This past week I spent a spooky Halloween in Edinburgh, Scotland. 🎃👻
Edinburgh is a wonderfully wicked place to spend Halloween, as it was where JK Rowling lived, while she wrote many of her famous Harry Potter novels.
Now, Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, and also belongs to the United Kingdom. Visitors to the historic city center will be blown away by its towering architecture. Up until the 17th century, the city was confined by walls, so the only way to expand, was to build up. In fact, it is the oldest skyscraper city in the world! 😲
The history of Edinburgh literally surrounds you as you stroll down the Royal Mile, the main pedestrian walkway in the center.
As I strolled down this cobblestone street, I passed by St. Giles Cathedral, a 12th century chapel around during the Reformation.The Royal Mile walkway leads up the Edinburgh Castle, a 12th century marvel, which sits atop an extinct volcano, and is the most well-defended fortress in Scotland.
Now the castle has both a riveting, and at the same time gruesome history, as it’s full of many dark dungeons, where prisoners had been locked away and forgotten. It was also a place where many witches were burned at the stake. It is reportedly one of the most haunted sites in Edinburgh. 👻 👻Now, due to Edinburgh’s frightful history, I decided to take afree ghost touron Halloween.
Now one of the most interesting facts I learned on the tour was how the inspiration for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was derived from an actual person in Edinburgh. This man, Deacon Brodie, was a successful carpenter who also had a terrible problem with drinking and gambling. In order to avoid going into debt, he started robbing from the same people he built furniture for. When doing a carpentry job, he would make a copy of their key, then sneak in weeks later to rob them blind. Nobody suspected him for ages until his accomplice finally ratted him out.
As well as historic facts, we also learned about the numerous ghost sightings in this city. 👻 Our guide said that many people here became ghosts after suffering during the Middle Ages. During this time, disease and famine ran rampant, and hundreds of people would live together crammed inside dark, dingy bridges in the city. One of the ghosts that haunts the city today is a woman who is looking for her children that have died. It is said, that if you are pregnant and you see her, you will immediately become nauseous. As well, you might see her ghost children running around. They like to play games on people by tugging their shirts or kicking stones at their feet. It’s all really a matter of if you believe, or if you think it’s just a bunch of hocus pocus. 👻👻
To culminate this spooky day in Scotland, I attended the annual Samhuinn Fire Festival. 😈 🔥This pagan ritual drama tells the story of the changing of the seasons, where summer is forcefully overtaken by winter.
This moving performance is truly something that has to be witnessed!
The immense emotions of the dancers, the relentless beating of the drummers, and the magic of the pyrotechnics create an absolutely otherworldly experience!
The community spirit alone is astounding, with hundreds of volunteers participating in the performance each year.
Now, although I found some of the costumes disturbing, I also found the relationship between the summer and winter to be somewhat romantic and whimsical. It’s almost like a tango dance, between the jovial summer and the merciless winter.
One moment they are in harmony, and the next they are in a heated dispute. In this case, the heat is more literal. 🔥🔥
In the end, summer is inevitably overthrown, and the characters prepare for the long, harsh winter. ❄️❄️
Overall, an incredible performance! I even took a few video clips of the performance for you to enjoy.
Anyway, seeing that the winter is fast approaching, I felt it was a great opportunity to take part in a whisky tasting, not only to experience a quintessential Scottish drink, but also to warm up on this chilly night.
Whisky in Gaelic means ‘water of life’ so it’s no surprise they take their drink very seriously here. 🥃
TheScotch Whisky Experiencehas almost 4,000 bottles of whisky, making it the largest collection of Scottish whisky in the world!
I decided to take their silver tasting tour, which began with a barrel ride through their facility, to learn about the process of whisky making.
The essential components of whisky are high quality grains, yeast, and water. After heating, mashing and cooling the mixture, it is distilled by means of a copper coil, which traps the alcohol vapors and condenses it as a liquid.
Factors that influence the flavor of whisky include, but are not limited to, the type of grain used, but also where and for how long it is aged. At a minimum, it should be aged for three years. Now, after the barrel ride, our guide talked to us about the different regional varieties of whisky, and the flavor profile for each area.
The varieties include Lowland, which tastes like grapefruit, Highland, which tastes like wildflowers and honey, Speyside, which tastes like banana and pear, Campbeltown, which tastes like toffee and vanilla, and finally Islay, which tastes smokey like burning wood. We were also given scratch and sniff cards to decide which regional variety we liked best.
From there we went to a pouring room where we received a dram of our preferred choice. I selected Speyside, but also made friends with some German guys, who let me sample the Islay as well.
We enjoyed our drams in the impressive whisky vault, which contains thousands of unopened bottles. We were also able to take our dram home as a souvenir. My tour concluded there, but others opted for a more comprehensive tour, where they tried additional samples as well.
For me, one dram was enough to warm my belly, and overall the tour gave me with a better understanding and appreciation for this beloved drink.
Cost: 11 pounds, which included the guide, barrel ride, whisky tasting, and a souvenir glass
Anyway, after my 3-day tour of Scotland, I returned to the city of Edinburgh. I had originally planned to spend this day in Glasgow, but I loved Edinburgh so much, I decided to stay there another day. As such, on an early morning there, with a big mug of chamomile tea, I headed up to Calton Hill to catch sunrise views of the city. 😍
Both were clean, offered a cheap breakfast, and had plenty of warm blankets to stay nice and toasty at night. I also liked the individual charging stations and night lights found on each bunk bed. Cost: 9-13 pounds per night
Getting There:Edinburgh Airport to Edinburgh City Centre
Since it took me over 2 hours to get through immigration at the airport, I chose a more convenient transport option, which was Airport Link 100.
The ride cost 4.50 pounds and took roughly 30 minutes. I enjoyed as well how the bus had free WIFi and outlets, since the Ryanair planes do not, as my phone was close to dead.
Getting There: Edinburgh to Glasgow Prestwick Airport
Since the Ryanair flight from this airport was only 10 pounds, I figured it was worth the drive to get there. Flights from Edinburgh on that day were over 100 pounds. To get to PIK from Edinburgh, I took the ScotRail Line from Waverly Station. The journey took about 2 hours and cost 19 pounds.
Anyway, that wraps up another fantastic European getaway. Stay tuned to hear about my next journey. Until then! 😉
- BA International Economics
- AS Veterinary Technology
- CELTA Pass B teaching certification
Hi! My name is Megan. I'm an American expat who loves traveling and teaching ESL abroad. I'm currently pursuing a master's in English linguistics in Barcelona, Spain. I also teach English online to children in China. I previously taught in Thailand, Turkey, and Mexico. Come along and follow me on this ESL Venture! :D
View all posts by Megan G