Wanderlust experience in Scotland
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By SFO Maintenance Planning Analyst Hannah Rebosura
I've often come across the travel quote in the internet that says, "It is better to see something once, than to hear about it a thousand times." And for the past 10 years or so, I have traveled the world, with 25 countries checked off my bucket list, yet Scotland still remained the elusive one. However, last October I had the wonderful privilege of flying off to Edinburgh, Scotland.
Pronounced, "Eiden-brah," Edinburgh is known as "Athens of the North," as well as Scotland's capital, of course. It's Old and New Towns were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, and in 2009 it was voted the most desirable place to live in the U.K. Also known as the Aud Reekie, in Scottish Gaelic, Edinburgh is combined with both ancient and modern unique Scottish atmosphere. Its medieval palaces rub elbows with the modern architecture. Its gothic churches are as ancient and magnificent as the Edinburgh Castle itself.
Strolling down the elegant Royal Mile in the Old Town is definitely a must. It boasts the highest number of traditional souvenir shops. There you will find the "made in Scotland" garments from the popular cashmere and lamb's wool scarves to the traditional, yet very famous Scottish wear: the kilt. They come in every tartan pattern known, but they aren't cheap either.
The Royal Mile is book-ended by the Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of the Holyrood House. The Holyrood House is the official residence of the British Monarch in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II. Edinburgh is also home to several interesting museums and historical sites which include St. Giles' Cathedral, the place of worship of the Church of Scotland and it is also known as the "Mother Church of Presbyterianism." The cathedral is also dedicated to the city's patron St. Giles and the building right next to it is the Scottish Parliament. The Royal Mile's old cobbled-stone roads and the ever-iconic red telephone booth make the best scenic backdrop for every picture you take.
Then of course there is the Scotch Whisky Experience for all the whisky lovers and enthusiasts. For those of you that are unaware, Scotland is the biggest exporter of whisky. All the best Scotch Whisky comes from Scotland. The Scotch Whisky Experience offers whisky-making tours and tastings. The tasting was a lot of fun and I learned that the older the whisky, the stronger it is and the better it tastes, especially on a cold and gloomy day. It makes your day far more delightful and warm too.
Then we were off to the castle, Edinburgh Castle, that is. The Castle is better known as the symbol of the city and home to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual event featuring music, dance and more. The royal fortress is situated in one of the highest points of the city, and has been continuously in use for the past one thousand years but still remains in excellent condition. The castle is also home to the Mons Meg Cannon, an enormous medieval super gun, or cannon, that was built in 1449. The cannon fires huge, solid stone cannonballs, three times the size of a human head. Each cannonball weighs about 400 pounds and can shoot as far as two miles. Every day at 1:00 p.m. there is a ritual called the "One O'Clock Gun," or the firing of the cannon from the castle. The Scottish tradition began in 1861, when the firing was a signal for ships that sailed in and out.
The name "cannon," or "canon," is very common throughout Edinburgh. It somehow has a significant meaning. Beyond the crossroads, the Royal Mile continues down the Canongate, literally meaning, "Cannon's/Canon's Way." It was used in former times by the Augustinian Canons of Holyrood Abbey. The name or the word "cannon," is not just a weapon of destruction, but it is also a religious order in the Catholic and Anglican Church, and of course the Church of Scotland. From the award-winning Cannonball Restaurant and Bar, to the Canongate, all the way to the Canonmills and finally to the Old Cannon Kirk (Church) and Cross, the word "cannon," surrounds this marvelous Scottish city. Canongate was once described as, "the main avenue from the palace to the city, it has been born upon its pavements the burden of all that was beautiful, all that was gallant, all that has historically interesting in Scotland for the last six or seven hundred years."
Throughout my one-week stay in Edinburgh, I was able to go up to the Scottish Highlands in Loch Ness (famous for its mythical Loch Ness Monster) and Inverness. The Loch Ness is best known for the alleged sightings of the crypto-zoological Loch Ness Monster, also known affectionately as "Nessie." The monster is an equivalent to our "Big Foot," or "Sasquatch." The "Nessie" was first sighted by an American couple on the road in 1933 where it approached their car and eventually ran away but it has been a mystical character in stories for hundreds of years. Eventually, Loch Ness became a tourist attraction in all of Scotland. The Urquhart Castle is also situated in Loch Ness. It is one of the oldest castles in Scotland, and definitely one with the most spectacular views of the Highlands and the lake.
Being surrounded by the majestic mountains of the Highlands in Inverness, felt so surreal. I felt like I was in a scene of "The Game of Thrones," and as a matter of fact, the show shot several scenes from their "Winterfell" episode in Season One in the Highlands. Even though it was cold and damp, the Scottish Highlands was one of the most beautiful places I've seen in my life, and that was a great check off my bucket list.
"Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show" is one of my most favorite travel quotes. Scotland truly has so much to offer. From getting lost in the Scottish Highlands, to my search for the Loch Ness Monster in Loch Ness, and falling in love with the Canongate, or Cannon's Way, while enjoying the sounds of the original bagpipe music, to striking a pose at the iconic Red Telephone Booth at the Royal Mile, and finally the Edinburgh Castle -- Scotland, you truly are one of a kind and most definitely brought out the wanderlust in me.