• info@steminsights.org

In Love with Hairy Coos: Edinburgh and the Highlands


I spent the past weekend in Scotland, a trip I had been looking forward to since I booked travel back in January. One thing’s for sure–I will miss cheap Ryanair flights when I am back home. I spent the weekend with one of my roommates, Kalysta, exploring as much of Scotland as possible. Get ready for a crazy ride through rainy Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands!

For starters, Kalysta and I “girl-mathed” our way into leaving on Thursday night because the flight was cheaper despite the cost of an extra night in our hostel. Unfortunately for us, our flight was delayed for at least an hour and a half. Finally, though, we made it to Scotland after a quick forty-five-minute flight. Much to my annoyance, yet again the border control was essentially non-existent and my passport was not stamped. It’s actually been really weird–so far, Ireland is the only place I’ve been this semester that consistently stamps my passport.

At any rate, our day in Edinburgh began bright and early despite the rain. We’d known in advance that the forecast called for a 100% chance of rain but, in the long run, being wet is a temporary matter when you’re in a place you’ve dreamed of for years. At least, that was my philosophy.

Kalysta and I accomplished quite the list. We spent a few hours in the National Gallery before doing some shopping and exploring Victoria Street and the Royal Mile. These streets are quintessential Edinburgh, shops and stunning facades lining cobblestone streets. Through the rain and mist, the buildings were especially haunting, appearing as if out of the set of a historical film. Over the noise of the crowd, the song of a lone bagpiper wove through the air, playing the notes to ‘Amazing Grace.’ At 13:00, we made our way up the steep hill to Edinburgh Castle. Mist obscured the city, water pooled in puddles on the ground, flowers and greenery contrasted the brown of the stones. Although we explored multiple dungeons, we were not able to see the Scottish jewels–the line was out the door and the rain coming down in sheets. Plus, we were hungry.

Because I am gluten-free, I was in charge of organizing dining locations and reservations, a task that gave me peace of mind. It was actually an easier task in Edinburgh than in many of the places I’ve traveled across America and Ireland. I’ve actually heard Edinburgh is one of the best places in the UK to be gluten-free, if not the best.

Following the reviews on my favorite app in the entire world–Find Me Gluten-Free–we ate lunch at L’Etoile Salon de Tea. There were so many cakes and goodies and the staff were quite knowledgeable. For an anxious girlie, it was perfect.

After lunch, Kalysta and I walked to The Writer’s Museum which is located in Lady Stair’s House at the Lawnmarket on the Royal Mile. The small museum features three famous Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. We didn’t spend much time here; the museum is quite small.

Moving on, Kalysta and I walked to the National Portrait Gallery. I don’t personally care much for portraits but the Great Hall was beautiful. (It was also lacking in portraits, but that’s beside the point.) The walls were covered in intricate medieval artwork, the wood framing dark, and the navy ceiling of the two-story room covered in stars. If it was socially acceptable, I would have laid on the floor and just stared up. Of course, I couldn’t do that, so I went to the second floor and walked around the balcony of the Great Hall. While there, I stumbled across a painting of St Columba coming to the Picts–a painting I had researched while doing a project on St Columba a few weeks ago. It was so cool to see it in person.

When the museum closed, I struck out on my own, heading up Princes Street in search of Dean Village. Pictures had been all over my social media, so I figured it was worth the trek. To be honest, Dean Village was a lot smaller than I thought it would be given its hype. It was still beautiful though.

Of course, by this point, I was soaked so I figured I might as well fully commit. Rather than going back to the hostel to dry off, I walked to Greyfriars Kirkyard which is where the Harry Potter graves are located. I didn’t particularly care about these graves but I did want to find them to send pictures to some friends from home. In a downpour and with mist circling about, the vibes were immaculate. I seriously love exploring graveyards; they’re moody, mysterious places full of stories both known and forgotten.

Dinner was fish and chips at Bertie’s Proper Fish and Chips which was insanely good. The restaurant had some of the highest gluten-free ratings I have ever seen and was absolutely packed. If you ever find yourself in Edinburgh, definitely make a reservation!

After an early night, Kalysta and I woke up quite early because we had booked a day trip up to Loch Ness. Specifically, we booked The Hairy Coo’s Loch Ness, Glencoe, and Scottish Highlands Tour which lasted about 12 hours. Much of our time was spent on the bus but it was worth it to see as much of Scotland as possible–I think we traveled around 300 miles. Plus, our bus driver provided commentary and stories of the places we passed as well as their relation to historical figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots, William Wallace, and Robert the Bruce.

On the trip, we were able to see a town called Callander, a village at the foot of the Trossachs, hairy coos (highland cows), the majestic beauty of the highlands, national monuments, the highest mountain peak in the UK, snow, sun, and rainbows. We drove through Glencoe Valley and through both of Scotland’s national parks: Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms. I don’t think I will ever get over the rugged beauty of Scotland, the wind-blown plains and lochs scattered across the landscape.

The goal of the tour was to reach Loch Ness in the middle of the day, spending about two hours in the town of Fort Augustus and taking a cruise on the Loch for an hour. Unfortunately, due to high winds, the cruise was canceled and we were unable to properly look for Nessie, the legendary Loch Ness Monster. That said, my glimpse of the Loch was pure magic.

Walking up the side of the canal that flows into the Loch, the water spread out before me, encapsulated by trees and hills. At the far end, a rainbow stretched across the narrowest point of my view. As I watched, the colors became stronger and stronger. Genuinely, I have been so blessed to see so many rainbows while I’ve been abroad. It’s a beauty I will never take for granted.

In these two days, I fell in love with Scotland. Stay tuned for the story of my final day in Scotland and for my adventures in Amsterdam next week! Until then, I’ll be doing my homework and preparing for finals (I swear, sometimes school does not feel real whilst abroad). Somehow, I only have a few weeks left and I’ll be trying to make the most of them while I can.

Until next time!

The post In Love with Hairy Coos: Edinburgh and the Highlands appeared first on Off-Campus Study.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *