Literary Adventures in Scotland

Good evening, my bookworms! Please forgive me right this moment, because this post was supposed to come to you back in October after I got home. No, it’s not a review. Mostly because I have three books and an audiobook going right now, so it might be a minute before I get back to the review for you guys, but I think this will be a wee bit better.

It’s been a very long day. Today, in America, we had a transition of power. Some are celebrating this change, but many are not. Since we live in such a global society, I know that the new chapter of today will affect many of you in the future, and not just Americans. Anyway,  I thought instead of dwelling on what is life right now, that I’d send the mind on a wander for awhile because who doesn’t love escapism?

I almost thought about just letting this post go all together, but I figure, better late than never, right? Who is ready for a little frolic in Bonnie Scotland? Let’s go!

While this place is a land of Lochs, glens, valleys of Heather, whisky, kilts, and bagpipes, it’s also a land of legend, myth, folklore, and story-telling. Back in mid-October, my friend and I were lucky enough to spend ten days in this place that I can only describe as positively enchanting. Months later, I still can’t get over some of the things I got to see simply because I could NOT believe they were real. We started off in Edinburgh, took a long trip up to the Isle of Skye, and then came back down to Glasgow for awhile before returning state-side.

Of course the trip overall was just wonderful, but for my bookish heart, I was on cloud nine. Scotland may be humble in their pride, but us literary geeks know that this little land of 5,000 kind souls (they’re outnumbered by sheep 3:1) is the home of the famous Robert Burns, Outlander, Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter (to name a few). I actually didn’t realize how many books and stories have their roots in Scotland, so I’d like to share some of the treasures I found on my journey.

Part I: Edinburgh

Now, this might be one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to next to London. From the historic grass market, the Royal Mile, Hollyrood House, and Edinburgh Castle (where I’m pretty sure I had an encounter with Jamie Fraser, himself.. I’ll tell you later), there are so many points of interest in such a condensed place, I almost didn’t know where to begin. I also didn’t know how much of a home the place was to everyone’s childhood favorite, Harry Potter. I got to see the real-life inspiration for Hogwarts (which I, sadly, didn’t get a picture of because I was in a moving taxi) and also got to stop by The Elephant House where author J.K. Rowling wrote the story. While she rented a suite at the Balmoral to finish her series, The Elephant House was her starting point.

Here is a picture of Edinburgh Castle from my hotel room… just because.

Elephant House, the place of Harry Potter

The clock tower is where The Balmoral is located. My friend and I walked by it numerous times, but one night we went on a ghost tour and saw it afterwards and it looked pretty majestic.

So, not only did we see Hogwarts and where the stories were conjured up, but we also got to head to one of the most haunted cemeteries in the city. Greyfriar’s Kirk is not only where the legendary Greyfriar’s Bobby is buried, but it’s also where you’ll find the resting places of Tom Riddle and Professor McGonagall.

Okay, I’m going to sidetrack just a little bit just so you know how Greyfriar’s Kirkyard got its famous name. Although it was established in the mid-fifteen hundreds, and hosts many notables of the city, its most famous resident seems to be… a dog.

He wasn’t just any dog, he was Greyfriars Bobby. The Skye Terrier was owned by John Grey, who was a night watchman for Edinburgh’s police. When John died and was buried in the kirk yard, Bobby stood by and guarded his grave every single day for 14 years until his own death in 1872. He now sits proudly at the entrance to the kirk where you can stop and pay your respects, or you’re welcome to grab a bite at the pub and give Bobby’s monument a pet for good luck!

The Kirk is just around the corner, up the alley way.

Stop to see Bobby and give him a pat on the head for luck.

Paid my respects to Bobby.

Anyway, a bit off track, but hey, we got a little story of Scotland before we move forward!

We’re in Greyfriars Kirk wandering around. They had a hosted Harry Potter tour, but we were getting ready to head to Glasgow, so my friend and I decided to just stroll on our own time. We not only got a really cool view of the castle, but we got to have a moment of quiet at the graves of Tom Riddle and one of Harry Potter’s most beloved professors, who was actually a male poet. Strange, right?

I just really enjoyed this shot, and it was one of the only times it rained while we were there. It quite made the ambiance while we walked around.

Rest easy, Professor McGonagall. Fun fact, he died on the day my dad was born (not the same year, though [haha])

The whole Riddell clan is buried here. I didn’t see Peter Pettigrew scampering about anywhere, though. I left this picture a bit large so you can read the writing on the stone.

Not only did we see where some of the characters began, but my friend and I also got to wander the real life Diagon Alley, also known as Victoria Street. Now, I knew going over there, that Scotland was a city built on top of a city. I did not know, however, that it’s actually 14 stories high and the entire country was volcanic in foundation (I learned quite quickly though when my calves and rear end were screaming at me to quit hiking the hills). Long story, short, Victoria Street is quirky, historic, and colorful. I found an adorable bookshop in my travels, but we had already scheduled a ghost tour, so I didn’t have time to go inside. I had to settle for a picture of the exterior.

Seriously, how cool is this street?

The rather adorable bookshop I didn’t get to head into. Sad panda.

I didn’t get to shop in the Old Town Bookshop, but I did get to meet Hedwig on The Royal Mile. If I wanted to spend £4 to have her sit on my arm, I could have, but it was too crowded, but they’re still fascinating creatures.

Can you spy the Hedwig? I’m not going to lie, but I was in love with Guinevere, the other owl next to Hedwig.

The morning we left for Glasgow, we had some time to kill, so my friend and I headed to Princes Street to do some shopping. Finally, I found a bookstore to check out. Waterstones was adorable. I didn’t realize it was the across the pond version of a Barnes & Noble until after I went shopping, but I still felt at home. When I’m in a new place, or going to a new place, I like to do any research I can in order to understand the land and the culture for where I’ll be staying, so I left with some treasures.

I found Heaven in Edinburgh

I felt these purchases were appropriate as we headed into The Highlands

Before I move onto the next segment, let me just talk about this funny story where I’m convinced I ran into Jamie Fraser, himself, Sam Heughan, in Edinburgh and I didn’t even know it. This story is open to interpretation, obviously, but it’s still fun. Fans of the Outlander book and show series, get ready for a fangirl moment!

On my first full morning in Scotland, my friend and I hiked it to the top of Edinburgh Castle and took a 30 minute guided tour to understand the fortress a bit better. Of course there were stunning views of the city, so I snapped a few pictures and then moved on with my vacation. Fast forward to the night before my friend and I head home. We’re sitting in the bar of our hotel in Glasgow talking and looking through some of our trip pictures when one of my friends back home tags me in a tweet that Sam Heughan, our beloved Jamie Fraser posted. It was of his view of the city from the top of Edinburgh castle at the same time I was there, I’ll let his pictures and mine help you decide if I missed an opportunity to say hello or not (Author’s Note: this was just a little fun thing that happened, not a stalker moment. It just goes to show you how oblivious I can be sometimes).

The top two shots are my photos from the top of Edinburgh Castle

This is from Sam Heughan’s twitter from the same week. Did we cross paths?

Part II: The Isle of Skye and Glasgow

After Edi, my friend and I took a car out to Glasgow to stay for a night before we joined a group for an intimate tour (shout out to Rabbie’s Trail Burners!) of one of the most beautiful parcels of land I’ve ever seen in my life. While Glasgow is a bit more metropolitan, Edinburgh is packed to the gills with history, The Isle of Skye and the western Highlands are open lands, mountains, glens, and the stuff of legends and lore. Our tour guide was absolutely wonderful (hello, Stewart), and I gained so much information. Not only that, but I got to continue my trail of literature into the wilderness. Some of the highlights of the trip north included the following:

  • Glencoe
  • Kilt Rock
  • Neist Point
  • The Five Sisters of Kintail
  • The Old Man of Storr
  • Cuith-Raing
  • The Faerie Glen
  • Eilean Donan Castle

In other words, I was in Outlander territory. While most of the story from the first books takes place in the east of Scotland near Inverness and Culloden Moore, we got to experience the bridge that took us over the sea to Skye (not to mention where they always film the stones.. on our way back to Glasgow).

Over the sea to Skye. Our tour guide was awesome enough to play the Skye Boat Song for us as we drove over. My Sassenach heart went wild!

We also got to see some of the areas where they filmed Hagrid’s house for the Harry Potter movies, and some of the Khalessi dragon scenes from Game of Thrones. Seriously, fantasy literature EVERYWHERE in this place!

Neist Point, Isle of Skye. Not only is it a total beast to tackle hike-wise, this is right about the time we were listening to the Game of Thrones theme song. Can anyone spot dragons in the distance? Standing at the edge of the world.. aka, Kilt Rock. Utter magic

As an Outlander fan, and a fan of history, one of the stops we made on the way back to Glasgow was a tough, but important one to make. Just off the side of one of the highways, we stopped to visit a Jacobite solider. If you’re a fan of the Outlander books or show, or you’re just a fan of history, OR you’re Scottish, you know what I’m talking about. This poor soul was mistaken for Bonnie Prince Charlie after the rebellion against the british. Sadly, he was beheaded and buried by a little creek. He was Roderick, a member of clan Mackenzie, and the cool thing is, all of the living members of the clan come to pay their respects to him on the anniversary of his death every year. It was a significant moment for me, but I’m glad I stopped by to say hi and thank him for his bravery.

Once we got back into Glasgow, we spent a quirky afternoon over at the Kelvingrove Museum. We saw animals, items from history, pop culture, and more of Scotland’s history. I learned about the massacre in Glencoe, and even more about the rebellion in the 1700s. It made me feel even more connected to my time I spent with all eight Outlander books, and made me realize how significant their history was for being such a small nation. I need book nine asap, and I need more of Scotland sooner rather than later!

A small depiction of the life of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Well, that’s it! I conquered Scotland! I can’t wait to go back and see everything I wanted to see, but didn’t get to. I figured this was a good starting point and almost more than my bookish heart could handle. Until next time, bibliophiles!

When I reached the half way point at Neist Point. It was one of the best views! Yes, I’m wearing my clan Fraser tartan.

If you’d like to check out many more pictures from my trip, you can head to my Facebook page here.

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