Today started quite early (I believe I woke up at around 6am). Sadly, I do believe I have gotten used to an early wakeup call, since our Spring Break trip started with a 1am bus journey to Glasgow (read here) and a morning bus ride to Edinburgh yesterday (read here). However this morning I woke up early to do some last bits of sight-seeing before our later than usual bus trip to our next city: Inverness!
good morning, Edinburgh castle!
The morning was beautiful – a bit chilly and windy, but the sun was up pretty early. I had a few items on my to-see list, and almost all of them were Harry Potter-related since I had missed the guided tour yesterday. The first item on my list was The Elephant House, the cafe where JK Rowling spent much of her time writing the early HP books in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle.
The Elephant House
The Elephant House, “the birthplace of Harry Potter”
The Elephant House sign
The Elephant House menu
The next item on my list was George Heriot’s School, supposedly the structure that inspired JK Rowling to create her beloved Hogwarts castle. George Heriot was a very wealthy goldsmith for Anne of Denmark and her husband King James VI of Scotland. Upon his death he bequeathed a trust to establish the school for “puir, fatherless bairns” (fatherless children, and thus a way to help single mothers) as a gift to the city of his birth – it is still a charitable organization today.
George Heriot’s School, the original Hogwarts
George Heriot’s School!
George Heriot’s School information plaque
another view of George Heriot’s School
Walking back to the hostel, I was able to see the famous Frankenstein pub – one of the many locations on the Night Creatures tour recommended to us by a bartender the day before. I also spotted a store selling the four Hogwarts scarves (representing the four Houses – Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin) very close to George Heriot’s School! And I can’t forget about the Irish pub we were planning on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in – it still looked quite jolly from the outside, at least!
entrance to the pub
Frankenstein pub menu #1
Frankenstein pub menu #2
On my way back, I walked past this really interesting information plaque about a “New Way Into Town” that discussed the steep climb up to the Royal Mile (a large and popular stretch of road) before the 1880s, the main route into Edinburgh from the west, and the original purpose behind the construction of Victoria Street. I also noticed a pun-y sign directly across from my hostel, which I chose as the title for this blog post: “thistle do nicely”. Weirdly enough, there were two doors along the wall leading to this sign: one labeled “girls” (with a fully formed metal door) and one labeled “boys” (with only metal bars placed in front).
town map part 1
town map part 2
“Thistle Do Nicely”
After returning to the hostel, I made sure to double-check that all my most important items (passport, wallet, laptop, phone, camera, chargers) were all with me before picking up Cassia and Julia. When we checked out we were told to come again and visit – something I definitely hope to do in the future! We obviously had to stop right outside for a few quick photos in front of Edinburgh castle (apologies for the whitish background, it was actually pretty bright outside for once!).
goodbye Castle Rock Hostel!
Castle Rock Hostel front desk
L-R: Cassia and Julia
The walk back to the bus station was a bit tiring since we had to drag our roller suitcases uphill for certain parts, but we made it in time for our next bus. On the way we passed by the store Cassia and I wanted to visit, but unfortunately it was closed so we didn’t end up buying those scarves. We also passed by several famous monuments when crossing the bridge back into town, such as the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington and the blue dome of the Bank of Scotland.
trying-to-be-witty condom wrappers
view of the Bank of Scotland (blue dome)
General Register House of the National Records of Scotland
Duke of Wellington statue
General Register House, National Records of Scotland
Overall, the trip to Edinburgh was amazing. The hostel and its hosts were wonderful, the city was beautiful, the people were so genuine and welcoming, and the sites we got to see were worth the bus rides. I only wish we had more time! I definitely plan on trying to come back someday, and I will have a list so I can be better prepared and maximize my “tourist time”. One item on my Harry Potter list that I unfortunately did not have time for was to see JK Rowling’s handprints (somewhere) on the Royal Mile, so I looked up a photo instead.
JK Rowling handprints at the Royal Mile © gettyimages.co.uk
Edinburgh is definitely a 10/10 city for me (“easily a 9”, as my last blog post explains), so we were all in high hopes that the next city on our itinerary would be just as, if not more, of an amazing experience. Next stop? Inverness!