I'm not sure how I feel about our choice to take a sleeper train. I only got about 2 or 3 hours of rather uncomfortable and troubled sleep. The sunrise was beautiful though, for all that it was at about 4am. Seeing the sky turn pink, red, and orange o'er the Scottish hills was gorgeous.
We got all checked into our Hostel. The lady at reception felt really bad that Sara wasn't in the same building or room with us because she thought she'd split up sisters. We assured her it was fine. Then we headed off for what was an amazing breakfast. I got a bacon, sausage, and fried egg baguette.
We wandered around some of the shops on the Royal Mile. I think I may get a set of minature (but still playable) bagpipes and/or kilt. We wandered into the Scottish Whiskey Experience and determined that we'll get whiskey when we go out tonight.
Then we joined a 3 hour, free, walking tour of Edinburgh. Our tour guide, Andy, was a history major, so he knew a bunch a random trivia, and he had a wonderfully dry sense of humour. I feel like we've definitely lucked out with our tour guides on this trip.
On the tour we saw (in brief): Edinburgh Castle, St. Gile's Cathedral, The Royal Mile, Old Town, Mercat Cross, sites of witch burnings, the original inspiration for Hogwarts, where JK ROwling penned the first book, the Writer's Musuem, the real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Greyfriar's Kirkyard and Bobby, Burke and Hare Bodysnatcher sites, the Martyr's Memorial, the Grassmarket, and the Covenanters' Prison. There were probably a free more things that that. It was more a tour to give us basic hisory and give places we can explore in more detail later.
Right now we're in the Princes St. Gardens napping and waiting for Beth and Jared. After meeting up with them at the Castle (and climbing a steep hill to get there) we headed down the Royal Mile to Arthur's Seat. It's an inactive volcano.
A few of us (Ryan, Andrew, Steph, Ely, Gideon, and I) decided we were going to climb straight up the side instead of taking the winding path around the mountain. I followed Gideon up the steep climb in case he slipped, and Ryan pulled him up the really tall rock faces.
We made it the top of the Salisbury Cliffs where we tooka whole bunch of pictures (yes, some O-H-I-O, as well). I took off my sandals at this point so I'd have a better grip on the cliffs with my bare feet. It was a gorgeous view from up there. The grass in most places was knee to thigh high and waving in the wind. The other places, like the trails, had really short grass (like a golf course putting green) that was super springy.
At this point Ryan, Andrew, Steph and I decided to continue on to climb up to Arthur's Seat. This was an even more intense climb than the first one, and I was really glad to be barefoot and have a firm grip. Nto the kind of place where you'd want to slip and fall. Ben would have it with all the climbing. I figure it's good prep for Dad and I hiking the Grand Canyon.
In the little crevices on the way up there were tiny pink flowers growing between the rocks, shielded from the harsh wind. The grass up here was solely the short, springy kind, with tons of the lava rock fragments that float in water. The last bit of the climb was the hardest beacuse it truely was climbing up a 20 or 30 foot rock face.
We crested the peak and saw the landscape spread out before us. Breathtaking. We could see the coastline curving around, hugging the Firth of Four. We climbed up to the very peak and had a nice man take our picture. We decided to lay down and rest a bit before climbing back down. I was cursing myself for not bringing water or my camera. I'll have to steal pictures from Steph.
On our way back down Ryan decides to randomly shout "O-H!" We didn't expect a response, thinking everyone else was long gone, but a few seconds later we hear clearly from the other cliffs "I-O!" It was really cool and slightly surreal. All four of us yelled "O-H" this time and got the expected Pavalovian response. It was rather amusing.
We continued down the mountainside and I'm giggling and frolicking on the springy turf when Ryan asks "What, are you 5?" I quip back, without conscious thoguht, "No, I'm pagan." Not normally a response I would make, but true nevertheless. And I /was/ giddy from the climb and nature in general.
We also heard bagpipes on the way down, and as we approached the ruins of a chapel on the hillside we see a man pacing back and forth in the ruins, piping away.
We made it the rest of the way down and I looked like I had hobbit feet, they were so dirty from the barefoot hiking. We went to a pub for dinner and I tried to order haggis, but they were all out (Scotland, out of haggis!?) so I got fish and chips instead. Still extremely tasty.