In an effort to explore as much of the UK as possible during my time here, I decided to take a weeklong journey to Scotland. Looking to have a low-budget week away, my companions and I did everything as cheaply as possible, hence the nine-hour Mega Bus ride on Friday afternoon that cost 10 pounds (I kid you not).
We passed snowy Leeds and Newcastle and arrived in Downtown Edinburgh around 3 a.m. We hailed a cab to the Caledonian Backpackers hostel, which is on the Corner of Princes Street and has amazing views of the city. I highly recommend this hostel for those looking for a cheap, fun and safe way to travel in Scotland.
We spent Saturday and Sunday exploring Edinburgh, which is quite possibly the coolest city I've ever been to. It's got a great haunted element with the castle overlooking the city on top of the cliff. I don't think I expected anything quite like it.
On Saturday morning, instead of doing a regular breakfast, we went to the Edinburgh Farmer's Market, which is held every Saturday below the castle. With every kind of fresh food imaginable, it was the perfect way to start our vacation. The food was delicious and cheap and the view wasn't bad either.
After stuffing our faces with everything from cheese to chocolate, we made our way up the mountain to the breathtaking Edinburgh Castle. Built on the hill to ward off invaders, not only was the castle itself amazing, but the views from it are stunning.
Reluctantly, we left the castle and moved on to the Royal Mile, which is one of Edinburgh's primary tourist attractions. With dozens of pubs, shops and museums, we could have spent every day of our trip there. Being self-proclaimed shopaholics, those pretty little Celtic souvenir shops don't stand a chance against us.
After tiring ourselves shopping, we had a late lunch at a pub at the Grass Market, a district known as the site for public executions. (Relax, not since 1876.) There's even a pub there called "The Last Drop", where people who were being hung would go for their literal "last drop." Edinburgh's pub history is perhaps one of the best parts of the city. Don't miss its oldest pub, the White Hart, which was founded in 1128. The drinks are cheap and the staff couldn't have been nicer.
Scotland -- and Edinburgh in particular -- is full of creepy and interesting stories and a very bizarre history that nerds like me eat up. be sure to take a red bus tour of the city for an affordable way to hear tales of its fascinating hitory. Also, make sure to check out the Edinburgh Gardens and park. Not only is it great for photo ops, but the view of the castle (are you sensing a pattern here?) above is just too cool to miss. If you're a bookworm, check out the Writer's Museum, a tribute to Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott and many other great Scottish (and adopted Scottish) writers.
On Monday, we made the three-hour trek to Inverness to find Nessie of Loch Ness. For those of you who don't know (as I didn't before coming to Scotland) loch is the general term used to describe lakes and inlets in Scotland. Hopefully, this will prevent you from making my mistake of freaking out and thinking you're about to see an ancient mythological creature every time someone says, wow look at that loch.
The town of Inverness was a lot smaller than Edinburgh, but was still quite beautiful. A 30-minute bus ride will get you to Loch Ness, where you're dropped off at Urquhart Castle. One of the oldest castles in Scottish history, it dates back to around 1050. While it was cold and rainy, we felt like we were transported to the set of Disney's "Brave." If you ever find yourself in Scotland, make this a top priority.
With spring just around the corner, there isn't a better time of year to discover the wonder of Edinburgh and the mysteries of this beautiful country.
Follow Christina Kelly on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ckelly26