earn interest (I presume).
And thus the construction could not be completed due to a lack of funds. A rumour was told that the neighbouring city of Glasgow offered to pay for the remaining costs, but Edinburgh – you know – being Edinburgh the capital city, was too proud to accept the offer.
And so without money the monument construction is abandoned and the structure left as you see today! Bad ending!
Moral of the story: When people offer you money (especially huge sums), swallow your pride, grab the cash and run.
All in all, Edinburgh as a city is such a nice place to visit and I will definitely be back again!
But in this trip:
I should have bought a Scottish kilt (the male â€˜skirtâ€™) as a souvenir.
I should have tried playing a Scottish bagpipe.
and I really should have cut my hair.View More