Samantha Riley journeys to the land of the unicorns in a Scottish adventure chock-full of culture, cathedrals and castles. In Edinburgh, she spies kilts, beauty and even a spot of sun.
This past weekend was a journey to the land of unicorns, also known as Scotland. As ridiculous as that may sound, the mythical creature is actually the official animal of the country.
Thursday I left for Edinburgh to rendezvous with my friends and upon arrival, I was greeted by the sight of three men walking through the airport in kilts. There was no need to confirm I had arrived in the right place for the answer was right in front of me.
The others were not due to arrive until Friday afternoon which allowed me the time to explore on my own. Upon veering away from the main street, I happened upon the National Library of Scotland and decided to visit. The newest exhibition features the diseases that plagued the country about a few hundred years ago and the library's most popular exhibit is the largest map collection in Scotland and one of the largest in the world. On the way back, I came across an indoor market with vendors selling everything from quirky wall art to hand-made jewelry. It was a crafts-person's haven and these types of discoveries only further induced me into wanderlust.
Friday morning I spent a few hours at the National Museum of Scotland and there is no doubt why it was named one of the best in the United Kingdom. It is three stories packed with artifacts and historical information, presented in the most creative way possible. The World Cultures gallery connects places like Australia, India and Ireland to Scotland. It draws on the influence of other countries on Scotland and vice versa. Afterwards, an emotional reunion was had with my friends and we headed off, meandering through the streets of the city.
Saturday morning it was off to a 2 1/2 hour walking tour of Auld Reekie, also known as Edinburgh. The tour covered Saint Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile, Greyfriars Kirkyard (for Harry Potter fans), Mercat Cross and more. At the conclusion of the tour we ventured over to Leith, a district of the city along the water, for a change of scenery and lunch. The final stop of the day, just in time for sunset, was to Calton Hill, home to a considerable number of monuments and the city's observatory.
Sunday morning, we ventured to the Stockbridge Market and left with full stomachs, it was time to hike to Arthur's Seat, a hill in the middle of Holyrood Park. A brisk walk to the base near the Palace of Holyrood and another forty minutes to the top, was beyond worth it. From above, we could see the entire city of Edinburgh and spent a fair amount of time basking in the radiance of the sun- a rare occurrence. With a decent amount of time left in the day we headed over to Grassmarket to do a little shopping before a bittersweet goodbye.