I recently spent two weeks in May touring Scotland. I was surprised to find that spring was just arriving, enabling me to enjoy early spring for a second time, especially the farther north we traveled. Daffodils, tulips, and blossoming trees added splashes of color to the landscape. Bluebells, in particular, bloomed in abundance.
In the early part of the trip, there was even a dusting of snow in the Highlands. And though rain was predicted, except for one day, we had beautiful clear weather.
My trip began and ended in historical Edinburgh, a city that has been high on my to-see list for a long time. It did not disappoint.
Edinburgh is the perfect walking city with a fascinating mix of medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town, all surrounded by stunning natural beauty.
Between Old Town and New Town is the verdant stretch of Princes Street Garden, a sunken park in the heart of the city. It was “created in two phases in the 1770s and 1820s following the long draining of the Nor Loch and building of the New Town, beginning in the 1760s.” (wikipedia)
At the head of Old Town is Edinburgh Castle, built on a craggy outcropping of volcanic rock. Though it has an “1100-year-old history…few of the present buildings pre-date… the 16th century, when the medieval defenses were largely destroyed by artillery bombardment.” (wikipedia)
The fortress sits on Castle Rock, one of the seven hills that surround Edinburgh. From this vantage point, you can see two other hills that form part of the city’s identity — Calton Hill, with its Athenian Acropolis, and Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that can be climbed for panoramic views of the city.
Edinburgh is full of steep stairs, medieval closes, and unexpected passages, such as the Vennel with its views of the Castle,
picturesque Circus Lane (converted mews), which was blooming with irises and fragrant wisteria and lilac,
and Dean Village, a lovely place for a morning stroll. It was “the centre of a successful grain milling area for more than 800 years. At one time there were no fewer than eleven working mills there, driven by the strong currents of the Water of Leith.” (wikipedia)
In addition to Edinburgh’s charming walks and its trove of historical sites, the city has a vibrant music and literary culture, and a wide array of restaurants to sample, from traditional fare to various ethnic cuisines. I was glad to know that I would be returning to Edinburgh at the end of my trip for there was still so much more to see.
But for now, as much as I loved Edinburgh, the Highlands in the misty distance beckoned. (to be continued…)