Last weekend was my adventure in the highlands, a.k.a. SCOTLAND!!! I couldn't wait to take a little break from the city and travel so I was really looking forward to this weekend.
On Friday, I had to be at King's Cross by 8:45 so I took the Central Line to Oxford Circus but I went the wrong way at first and had to turn around and take the opposite direction and then switch to the Victoria line for a few stops before I was at King's Cross. We met up with a rep from the tour company who gave us our tickets and it was basically like attack of the Americans on this one coach of the train which was funny. After a long five hours on the train, we were finally there! We were met by another tour guide who had the most lovely brogue ever! I could never get tired of a brogue haha. We split off between the LSE students and non LSE for the purpose of transportation back to london on Sunday and then we took a quick walk to our hostel which was really really nice! Come to find out, Anna and I are roomies for the weekend so I was very excited. I gave her the bottom bunk which is a double because I have a thing about having people above me and I don't mind a bunk bed for a night haha. We had time to quickly freshen up before we headed out again. We headed up a million stairs and a big hill to one of the best sights in Edinburgh which is on top of Carlton Hill and oh my god it is incredible! Hills all around you and the city all spread out and I was in awe the whole time! We had time to take pictures for a bit so Anna and Amanda and I climbed on top of the half finished war memorial and took fun pictures and almost froze to death because wow was it windy up there! Then it was off to the Royal Mile which is this long beautiful street between the castle and palace and is full of kilt shops, pubs, gift shops,etc. We finished right outside the castle of Edinburgh and Anna and Amanda and I decided to spend our free time poking into shops with another girl. But first, our tour guide took us to the very cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter! Total fangirl moment. We also went to Blackfriars Cemetery where she got inspiration for some of the characters which I didn't know. We poked around shops for a while so Anna could finish her Christmas shopping and then finally got dinner at this nice pub where I tried...:haggis! Anna got a main serving and I got a starter vegetarian version that was layered with potatoes and mashed turnips and a whiskey sauce which was amazing! I tried the real stuff and it was definitely an experience I needed to have. After dessert at another pub we were wiped so we made our way back to the hostel and collapsed!
Saturday began bright and early with a trip through the Highlands. It was about an hour until we got to Stirling Castle which was where the Stuart Royal Family lived for centuries and is gorgeous! There is the most breathtaking view of the hills all around it and I couldn't get over how beautiful it was! We poked around a bit more, taking in the scenery, before we were off again. I think I could have gazed out the window for hours at the Highland scenery! We made a quick stop at these giant rocks across the river called the Three Sisters because legend has it that these three sisters fell in love with these men who we're going off to war and vowed to change into rocks until they came back...which they didn't. The wind was whipping around us, hence what I call my "munchkin picture" lol. Absolutely gorgeous, though! We drove through the highlands some more with our tour guide giving us a great recount of Scottish history before we got to this clans men's center which was so interesting. They gave us a demonstration of how to fold a kilt and what life was like back in the 4th century and all I can say is that I like modern life.... Then we got to Loch Ness which is one of the most beautiful bodies of water I have ever seen! It was so quiet and eerie in the rain and mist and quite peaceful. After we got to the hostel, the whole lot of us headed into Inverness where there were a bunch of restaurants and pubs. After a nice relaxing dinner at a restaurant, the girls and I went to a pub called, I kid you not, Hootenanny's! They were playing live Scottish music (bagpipes and violins and everything) so it was so fun to listen to it and dance and hang out with everyone.
Sunday was another day of exploring the Highlands as we made our way back to Edinburgh for our train. We started the day at Culloden Battlefield which is where the Jacobites and the government forces fought in 1746 for control of the government. Basically, it was a highland clan against well-trained soldiers, but don't discount the clan just yet because we learned some very interesting and quite terrifying battle techniques that the clansmen had the previous day. They were outnumbered so the Jacobites lost, however. The battlefield was huge and has monuments dedicated to all of the clans who lost members in the battle so it was eerie and beautiful at the same time. After that, we made a detour to a 4,000 year old burial ground! It reminded me of Stonehenge because it was mounds of rocks piled up and creating tunnels and caves and no one really knows exactly what they were used for but it was definitely interesting to check out. From there, we headed into a tiny little town with some cute shops and restaurants, and my friends and I discovered a great Indian restaurant with a Sunday prix-fixe! Indian food is one of my favorites so I was quite happy after that :) We stopped at a place called the Hermitage which is like a sort of nature preserve with hiking trails and paths and an enormous waterfall in the river. It had been raining so much lately that the water was hurtling down the falls so we couldn't see any salmon or other fish jumping but it was quite peaceful and nice to get up and stretch. That was our last stop before we got back to Edinburgh's Waverly station for our train back to London, but it was a great way to end the day. Picture 50 American study abroad students on a train for five hours and you'll get a general idea of what the train ride back was like. It was fun to just be silly and relax before it was back to reality, though!