Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hello, Scotland

View of Edinburgh from the gunports on the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle. Google "Mons Meg" - you''ll be amazed!

When I stepped out of the train at Edinburgh Waverly station, a misty rain pattering the cobbles as I heaved my suitcase through the late afternoon crowds along North Bridge Street, I found that my eyes could go only in one direction – up.

Edinburgh is hilly. As a Pennsylvania native, I spent a stint living in Pittsburgh and that taught me all about cities built on hills – or so I thought. But Edinburgh is another species altogether. I moved in a perpetual uphill trajectory from the time I stepped off the train until, half a mile later, I reached the courtyard of my rented flat. From the courtyard it was two flights of stairs up to the building’s doorway. I tugged my suitcase and laptop along, keyed in my door code, and tumbled into the corridor.

The journey didn’t end there. The flat waited four flights above. Stiff upper lip, I thought, and hauled my gear along.

What I found was worth it – a snug living room, a tiny but well-appointed kitchen, a bathroom with stacks of fresh towels, and a bedroom furnished with neat furniture of a recognizably Ikean stamp. I was now four stories above the streets of Edinburgh. Across the courtyard, I caught sight of a turreted building marked with a plaque reading “Edinburgh Writers’ Museum.” A sign if there ever was one.

The grey spires of Old Town rose above me as I made my way through the streets for groceries, and later, as I made daily pilgrimages over the bridge to the National Records of Scotland to pore over Katherine Cochrane’s correspondence.

It was easy to be in Edinburgh. The National Records building practically cajoles passerby to pop in with a welcoming sign – imagine finding that kind of invitation at the British Library! – and on my second day, I must have looked native enough, because a Brit stopped and asked me for directions. Even being assaulted with bagpipe music (both real and recorded) incessantly throughout the Royal Mile became an amusement rather than a nuisance. I learned to ignore the Braveheart posters everywhere; everyone else did.  

By days, I read Kate’s letters. By night, I explored for Thai food, availed myself to the flat’s extensive DVD collection, and even, in a fit of creative fury, hauled self, boots, bag, laptop, and notes to one of the loveliest Starbucks in the English-speaking world for a pumpkin spice latte and a session hashing out the next stage of Kate’s adventures.

There are places where the creative spark flows, and where it withers. In Edinburgh, I found only sparks.

Quotes from Scottish writers line the street leading to the Scottish Parliament Building. I got snapshot happy! 


  1. I adore Scotland! I had a conference in Glasgow a few years back and fell in love with it (and its merchant roots) but Edinburgh is magical, isn't it? I only got a day there, but would definitely love to go back!

  2. It is lovely! I do hope you get to go back. What was your favorite place in either city?