Published: September 12th 2010September 9th 2010
When I first started out on this little adventure, I promised myself that I would try to be thrifty, buy food from supermarkets where available, have a beer or two every now and then but still spend a bit of money doing sightseeing and what not. That was until I actually found some work and I could use my Aussie money as a backup for more travelling. In London it was pretty easy to do and I did it quite well.
Welcome to Edinburgh.
Now, to be fair I was still fairly thrifty in terms of food. I still went to the supermarkets and bought sandwiches, and I was pretty much living off 58p sausage rolls from Greggs. The thing is though with Edinburgh is that there are pubs and bars everywhere. And I mean everywhere. If you have to walk more than 50 meters to find a pub, then I’m pretty sure you’ve wandered out of Edinburgh. Throw into the mix that you are staying at hostels, and start meeting some awesome people who are in party mode and this is indeed a potentially deadly mix. And I should also point out that a night drinking in the
UK is MUCH cheaper than back home in Australia, which makes it all the more enticing. It really did turn out to be a week and a half long pub crawl pretty much. It all started when I met Aina and Anniken, two girls from Norway who I estimate probably had about 15 hours sleep for the 5 days they were in Edinburgh. These girls knew how to party, and party hard they did. The first day I met them they invited me and another German guy, Tom to go out with them. Tom piked early, almost luckily for him. It pretty much seemed like for about 6 hours or so there was just a constant stream of drinks. It set a tone of things to come.
Now, by this first paragraph you’re all probably thinking that drinking was all I did. But you’d be wrong. Like London I had already been to Edinburgh before, but unlike London Edinburgh is an absolutely fantastic and charming little city. With it being quite a small city it was easy to wander around and figure out the layout. And I did a lot of walking. So much so that I finally decided
to discard my old shitty shoes that were killing my feet and legs and get some new comfy shoes. Sometimes I was wandering around handing in resumes and looking for jobs. Other times I was just wandering around aimlessly, but it is one of those cities that make you want to know it all by heart. Three years ago when I was last here I spent only about two days, but I still remembered my way around quite well. Most the buildings (I think all bar one) look to have been around for at least a hundred years, cobblestone roads and all of it enclosed by volcano’s and the sea. A walk up the cobblestone of the royal mile will lead you directly to the castle. This road used to be the centre of the city, the main market used to be on this road, the town crier, the wonderful St Giles cathedral too and of course a handful of pubs. Turn south and you have Cowgate, which is pretty much the centre of nightlife. Heading west will lead you to Grassmarket where the public executions used to take place. It also has some of the best pubs Edinburgh has
to offer. Head a little more west and you have the strip clubs. Head even more west along Morrison St and you’ll find the 5am pie shop. Jump over to the new town and you have Princes St, the main shopping road. A wander down to the Princes St garden will give a magnificent view of the castle. New town is also where you’d do the Rose St crawl. Rose St is pretty much a long stretch of road that holds something like 20 plus pubs and bars. I should probably also point out that this city isn't really friendly towards unhealthy people. I don't consider myself too unhealthy and at times it became a little struggle to walk around this town. As this city was founded on a volcano, the terrain is very.. bumpy I guess you could say. Lots of up and down hills and stairways. As a positive you could say that this town would be great to help you get fit.
As a tourist, I’d say there are a few things to do, and a few to avoid. What I would say you have to do, and if it’s the one thing you do in
Picnic on Carlton Hill
Having a picnic with the crew on Carlton Hill, overlooking Arthurs Seat
Edinburgh its walk up to Arthurs Seat. It does take a fair bit of effort, but the 360 degree view you get of the city is astounding. It is absolutely the best thing to do in Edinburgh. Carlton hill is also great to walk up, and also a great spot to have a picnic with a few mates. And the free walking tour that starts from the royal mile is brilliant (although you are expected to tip at the end, but it’s so good that you feel compelled to). The number one thing to avoid is the castle. From far away it’s breath taking. It’s a huge imposing fortress that will always drag your eye from any other attraction you see in this city. Sitting alone atop of one the main volcano’s that used to make up this area, it demands all the attention it duly gets. Inside however, it seems like a cheap tourist attraction. Quite a few shops inside selling gimmicky crap, while being chock full of tourists. You don’t get to see what you expect out of a castle, and at 17 pounds for entry you’re better off going down to the pub for a meal and a few pints. There are quite a few walking tours to choose from, but I’d definitely only recommend the sandermans free walking tour as the one you’d pick out of the lot.
The history of this town is also staggering. You wouldn’t believe how many well known stories originate from this lovely city. The Burke and Hare murders and other grave robbers, Grey friars Bobby, and many bloody and brutal murders involving the royal family. The charm of this city also extends to people that live there. Everyone is friendly. If you’re looking lost with a map in hand someone will most likely come up and ask if you need help. If you’re alone in the pub sipping on a beer someone will come up and start chatting to you. It’s just seems to be a city that can bring out the best in people. I really feel I can’t do this city justice, mainly because of my shitty writing skills, but I do have to highly recommend this city to anyone who comes to the UK, especially if you can only make one stop in the UK. I’d probably recommend avoiding the Edinburgh Fringe, unless of course that is your main purpose of visiting. The population of Edinburgh more than doubles when the fringe circus is in town, and it gets way too crowded. The population isn’t the only thing that doubles either, accommodation instantly spikes when the fringe is in town.
What I learnt about the Scottish people in Edinburgh, well for starters they love their dogs. You’ll notice how most people will wander around Edinburgh, and I also noticed this in Lochinver, that a lot of Scots have dogs with them. Hell, even the hobo’s in the city centre begging for money have dogs. Second, deep fried food of all kind is a delicacy. You’ll find things such as mars bars, full hamburgers and pizza on the deep fried menu. I’ve already mentioned they’re friendliness and also they’ve got a great sense of humour. And I have to point out that they do take the piss out of each other and themselves quite a bit. One of my favourite memories from this trip is one homeless guy, instead of sitting all sad with his dog looking all sorry with a tin out front for money, he stood upright with his head in his bucket. He’d also give you an upside down thumbs up and a thank you whenever you threw him some money! Ingenuity and effort like that deserves all the money he could get, and he was raking in quite a bit of money. He sure as shit deserves that money more than those bloody bag pipe players. Don’t get me wrong, some were actually pretty good. Most though, and it’s pretty much the younger guys busking, can’t bagpipe for shit. I’m pretty sure they’re playing on the assumption that most foreigners have no clue about bagpipes, so blowing and mashing keys will be good enough. Though thinking about it, maybe this was the original purpose of the bagpipes. Before any bloody battle, you’d get a guy to play bagpipes so fucking shit that it sends you into an immense rage that makes you want to kill everyone. That’s pretty much how I felt. Even thinking about it is making me rage.
So a little background out the way and know we now this was the place I wanted to make my new temporary home. Unfortunately, work was far from easy to come by. At first I looked for IT jobs, but there were very few available. I also quickly found out that not many people wanted to hire someone with a temporary visa. So I changed tack a little, also trying out the bars and pubs in town. With no bar experience other than the countless hours spent drinking at them and the oncoming Edinburgh Fringe only a few days away meaning most jobs were filled, this was also almost an impossible task. So I thought about it and realised this would not be worth persevering with, not at this time anyway. So now I just focused on enjoying myself in this great city.
This time around, I had a lot more luck with meeting people at hostels. The first one I stayed at, St Christopher’s, I met some really cool people. The Norwegian girls already mentioned, I also met Lauren, a girl from New Jersey whose presence meant that I was no longer the oldest in the dorm, Felix the Italian who sounded German and Hilde the Dutchie. I also had quite a bit of bad luck at this hostel, with my right thong mysteriously disappearing and having a top bunk underneath a ceiling that started leaking water (thanks to Anniken for stealing the bunk I was supposed to be in). Being so close to the festival and not really planning ahead, I had to move to another hostel after a week and really it was the best move I made. I found my way to the Art Roch hostel. And this hostel has to be the best I’ve stayed at. First of all, I didn’t run into those damn snobby Spanish foreigners. But really this place had an awesome vibe to it, heaps of awesome friendly people, a common room with a giant tepee in it, an awesome view of the castle and close to a lot of awesome pubs. It was also kinda close to a pie shop I found that stays open til 5am. This was huge for me and pretty much a necessity, the one bad thing about Edinburgh and probably the whole of the UK is that their kebabs are shit. But this move also culminated in even more pub crawls and these crawls were big and needless to say, quite drunken.
So again after a few days due to poor planning I had to move on to another hostel. This time though, the plan was to move to one far away from the city centre, stop drinking as much and just chill out for a bit. I moved out to a place about 15 minutes from the city, on to a beach of sorts that looked over on to Fife. This hostel was literally in the middle of nowhere. The closest pub is about a 20 minute walk and 15 minutes to any supermarket. So you’d think I’d be safe here. Wrong. It all started when I tripped on a stairway going up to my dorm, twice. The girl behind me made a joke and from there we started talking. Lee her name was, a girl from Perth. Anyway, we headed to the shops and bought some goon (it was either goon or warm beer, I think I chose wisely). And at this point I’m thinking that this isn’t that bad, it’ll be a chilled night and not much will come of it. We got back to the hostel, sat in the beer garden and started on the wine. Unfortunately we got kicked out due to license laws etc, and headed down to the beach. Sooner or later a couple guys who looked rough and weathered and I’m sure they were hobos or close to it, came along and started a fire. As the night wore on and got colder, this became an opportunity not to be missed. So we sat with them and chatted the night away, until we ran out of wine. With everyone drinking and the night still young and the hostel serving beers, well I’m sure you can guess what’s going to happen here. It ended up being a pretty awesome night. Drinking on the beach next to a camp fire with some hobos... so much for taking it easy.
The next day I rang an agency of sorts, who helped people find live in hospitality jobs. They gave me a list of five different places looking for people. After a bit of research, my first choice was Pitlochry, a town not too far from Inverness and at the base of a mountain range. Unfortunately, the person I needed to talk to was off for the next two days, and they just put someone on so the lady I was talking to wasn’t sure if it was still available. So to the next on the list, the Inver Lodge. I talked to the manager also named Nicholas, and after a brief chat I was hired. And so here began my latest journey to Lochinver, in the Highlands and the middle of nowhere.