Sometimes I wonder if I truly love a place because of its beauty, charm and people, or because everything just happens to fall into place when I get there. By the time I got to Edinburgh after a short work trip to London and an even shorter trip to Dublin to visit friends, I immediately knew this was a place I could move to.
In fact, a couple of friends as well as my own sister were pretty shocked that I had never been to Edinburgh. I’m pretty well traveled in Ireland and the UK – I’ve been to the former on at least ten separate occasions and the latter possibly more, either to visit friends and family, for work or just because Ryanair was putting on a sale for cheap flights back when I lived in Germany (and in the days when Ryanair wasn’t the horrible nickel-and-diming company they are now). I had even been to Glasgow once for a few days on my way out to Belfast and thought it was nice, but nothing to get too excited about.
Edinburgh, on the other hand, had everything. The city center is beautiful, but on our first night we strayed from the apartment we had rented and went in the opposite direction of Princes Street, Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile. We came across the most beautiful, charming neighborhoods with not a tourist in sight. It had great food – we tried haggis twice and actually liked it both times (try the haggis appetizer at Dubh Prais – a tiny restaurant in the heart of the city with some delicious food – but be sure to reserve since it only has about seven tables and is very popular).
The people we encountered in Edinburgh were also characteristically friendly and kind. It didn’t get dark until around 11:30 p.m. (we were there at the end of June). We had brought warm and sunny-ish weather along with us from, umm, Dublin and London. Our apartment was cozy but spacious, clean and beautiful. The food was delicious. Really, nothing could go wrong for us in Edinburgh. The city welcomed us with open arms and it became one of those top places that I rave about whenever someone asks me what my “favorites” are.
And that was just the icing on the cake. After a few days – not enough in my book – Chris got back on a plane and went home, and I rented a car to drive 200 miles on the wrong side of the road up to the Isle of Skye.
I didn’t actually make it all the way to Skye my first day since I had rented a room in a B&B just outside of the island in Loch Carron. Really I just chose the place for its convenient location close to Skye, but here’s the thing about Scotland – nearly everywhere you end up is amazing. I mean, seriously amazing. My B&B hosts, Morag and Joe, had a beautiful house overlooking the lake in a place I could easily see myself retiring in. They had spent quite of bit of time traveling themselves when they were younger but realized they had found the perfect spot and had no desire to keep moving around once they built their house in Loch Carron.
The next two days I simply drove around, stopping any time I got hungry, wanted to take a walk or just needed to pull out the camera and properly document what I was seeing. A lot of the scenery reminded me of Iceland, but with trees.
My last day, before heading back to Edinburgh, I took Morag’s advice and drove along Wester Ross instead of checking out the more popular Isle of Skye. There’s a reason you should listen to locals. The drive was exactly what I had been looking for when I set out: myself, alone with my thoughts, my camera, some snacks and some music on an open road winding up and down mountains overlooking the sea. It was absolutely perfect.
A few things not to be missed in Edinburgh…
– Edinburgh Castle. But this is pretty obvious. Great history of the city and amazing views from above.
– Camera Obscura in Edinburgh. An interactive museum of light, illusions and cameras and just as much fun for adults as for kids.
– Stockbridge neighborhood for dinner. Get away from the more touristy areas and pop into a restaurant or coffee shop.
– Dubh Prais restaurant. As I mentioned before, make a reservation or you’ll never get in.
– Aimless wandering. This is a GREAT city for that.
… and in other parts of Scotland:
– Wester Ross. I had my sights set on Skye because I had heard it was nice, but was told about the drive from Lochcarron to Applecross. It turned out to be better than anything I ever saw on the Isle of Skye.
– The Applecross Inn. Friendly people and good food in a quaint little Scottish village. Unforgettable.
– Eilean Donan Castle. I didn’t actually go in, but driving past after “discovering” it by chance on my way to Skye was amazing.
– Anywhere in the northwestern region of the Highlands. You really can’t go wrong.