UK Trip: Day 5, Exploring Edinburgh

5 May 2016

We arrived in Edinburgh very late on Friday night, just before midnight. Since the city was so dark and quiet, we weren't able to experience much until the next morning. Our Edinburgh Airbnb host was kind enough to meet us late in the night and we were so thankful after such a long day of traveling. The flat was located right on the Royal Mile which is the best location you can be when visiting the city. We had to climb three floors of stone spiral staircases to get up to the flat we were staying in but it was 100% worth it. The flat was absolutely amazing and I would live there if I could - no joke. The space was big, incredibly clean, and in the perfect location. It had two super cozy bedrooms that overlooked the Royal Mile, a living room, kitchen, and a gorgeous bathroom with a black slate shower. If you ever stay in Edinburgh, this is the place to stay

Edinburgh is by far my most favorite city, and that's saying something because I really, really love New Orleans. There is absolutely NOTHING that I didn't like about our time here (actually, I lied - the slow incline of the Royal Mile all the way up to the castle nearly killed my legs, but that's it). Honestly, I get a little teary eyed just thinking about it. The Royal Mile is such a great setup, on one end is Holyrood Palace, and on the other end is Edinburgh Castle. Between the two endpoints are many restaurants, pubs, cashmere shops, and kilt shops. The buildings are absolutely gorgeous and everything is so damn old! By the first half of the 1700's, Edinburgh was one of the most densely populated, overcrowded, and unsanitary places in all of Europe, and boy has it come a long way. Luke and I kept wondering where all of the people were! Every place we visited in Scotland seemed like it was a bit.. dead? There weren't any crowds which is probably another reason why I love this city so much. We were curious about the population of Scotland so we looked it up, and it turns out that New Jersey ALONE has 3 more million people than the whole of Scotland does. This is just one of the many reasons why I'm ready to move to Edinburgh ASAP. 

On our way up to the castle on Saturday morning we passed by St Giles Cathedral, which is believed to date before the 12th century. I especially loved the windows on this building, they reflected the sky perfectly. We also passed an old pub that had "Mary Queen of Scots probably drank here" written on the window, which is so fitting because that woman really got around. After admiring the sights for a while, we finished the trek up to the castle which had amazing views (pictured below). 

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle was the busiest place we came across in Scotland, though for 10am on a Saturday, it really wasn't that busy. The Castle itself was built on Castle Rock, which is an extinct volcano. The site has been occupied since the 2nd century, though the oldest still-standing building on the site (and in all of Edinburgh) is St Margaret's Chapel which was built in the 12th century. Mary Queen of Scots, who pretty much followed us everywhere we went on this trip, lived and gave birth to her son here. The Great Hall (pictured below) was built in the early 1500's, and its wooden beam roof is said to be original. 

Holyrood Palace & Abbey

One of the highlights of our trip, for me, was Holyrood Palace. If you visit Edinburgh - go here. I fell completely in love with the place. It's located at the opposite end of the Royal Mile, and it's where the Queen stays while she's in Scotland. Most of the current Palace dates to around the 1670s, but Mary Queen of Scots' 16th century apartments still exist within the Palace. The interior of this place is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and I'm 10000% bummed that pictures weren't allowed to be taken inside. The Gallery is the largest room in the Palace, and when we were there it was set up for a banquet with a table - no lie - that had to have seated at least 200-300 people. The walls were covered with portraits of every King of Scotland since the beginning of time and the room looked like it went on forever. As you traveled deeper into the Palace, closer to the King's bedroom, the rooms got fancier and fancier. The 17th century ceilings and four-poster bed were stunning. Access to Mary's rooms (yeah, we're on a first name basis now) were via a cramped, steep spiral staircase. We stood in Mary's room and learned about how her jealous husband had her secretary dragged into the next room where he was stabbed 56 times and murdered right in front of 7 month pregnant Mary in 1566. The spot where he was murdered has an eerie red blood-like stain on the floorboards, though it's unlikely that this is what the stain actually is. 

As we exited the Palace, we stumbled into Holyrood Abbey which was built in 1128, but ruined since the 18th century. This place is unreal, and I could've spent so much time admiring every little detail. The old moss covered faces (below in the photo on the left) really gave me the creeps. We wandered around the Holyrood grounds for a while taking pictures & enjoying how beautiful our surroundings were before heading off to Arthurs Seat, which Luke wanted to climb.

We took a City of the Dead "Double Dead" night walking tour, which covered the Edinburgh Vaults and Greyfriars cemetery, one of the worlds most haunted places. On our way to the vaults, a drunk man dressed as Santa joined our group which was pretty funny. Everyone kept telling him he was a little early for Christmas, and he ended up leaving once we passed by his destination (which I assume was another pub). Our tour guide was entertaining and knowledgeable, and he only threw in a couple of jump scares which was appreciated by the group. The South Bridge Vaults were formed inside of the arches of South Bridge in Edinburgh, which was built in 1788. For 30 years these vaults were used to house taverns, cobblers, and other tradesmen. Not long after they moved in, they abandoned the place due to poor air quality and dampness that was caused due to the bridge not being sealed properly. The poor people of Edinburgh ended up moving in, and the vaults became a slum. Prostitution, robbery, and murder were common in these vaults. Famous serial killers Burke & Hare chose their victims from this area and sold their bodies to medical schools. Women in the vaults were known to befriend pregnant mothers in order to steal their children and put them to a life of work as chimney sweeps. The life expectancy of these children was a maximum of 12 years old. Over the years, many people have had paranormal experiences in this part of the city. The vaults are pitch black, the darkest places I've ever been to. I only got a strange feeling in one of the rooms, which wasn't a room that was supposed to be haunted. If there was actually something there, or if I was influenced by the stories that were being told, I don't know. My mom mentioned that she heard some noises, but wasn't sure whether or not it came from someone in our group or ~~~something spooooopy~~~. 

After we finished at the vaults, we made our way to Greyfriars Kirkyard which dates back to the 1560's. We were told that though only 5,000 headstones survive, there are at least half a million people buried here. A "plague pit" was found at Greyfriars, where plague victims were thrown in to be disposed of. There are so many people buried here, it's not uncommon for bones to start popping up out of the ground - the hills you see are not natural, they are created from hundreds of years of bodies piling up. Between the mass amount of bodies and body snatchers, it's no wonder Greyfriars is considered one of the most haunted places on Earth. We were able to see a couple of mortsafes, which were used to protect bodies from body snatchers that would sell them for medical research. The bodies were left in the mortsafes until they were decomposed enough to be deemed useless for medical research, from there they would be buried in their final resting place. The Covenanters Prison can also be found within the graveyard, 400 people were imprisoned here over the harsh winter months during the late 1670s, many of which died here, and the remainder were sent on a ship bound for America that ultimately sank on its journey there. Our last stop on our tour was to Greyfriars Bobby's headstone, a loyal dog who guarded his master's grave for 13 years in the late 1800's. Cemetery keepers would normally have killed the dog, but neighbors in the area grew to love him and a local animal activist paid for his license and care. Bobby brought in so many visitors over the years that some believe Bobby died much earlier than 1872, and was replaced with younger dog to keep the money rolling in. To this day you will find sticks and toys at his grave, left by animal lovers over 100 years later. 

Over the course of this day we walked THIRTEEN MILES! In one day!! When you go to Edinburgh, I recommend taking your walking shoes - you'll be doing A LOT of it. :)

Click here to read about day 6!

UK Trip Posts

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Extra Trip Photos

* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.