After my 7hr layover in the Brussels Airport, it was finally time to board my plane to Edinburgh, Scotland. The flight was just over and hour long, so I slept as best I could for the duration of the flight. But, that didn’t go super well; the sunset was so pretty and sleeping on planes is difficult in general. My plane landed at 10pm and I navigated my way through border control and found the bus to catch to the Castle Rock Hostel. This was when I realized my anxiety about flying is pretty much gone. I had no fear of not finding the bus or talking to border control or going through security when at the Florence Airport. If you read any of my other blog posts where I talk about flying, I always mention the anxiety it causes me.
I get off the bus on Princes St. and begin to follow Google Maps directions to the hostel. I walk past the park below the Edinburgh Castle and up a hill, gazing at the castle lit up at the top of the hill. The hill curves a little and then Google Maps tell me to head up some dimly lit stairs, which I learn later was Milne’s Close, so not a sketchy back alley. But, as I walked up the stairs that night, I was definitely wondering the entire time whether or not it was common to walk up these stairs at night [Don’t worry Grandma, I never felt unsafe]. I finally make it up the hill and to the hostel with both my backpacks, neither of which were light. Carrying mountaineering boots, laptop, camera, full water bottle, and warm and cold weather clothes adds up.
This hostel is like a castle inside; it was really cool! Anyway, enough about my travels, you are probably wondering what Tailor and I were doing in Scotland. So… the plan was to adventure in the Highlands (Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Parks). Did that happen? No. Tailor and I had been quite busy leading up to this trip, so the planning part didn’t actually happened. And, unfortunately getting to the Cairngorms from Edinburgh would have been quite spendy… So, we talked to reception at the hostel (they were SUPER friendly; I would highly recommend this hostel for anyone traveling to Scotland) and were recommended the Pentlands. The girl at reception said it wouldn’t be anything super intense, but that it’s the closest we would get to “intense” hiking in just a day trip.
So, that’s what we did! Tailor and I caught bus 15a, got off at Hillend, and started walking up the street to get to the entrance of the Pentlands. Shortly after, we realized the entrance was actually the other direction, so we turned around. Getting to the Pentlands, we explored the hills, found some cairns, located Tailor’s forest (see pictures), saw people skiing (FYI: there was no snow on the ground), and ran into a ton of dogs.
We could have caught the bus back into town, but we decided instead to walk because why not? It was actually a very nice walk back (~4 miles) through the suburban neighborhoods. The rest of the day, we wandered around the Royal Mile and then crashed at the hostel.
The next morning, we caught a bus to Glasgow, Scotland and walked to the Tartan Lodge, our hostel for the night. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so much tartan in one place. It was truly a Scottish hostel. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a walk to the city centre. The original plan was to adventure in Loch Lomond National Park the day after arriving in Glasgow. But, again, did that happen? No. Tailor had a 2pm bus to catch to continue her travels through the UK and so that left me. I looked into exploring on my own, but the bus to get to the parts that would be worthwhile exploring was completely booked unless I wanted to leave at 6:50am. Typically, I’d be fine with that, but from all my travels so far, I am quite exhausted. Also, I knew that I would be spending the night in the Edinburgh Airport and probably wouldn’t get any sleep (this is where I am right now writing this blog post). So, that plan went out the window. But, I didn’t really care. I think I might have been too exhausted for hiking anyway between how many busses, planes, and trains I’ve taken in the last week and a half (4 planes, 6 trains, and 9 busses), lack of protein (SO many carbs in Italy), and having walked an average of 8-12 miles per day, some of the days with both my packs.
So, Tailor and I stored our luggage at the Glasgow Central Station and found a cute little cafe with outdoor seating for breakfast. I got an eggs benedict that came with salmon; it was delicious! After breakfast, we made the trek over to University of Glasgow to explore the Kelvingrove Museum. All museums are free, so that is a plus! I’m not really a museum person, but some parts were interesting. Also, they did a free organ concert while we were there, so that was exciting! Tailor and I ran into another international student we knew from UL, so we parted ways and I hung out with Cassie for the afternoon at a cute cafe.
She had to catch a plane that evening, so I wandered downtown and people watched before catching my bus to the Edinburgh Airport. There were lots of street performers. I hung out listening to an older man sing by the Gallery of Modern Art, figuring out where I wanted to wander next. The man wasn’t actually all that good at singing. But, what made it entertaining was a post-college age guy got up and started singing the chorus of Pumped up Kids by “Foster the People” with the older man (just as poorly). He must’ve been dared by his friends. Everyone started watching; it was quite entertaining.
I now sit here in the Edinburgh Airport, as this is my “bed” for the night, waiting to catch my plane in the morning. So, sorry if there are any typos or things that don’t make sense. Also, my mom lands in Ireland tomorrow as well, so that’s exciting!
Bonus story: Italian ladies are crazy…
…Or at least the Italian ladies who have stayed in my hostel rooms this trip. After checking into my hostel in Florence, I walked into my room to get settled and one of the five beds (the center one) had stuff all over it, under it, and around it. There was a wash basin with clothes in soaking. It looked like someone had moved in. later in my trip, I returned to my room and the Italian lady who was sleeping in that bed came over to me and showed me the basil she was growing on the windowsill (I didn’t see anything sprouting, but she was very positive she saw something sprouting). Then, one afternoon, I was relaxing in the room and so was another girl who looked to be about the same age as me. The Italian lady walked in and fell asleep for about 2 minutes half on her bed and then sat up, looked at her basil, then again fell asleep for a couple minutes half on her bed. She moved a few things around on her bed, left the room momentarily, came back, rearranged the items again, and then left again. The other girl looked at me in curiosity. The two of us bonded over the fact that we were confused about this lady. The next time the Italian lady came in, Kirsty, my new friend, and I asked how long she was staying at the hostel. The Italian sat down, thought about it for a while, and then said, “well… I’ve been here since 2009 or 2010. I wanted to go to the mountains, but I ended up here instead. I get a free bed for doing a little work, but I don’t get paid.” So, basically she does live in the center bed of a shared 5 bed hostel room. I can think of better places to settle down, but whatever works for her.
Then, in Edinburgh, I meet another Italian lady. I walk into the room in the middle of the afternoon to grab things to shower. But, that was delayed by the lady starting a conversation with me. She was trying on clothes she had just purchased and was super excited to tell me about each piece of clothing. She also kept looking at herself in the mirror and then coming back over and showing me. I finally made it out of the room and to the shower. When I returned, she was still trying on clothes. I started a conversation with another girl around my age (found out she used to climb a lot and wants to get back into it, so we talked all about climbing). In the middle of our conversation, the Italian lady walked between us and started telling us about her new clothes again… She then walked over to the mirror, briefly looked at herself, and then walked over between us again, did a little jump and then a squat. She was so excited about the stretchiness of her new pants.
Both of these ladies were a fair amount older. They were very nice, but definitely interesting…