A Chilly Graduation Trip

Back at the end of January and beginning of February Paige and I took a quick trip over to Edinburgh for a few days. Paige has always wanted to go, particularly because of all the Harry Potter related landmarks around the city, and since we were able to get on the flights and found a wonderful, historical Airbnb right in the Grassmarket by the castle…it seemed like a great, albeit really, really cold, time to go!

After arriving, we bundled up and hiked up to check out Edinburgh Castle. Then we wandered around Victoria Street (which was literally only about a 5 minute walk from our flat). Victoria Street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books…and we look wandering around the cute shops.

We also found Elephant House, and Spoon, where J. K. Rowling wrote the first few Harry Potter books…

Right there by Elephant House, in the same neighborhood, is the George Herriot School and Greyfriars Kirkyard. J. K. Rowling could see the Herriot School from Elephant House as she was writing, and it was the inspiration for Hogwarts. She would frequently take breaks and walk through Greyfriars, which also provided inspiration in the form of some familiar names….

We took a day trip to Stirling one day, and wandered around the town and toured the castle…

We also did a history-comedy-walking tour of Edinburgh…which was fantastic!

And finally, we toured Holyrood Palace and Holyrood Abbey. We walked around the Scott Monument, we traversed the Royal Mile, and explored Mary Kings Close. We shivered a lot, it’s true (we’re Florida girls!) but we loved every minute of our chilly Scottish, Harry Potter adventure!

Edinburgh…last day😢

For our last day in Edinburgh, we decided to walk over to the University of Edinburgh. Wow. Now we are going to try to convince our kids to do a semester abroad there…or maybe even grad school? Just kidding…sorta. 

Seriously, what a beautiful university. 

I also enjoyed the fact that the sexual assault awareness campaign is going on on UK campuses as well…

And, as I’ve mentioned before, J. K. Rowling spent quite a lot of time in Edinburgh and much of her inspiration for Harry Potter came from here. 

I’m just guessing that the name of this street, Potter Row, and the university’s bookstore might have influenced her as well?

Speaking of which, on my bucket list was a visit to George Heriot’s School, which was supposedly Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts. Since school was in session we couldn’t get onto the grounds, but I went into full on paparazzi mode and took photos through the fence. 

I know I’m a nerd, but it kind of made my day. 


Edinburgh is filled with hills. Steep hills. And stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. 

The Scots really know how to present a cup of cappuccino…

We ate dinner one evening in Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. I enjoyed learning all about William Brodie, who was supposedly the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.   
We also made it to Greyfriar’s Tavern and the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby.  
A few more random pictures…



Finally, our last day in Edinburgh, we had Cullen Skink Soup, which sounds kind of disgusting (I kept picturing a big, fat skink!), but was actually kind of fabulous – especially on a chilly, drizzly, day. 


Edinburgh Day 3 – Linlithgow 

One of my favorite things to do while visiting Europe is to hop on a train and take a day trip to another town. Rail travel is so simple and affordable in Europe that it makes it quite easy. In the past, we’ve visited Provins in France, Enkhuizen in The Netherlands, Bruges in Belgium, and on our visit to Scotland we decided to hop on ScotRail and visit Linlithgow.

Linlithgow Palace sits on a hill overlooking a loch and has been a royal residence since the 1100’s. Mary, Queen of Scots, was born there. 

In 1746 a fire destroyed much of the palace and it has remained uninhabited ever since. 

Tim and I thoroughly enjoyed clamboring around in the ruins, exploring the palace – from the wine cellars to the Great Hall to the King’s bedchamber and the towers. King James IV’ beautiful fountain still stands in the courtyard and the massive fireplace in the Great Hall is still intact and quite splendid. 

The Great Hall. Long tables would have been positioned down the length of the Hall, tapestries would have hung on the stone walls, and statues would have sat on the pedestals above the tapestries. 


This large fireplace in the kitchen would have held spits for cooking meats. There was also an oven for cooking breads and an additional fireplace. 

The imposing and massive fireplace in The Great Hall

The chapel

St. Michael’s Church sits next to Linlithgow Palace. The original, old part of the church was consecrated in 1242 (although before that it had been a Druid site of worship) and the “newer” part of the church was built in the 1500’s. Oliver Cromwell occupied Linlithgow Palace in 1650 and his cavalry and horses occupied the church. There are still marks in the stone walls from where his men sharpened their swords on the walls. 


Grooves in the wall from Cromwell’s men sharpening their swords. 

It was a fantastic day. History + ruins = happiness. Even after being destroyed by fire and being exposed to the elements for centuries, Linlithgow Palace is magnificent. 

That evening we decided to do one of the many walking ghost tours in Edinburgh. 

Honestly, it wasn’t really that scary. Slightly creepy at times, yes, but also fun and very informative. We learned about (and walked through) the vaults. We also walked through Greyfriars Kirkyard and Tomb of Sir George Mackenzie and the Covenanter’s prison.

Edinburgh, Day Two 

Day two in Edinburgh was another gorgeous, sunny day. We walked to Waverly Bridge and took one of the tour buses for a “hop on-hop off” tour of the city…

The Balmoral Hotel, where J.K. Rowling wrote the last Harry Potter book in room 555. 


Arthur’s Seat in the background…more about that later…

Holyrood Palace,Queen Elizabeth’s residence when she is in Scotland. 


After the bus tour, we walked over to the Scott Monument, where Tim climbed the 287 steps to the top and I sat on a bench and drank a diet coke and people watched 💁🏻. 

And then…we hiked up Arthur’s Seat. 

Arthur’s Seat is another extinct volcano, which also overlooks the city. It was a gorgeous, sunny day…it was incredible. 


Calton Hill
Views of Holyrood Palace and Calton Hill

Holyrood Palace and Calton Hill in background

Calton Hill

Holyrood Palace, with the Abbey in back. 

Finally, we toured the Real Mary King’s Close, which was really cool and interesting and informative. I love learning little “factoids” such as…

During the foul pestilence (plague) doctors (who often weren’t really doctors) wore beak like masks filled with herbs to try to fend off the plague…and that’s where the phrase “visiting the quack” came from. (The bird like masks…)

Also, I learned that during the plague, people were dying so quickly that they just buried bodies as quickly as possible. Sometimes they made mistakes and thought a person was dead, when in fact they were only unconscious. Apparently, this happened so often that they began burying bodies with a string attached to a little bell above ground. If an unconscious person was mistakenly buried, they could tug on the string and it would ring the bell (and hopefully someone would hear it and dig them out!) From this came the expression “dead ringer!”

Empty Nester Adventure (#1)

Tim and I decided to have our first empty-nester adventure. Of course, non-revving is always an adventure, but we decided to try to get to Edinburgh, Scotland…and we made it!

The first thing we saw as we walked out of the airport was a bagpiper, and that made me very happy indeed. 

We checked into our hotel and had a quick wee nap (6 1/2 hours in an exit row with non-reclining seats is NOT conducive to a restful flight!) and then woke up to find the sun shining and balmy temperatures outside. We strolled along the Royal Mile, listened to more bagpipers, and had some coffee, and then climbed the hill to Edinburgh Castle, which was magnificent. 


As you walk into the castle, there are statues of Robert the Bruce

And William Wallace

Edinburgh Castle was built atop an extinct volcano, so it sits high up on its rock overlooking the entire city and the Firth of Forth (which I found out means basically, the estuary leading to the city). On a clear day, the views are incredible. 

We toured the Royal apartments, the ancient chapel of St. Margaret, the Crown Jewels (there’s not many; the Scots blame the Brits😏), saw the Stone of Destiny, the dungeons, and saw many suits of armour and weapons…I cannot even imagine lifting one on those Claymores – they’re huge!