Scotland: Chapter 3 Where to Wednesday

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“Excuse me, are you a visitor here?” The soliciting old man asked.

“Uh mm..yes…” I replied, curious and cautiously.

“Would you be willing to be a part of a survey about how our visitors are experiencing Edinburgh?” He asked, with a hopeful tone.

I wasn’t sure what I’d do with that. He only needed an email, and he had lots of ID proof that he worked for a research company. Hmm, I thought.


Well, I’d gotten an early start to the day this time, and was out of the apartment before 730, to grab a bus into the city. I got off at a coffee place, that was difficult to find. The three street intersection I’d gotten off at was empty. Most stores were closed of course. I looked around for the coffee place. One side of the street was all business, the other was more restaurants and closed cafes. The third intersection was the beginning to a park. Google maps said the place I was looking for was right there, it I didn’t see it, until I saw a sign with Yoda on it, pointing me to the smaller street next to the park. A Darth Vader joke later, and I was standing at a bar taller than I trying to order some tea, to get change to get a day pass for the bus. I hadn’t had enough change before, just for the one trip.

The place looked pretty good, and comfortable. It had free wifi, and lots of smaller corners to work. I might be back before the trip was over. I got the tea to go, because I still had a mini plan for the day. By this time it was around 830, and I was headed towards Edinburgh Castle, to get my explorer’s pass (to see a lot of places in Scotland for super cheap), and to see the castle. There are about 80 locations the past gets you into, all over Scotland, and while I didn’t have a car, there were a lot of buses. I also wouldn’t see all 80 but at least 10, and since most are 4-10 a person to get into, the 35$ I spent on it would be worth it in the end. I highly recommend that, if you’re going to be in Scotland for a long time, or at least a week or two.

Anyway, enough with the commercial break. I headed out towards another bus stop. Some of the stops give you updates on a digital monitor for when the buses will arrive, but really that’s only closer into the city. New Zealand had the same thing, and so did London. The further away from the city you get, those monitors don’t exist, and all I pretty much have is Google. I always think about awesome and terrible it is how I rely on tech. Oh well.

So, buses, I waited a few minutes for the bus I needed, and this time I got my day pass. I’d use it at least 4 more times, and that was worth the 4 pounds. I got off at a random stop, just below the castle on the far… East? Side? I was a little turned around here. I crossed a few streets, and made my way up the curving hill cliff side. It went up for another ten minutes, passed some tour buses, and maybe 100feet under some stadium seating. At the top of the hill was another street, that went down, but to my left were stairs that went up some more, and it seemed that was the way I needed to go. So, up I went. Needless to say I was pretty tired by the time I reached the top of those 3 level stairs.

At the top, I couldn’t believe the line that had already formed. It was a Wednesday morning at 9am, and the place wasn’t even open yet, and everyone was already lined up. Large tour groups and even more families. There were two lines, one side for groups or passes and one for the day tickets. At least the line for passes was, MILDLY shorter? The lines went from the castle entrance all the way down to the stadium entrance where guards were just kind of…hanging around.

It actually didn’t take too long, all the groups ended up moving off once they were under the bridge by the ticketing area. I went up to the widow for previously bought tickets, but my name wasn’t recognized as I typed it into the monitor. Bah. Well, off to visitor’s info right?

Right. I went in, and they were able to print everything I needed, plus give me a guide to every where I could go. Apparently, the ticket I’d gotten would mean I didn’t have to wait in any line, at any location and could just go straight in after they’d scanned it. I could go to as many locations in a day that I wanted, but only once for the entire time. Still pretty good, I say.

I thanked the woman, and headed up the castle entry way. Of course the family curse followed me. Even though I could basically cut the line, there was a family who was trying to get in, however they’d already used their pass the day before. I guess only half the family had come and now the other half wanted to go in, it since it only works once, they were out of luck. My family curse is that we always get stuck in a line behind people who have a problem. Whether it’s at target and someone is buying 300$ worth of things, or a castle… It follows us everywhere.

Well, finally they left, and the man scanned my pass. I walked up the cobblestone path and towards the front. The castle had just opened, and it was already crawling with people. So much for trying to beat the crowds. It was a pretty big castle, by the way. I don’t think I saw everything, but I got the view photos, wandered into the war museum, found some dark alleys and rooms to hide in for a bit, and after about an hour or so, I finally couldn’t take the crowds anymore. I tried to find a different exit, but I didn’t see one, so I went out the way I came, which was super difficult given the amount of people waiting to get in. It was now about 1030-1045 and there was just an endless line of people still headed out past the stadium entrance. I few short-person maneuvers later and I was walking down the hill into the touristy area I’d seen the day before.

This was where the random researcher stopped me asking for my email to take a survey. I decided against it, as I hate given my info out to random strangers in the middle of anywhere, even nice old gentlemen – well especially nice old gentlemen because seriously…

I started to walk down, and back again, trying to find my way to the train station again. I was kind of tired of people already, so I found some more back alley ways, including a very steep alley hill that if my dad were around he’d probably have a heart attack watching me climb because it was empty and hidden behind a lot of buildings. He’d call it, “unsafe”. I just call it a new story to freak him out with.

Well, several breaths later, I made it to the top, which was really just the other side of the street, and I still didn’t find the train station. I did, however, find the museum. If you’re keeping track, yesterday I wanted the museum and found the train station, and today I wanted the station and found the museum. Just keep that in your pocket. I swear my navigation isn’t this bad, or maybe it’s just that good?

Anyway, this museum, again puts the museum at home to shame. It was freaking huge, with so may different and connecting rooms. It was really bright, like the British museum, with ridiculous archways and ceiling beams. There were about 5 levels, and each end or side of the museum was connected, and open, and had a theme. There as an entire science and tech section, fashion section, music & Art, and natural history section. You enter, basically under everything and have to walk in, and as you walk in, the right side is all science and tech with things kids can play with but with giant planes, and other machines going up all 3-5 levels. The opposite of that was the natural history section, and straight ahead were the other exhibits, but every section went up for levels upon levels. Definitely could get lost, every other turn looked about the same. I was here for about another 90 minutes, walking through all the sections and levels. The had some Viking exhibits, and I remembered I had an old Viking chess set somewhere at home. Later I’d email and confuse my mom about looking for it, but once she reads this she’ll get it.

I was getting tired, and decided to take a break again. I headed out of the museum towards another bus to get back to the gardens were I was staying. I got to the apartment, and was probably there for about 45 minutes before I decided to head back out again to another castle, Craigmillar, that didn’t seem like a huge bus ride away. I grabbed my things and ran out the door to catch the bus. Apparently the bus I needed only came once every 45 minutes, so it was imperative that I didn’t miss it.

The bus was headed towards “The Royal Infirmary”. Every time I hear that word I think of an episode of ‘white collar’ where they’re on a treasure hut and end up at an infirmary. Moving on, I got off at the hospital, and tried to figure out where I needed to go. I decided to head back up around the corner to this small road I’d seen on the way in. Google maps said it was about a half mile hike up, so I walked up the entire road before realizing that there was a pedestrian path just following it. I had been getting yelled at by some cars, and moved off to the side a few times to let many pass, before I came upon an open space to the previously mentioned path. Oooooops. See, Google doesn’t tell you everything! A real map might have…emphasis on might.

Alright so I finished the walk along this path, which took me down passed the castle a bit, but it was definitely safer than the super narrow road next to which I had to hide in bushes to let a car pass. It’s okay, I’m small, and that only sounds mildly creepy, right?

I followed the small pebble path from the road up to the castle shop entrance. I went in, hearing some kids yelling down to the side. There was one young guy working at the counter. He scanned my pass and also gave me the code to the bathroom. Good man, good man.

This castle was like a giant kids playground that was well taken care of and empty. There were lots of places to wander, get lost in, and maybe areas to climb to top. It had a large grounds area to run around in, and a giant tree that was just on the other side of the entrance. It was pretty sweet, and I was happy to be somewhere that didn’t have a lot of people, and kids were just having fun playing hide and seek.

I think I stayed for about 40 minutes, because, again, that bus I needed only came by once in awhile. I also had that half a mile trek back, and according to Google ( do we listen??) I had about 20 minutes to make it back to a different bus stop at the end of the road-that-I-shouldn’t-have-walked-up. I went back and thanked the young man in the tiny shop, and made my way down the correct pedestrian path this time.

The path ended at the exact bus stop I’d gotten off at earlier, it was just hidden around a building and up the hill a bit. Ooops.. But now I had to rush back around the corner and up the hill again to get to the road that I shouldn’t have gone up before because that’s where the new bus stop was. See? None of this made sense but it also made perfect sense.

The end of the evening was stopping at the corner store for some dinner and more reading. Also soaking my foot because it was hurting more than usual. Also, I’ll learn that I might have sprained an ankle. Yep. SHHHHH DAD, I can hear you right now. Gah. Whatever. Anyway, till next time.