Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands

Back in November I took a short trip to Edinburgh to visit my friend Maddy, who was studying abroad for a semester at the University of Edinburgh. Maddy had been over to visit me in Dublin a month earlier and I got to show her a bit of my life here. Now I was so excited to see what she was up to in Scotland! She warned me it would be cold, but while packing I realized that none of my warm clothes were cute so that was a major factor in deciding what to bring. I figured Edinburgh wasn’t THAT much further north than Dublin, plus I’m from Canada – how cold could Scotland really be?

Really, really, REALLY cold. I went straight to Primark to buy a scarf and gloves and when Maddy showed me around the city we had to stop in a pub every hour for warmth (and pints.. but mostly warmth). Despite not being able to feel my fingers or toes for most of weekend, I had an amazing time in Edinburgh. The cobbled streets, towering medieval Gothic buildings, hidden closes, and winding stairs make the city look like something out of a storybook. The fortress style castle on the hill (did I just reference Ed Sheeran?) dominates the Edinburgh skyline and is a truly magnificent sight. The city of Edinburgh is breathtaking.

I knew I could spend forever wandering around the streets of Edinburgh and never tire of the beautiful, intricate architecture and fairytale feel of things. Unfortunately though, I really needed a nap. The benefit of flying with Ryanair is that I only paid 9.99 euro for my flight, the downside, however, was that the flight took off at 6:00am – meaning I had been awake since 4. After some much needed rest we headed back into the city to continue exploring, and to get some lunch. Surprisingly, Edinburgh is known for being one of the most vegan friendly cities in the world. This was such a shock to me – when I think of Scotland plant based vegan food does not come to mind. For lunch Maddy took me to Hula Juice Bar, her favourite healthy cafe in the city. I got the avocado toast (which was delicious) and a much needed almond milk latte. After finding out about Edinburgh’s vegan friendly reputation I had compiled a list of all the restaurants I wanted to try. For dinner that night we went to The Auld Hoose which is famous for its insanely huge portions of (vegan!!) nachos. They were definitely the best nachos I’ve ever had. Tortilla chips layered (this is key) with beans, peppers, tomato, salsa, vegan cheese, and SO MUCH GUACAMOLE. I was in heaven. If you find yourself in Edinburgh please please go to this establishment. It will not disappoint. Another restaurant on my list that I’d really recommend is Hendersons. You choose from a main and two salads from the salad bar. It was a difficult choice but I ended up getting the vegan haggis, because was there really another option? I was in Scotland after all.

Scotland is also known for its whisky, so we took it upon ourselves to organize a self guided whisky tour through Edinburgh’s finest pubs. I’d say after the first pub we realized we don’t actually enjoy whisky straight up, so we quickly switched to whisky sours (with no egg whites for me). The pubs in Edinburgh were similar enough to Dublin (although a little less lively) however the nightclubs were like nothing I had ever experienced before. They were underground, literally, with stone walls and archways – essentially as beautiful as the city itself. My only complaint is that the clubs close much earlier than what I had grown accustomed to in Dublin, reminding me more of Vancouver nightlife which shuts down around 2 or 3am.

It might have been a good thing though that we got home relatively early, because we were up at 7am the next morning for a tour through the highlands up to Glen Coe, Inverness, and of course Loch Ness. The views were incredible: endless rolling hills, grazing animals, rugged mountains, and vast lakes. As we got further north it began to snow making the landscape even more picturesque. We had a wonderful tour guide, who was actually Welsh and not Scottish, but very much in love with Scotland and eager to share his knowledge of the country with us. He ended the 12 hour (!!) bus journey with an exciting telling of the true story of William Wallace – also known as Hollywood’s Braveheart.

My trip to Scotland was altogether amazing and I’m so grateful for Maddy for being my tour guide and for taking me in and letting me share her twin sized bed for a weekend. I’m so lucky to have friends based in Europe which allow for travel opportunities like this!


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