Days 240 - 243: Edinburgh, Scotland

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September 22nd 2007
Published: October 20th 2007
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We actually flew into Glasgow, then caught a train to Edinburgh (about 40mins!). Such an easy transport system to navigate (helps that it's all in english I suppose!!)

It took us a while to find the Hostel - but we were pleasantly surprised when we did - great location and a really nice clean, funky place with a cool vibe. We found out that our two room-mates were a couple of Maori guys over for the rugby - felt like home!! It was crazy actually, there were kiwi's EVERYWHERE in Edinburgh - it seemed like more NZers that Scots - by a lot!! Everywhere you looked everyone was in BLACK! We settled into the hostel than went for a wander to get a feel for the city!!

It was quite a bit chillier in Edinburgh than most places we've been to in recent memory, I personally found it refreshing, but poor Kristi was just about frozen 😊 We fell in love with the city almost immediately - there is so much history here - the 'New' town is over 250 years old!! Edinburgh has great atmosphere to it, not just because it was crawling with kiwi's! We spent our first evening wandering around the royal mile and getting a feel for the central city's layout.

After a yummy dinner of gourmet burgers, we went back to the hostel for a while before heading out once it got dark to do one of Edinburgh's famed 'Ghost tours'. This really was a bit of a laugh - about 40 tourists all wandering arond the city center to churches, graveyards and historical spots - learning about the darker side of Edinburghs history froma charismatic and very eccentric guide!! The culmination of the tour was when we went into some old tours and heard many stories about supposed haunting etc - quite cheesey - it may have been better if there weren't so many of us!! The lame highlight was when they flicked the flights off at a scary point in the final story - while we were standing around in a 'haunted' vault - ho-hum. Still it was a fun thing to have done overall and we did actually learn a fair bit too 😊

The next morning we left the room as soon as possible - the Maori guys came home at about 5am and then did nothing except snore and fart until morning - and we are not talking about mild in either case - the noise was deafening and the smell was revolting - we couldn't wait to flee the stench - sheesh!

We had a nice breakfast at an Italian cafe and then wandered around for a while before returning to the hostel and hanging out in the chill-out room until it was time to go to the RUGBY!! We both bought supporter's gear in London (shirt for me and a fleece for Bunny) so got dressed up and then joined the hordes of kiwi's descending on Murraysfield Stadium for the big game NZ vs Scotland. We got off the train and were staggered at the sheer quantity of kiwi's in attendance - the streets were CHOCKABLOCK with black uniforms! We bought a NZ flag at a roadside stall and then were swept along with the masses to the game. We arrived earlyish and got some cool photos of the All Blacks warming up etc and before we knew it, it was just about kick off. The game was sold out and there must have been a 7:3 ratio of kiwi's to Scots - madness!!

The game was suitably impressive - the Blacks gave the hapless Scots a royal walloping 40-0 in the end, and it could easily have been much more, but for several missed opportunities. This may well have been the All Blacks best game at the World Cup (we won't mention the shonky effort against France in the semis!)

We left the game in high spirits, as did all the NZ fans, and the Scots were downcast but not bitter - they hadn't really expected to win! Had a yummy pub-dinner at a cool little pub recommended by the hostel - a nice place with a cosy atmosphere - the Castle's Arms. We retired to the hostel as the streets started to get too crowded with extremely drunk revellers at about 12.30am - unfortunately our room still stank of farts!!! Eeeewwwww!! We opened the window and slept as best we could - praying the guys would be out late! Which they were, in fact only one came home, and other guy was sleeping on a chair in reception when we left??!! We had to get up early as we had a full day tour of the highlands booked - leaving at 8am.

We arrived at the tour office and had a brief wait for the coach. Once we were all on (about 32 people all up) we headed out of the city immediately. The tour guide/commentator - Frank - was a very charismatic chappy, very witty and amusing, and of course, dressed in full kilt. A lot of his humour went right over the foreign language tourists heads - but we were in stitches much of the time 😊 He even pointed out (with a straight face) the site of the most recent slaughter of Scots in modern times - Murraysfield!

Our first stop on the tour was the wee town of Bannockburn where we made the aquaintance of Hamish the highland cow!! A huge hairy orange beasty with very impressive horns! We stopped at Hamish's home for about 40 minutes for coffee etc - there is a big cafe etc there too.

Next we headed out of the low-lands and into the highlands proper - the transistion is like from night to day - one minute there is rolling green pastures, the next we are surrounded by huge imposing hills and rocky crags. The scenery in Scotland is second to none - whether it's the gorgeous lochs or the soaring highland ranges it is simply breath-taking and we both quickly found that the highlands are a place we could very easily live for a while.. maybe a holiday home on the Loch edge... hhhmmmmmm...!

Our bus stopped amongst the incredible scenery at the 3 sisters - a convergence of 3 massive hills/mountains, which was also the site of the infamous 1692 slaughter of the Scots at the hands of the english. The History of this whole region is staggering; we passed monuments to William Wallace (Bunny's hero) and the grave of Rob Roy - not to mention countless castles, forts and sites of great battles. The highlands have a certain mysticism about them, the heavy mist and the moisture in the air, the constant threat of rain and sounds of the wind whipping through the hilly expanses creat an erie and magic sense to the whole region - simply awesome.

We passed by a huge area of completely empty land, this is apparantly the largest area of genuine wilderness in ccentral europe (wilderness meaning completely unihabited) - was pretty cool actually - vast tracts of land and small lakes and rivers etc.

Our next stop was the town of Fort William where we stopped for a lunch break and of course it started raining! Kristi and I had simple fare of pies and muesli bars - which were actually pretty good. Kristi even received a call regarding a job back in London at this point which meant she had a job to return to when we got back from Scotland with much needed pounds - yay. Next we began passing by the awesome Loch Lochy and the famous waterways of the highlands - which link the atlantic ocean to the lochs all through the highlands - this is the second largest man-made waterway on the planet (behind the Suez canal) and was made in 1820!!

The scenery in this region is just fanatstic I could go on about it all day and still not do it justice, and yet we were still stunned by the beauty of Loch Ness when we arrived. This loch contains more fresh water then all of England and Wales combined! We stopped at the ancient ruins of Urchart Castle and spent quite a while there soaking up the unique history of the castle (there was even a jazzy movie to watch!) and of course taking photos of the ruins and the mighty Loch! From the castle we took a ferry to the far end of Loch Ness - this was awesome - it gives a very different perspective to the towering scenery when seen from the water. Martin even managed to get a rare photo of the loch ness monster - Nessy - (see photo attached!)

We hopped off the ferry and back onto the coach (which had driven down to meet us) and headed off to Inverness - out of the highlands and on our way back to Edinburgh.

We stopped for an evening meal at the picturesque town of Pitlochry - where we had fish and chips in a takeaways that claims international fame for just that - over 1 million people served they reckon! Kristi was even game enough to try a dodgy pickled egg!! We really could live in that cute little town!

We arrived back in Edinburgh quite pooped from a long day, and were infinitely relieved to see Farty and Snorey had gone - replaced by a pleasant and non-stinky couple from Australia.

The next morning we got up earlyish, stashed our bags at the hostel and explored some of the other areas of the city. The weather was pretty crumby and we walked past an arty filmhouse which was showing "Atonement" for a bargain 4 pounds so in we went to catch the movie - which was pretty good actually - although I wanted to throttle the main girl!! After that we went to the Edinburgh Dungeon - which was great fun - quite scary and very amusing - the actors/actresses are FREAKS!!!

After the dungeon we wandered around for a bit, soaking up Edinburgh while we still could, before heading to the Hostel to grab our bags then catch the bus to the airport - booooo!!

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