Home is where you hang your heart, and it’s fair to say that my heart has stayed in Scotland since we arrived in Edinburgh (pronounced Edin-burrah to those of you who dinna kent) in March, 2009. We stayed at the Royal Mile Residence, a renovated apartment from the 1700’s with– get this — tartan on the beds! How Scottish! It was from this first moment in the apartment with its old paintings, historic atmosphere, and tartan covers that I knew Scotland was where I belonged.
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Massive, gray stone Edinburgh Castle was where I started to fall in love with Scotland. It offers great panoramic views of the city, and includes the oldest building in Edinburgh– St. Margaret’s Chapel, built by King Malcolm for his wife in 1093. The castle has the Scottish Crown Jewels, which were locked up in a chest in a sealed room 100 years until being discovered by Sir Walter Scott when he had the room unsealed! We saw the famous Stone of Scone on which Scottish monarchs were inaugurated for centuries until the English stole it in an attempt to break Scottish morale. It didn’t work–Anglo-Scottish fighting continued for a few more centuries!
If you’ve seen the castle and want to grab a bite, go to the Grassmarket just down the hill. There, you’ll find a wonderful old pub– The Last Drop, named so because it’s across from the former public gallows, which offered prime entertainment in olden-times. Dark and atmospheric, this pub serves up history and good food, plus t-shirts!
We took two Edinburgh tours—the evening ghost tour through the old town’s winding alleys and cave-like lower-levels, and a tour of Mary King’s Close where we learned of Edinburgh’s famous plague history. Creepy! Most tours are picked up by simply waiting in front of St. Giles’ Cathedral at the posted times.
We drove up to Inverness and Culloden—so scary, on the “wrong” side of the road! What struck me was Culloden– imagine a place so full of history you can actually feel it. Now take away buildings and signs of civilization, save a nice shiny visitor center, and add cold, dark, rainy clouds. As the wind blows across the barren field of the last hurrah of the Jacobite uprising, Culloden whispers its history.
Culloden was a strategic failure by Bonnie Prince Charlie. After a foolish march toward London and back, the men were weary. The battle, lasting about an hour, saw the deaths of around 1,500 Highlanders, but only 50 Government troops. The aftermath brought the repression of the entire Highland culture, with bans on tartan, clans, and Gaelic language (pronounced gaahlic). This effectively crushed the Scottish uprising; thereafter Hanovers were regarded as the rightful rulers of both Scotland and England.
Interestingly, if the English had not won at Culloden, there wouldn’t have been a Seven Years’ War, and therefore, no American Revolution. This crazy piece of history left me thinking about how Scotland affected me, not only through its effect on America, but by my family’s part in the battle—I found our Campbell clan marker in the field. Talk about defiant Scottish spirit!
Scotland is not just history. With its ruins, lochs, misty moors and purple heather hills, it’s no wonder that JK Rowling placed Hogwarts somewhere in the Highlands, and fairy tales run rampant throughout Scotland’s literary tradition. Edinburgh even has a Museum of Literature! Producing writers such as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns, it’s as inspirational as it is beautiful. I found a spiritual home in this romantic country—I will return!
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