From London I caught an overnight bus to Edinburgh, Scotland. The bus was full, and I absolutely froze. To this day I’m still not sure if I was un-acclimatised, or Scotland was just downright cold – probably a mixture of both. I arrived in the rain at 7am – thankfully my hostel was just around the corner (Princes St East Backpackers: dream location, good facilities but only 2 hours of free Wifi). I was also lucky that there was a spare bed in my allocated room so I was able to check in early and go catch some sleep for a few hours. Later that afternoon Danielle arrived and we headed out for a celebratory birthday dinner at a traditional Scottish pub that went by the name of Dirty Dicks.
We had wondered why accommodation was so expensive, and we soon found out it was because the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was on. An incredible three weeks whereby Edinburgh just hums, the streets were alive and people come from all over the world to watch and partake in the festivities. We went to three different shows; “In the Pink” – it was advocated as being like Pitch Perfect, which had both Danielle and I sold from the get go. We also saw a comedy show put on by students from Oxford University, as well as a magician – which was spectacular! Most of the shows are free, and the ones that aren’t are usually only a few pounds.
Despite the extremely temperamental weather, we decided to do a walking tour which ended up being really interesting. We walked the Royal Mile to the Edinburgh Castle, saw the setup for the Tattoo (NZ got a special mention here because apparently last year the troops broke the march down and converted to Gangnam Style! We weren’t sure whether to cringe or be proud), spat on the heart as per tradition, visited the Grassmarket, the Elephant House (café where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter), and the famous cemetery; even nabbing a photo with Tom Riddle’s grave. I had no idea there was so much Harry Potter history here so I was pleasantly surprised. The following day we visited the Edinburgh Castle in depth. It was beautiful; we saw the prison, the Crown Jewels and also witnessed the gun firing at 1pm.
From there we caught a 1hour bus to Glasgow. We walked what felt like forever to our hostel (Bluesky Hostel – my good experience with hostels has probably resulted in high standards, but it was the most crammed hostel I have ever stayed in. The Wifi was good until they reset the modem (and then it didn’t work for the rest of our time there), and the facilities were average.) Upon our arrival we immediately scoped out the nearest Laundromat – my situation was so dire that I’d borrowed gypsy pants off Danielle, and had to pair these with a singlet, sports bra and a leather jacket! Once we had that situation sorted we headed out to Glasgow University – I was mind blown by how similar it was to Otago (photo below). We walked through the park where we stumbled across my friend Tom and the rest of the Canterbury Caledonian Pipe Band who were practicing for the World Champs beginning in Glasgow the following day! The rest of the day was spent exploring Sauchimarket Street, Georges Square, Buchanan Street and then a night out at the movies.
Not used to having to take our raincoats wherever we go, we got up the next morning and headed along the river to Glasgow Green, where we paid £3 to watch Day 1 of the World Pipe Band Championships. We watched the first heats where we saw both the NZ Police and the Canterbury teams perform. After this we went and visited the Glasgow cathedral, People’s Palace and fountain before coming back for the next round of heats. We made it back to town in time to watch the Scottish Commonwealth Games Team doing a parade with all their medals. It was such a NZ thing to celebrate, yet we didn’t recognise anyone! The following morning we went our separate ways once again; Danielle was off to Wales, and I was off to party with the Irish!