I was so excited to visit Scotland, because it’s been on my “I want to go there list” for a long time and I just hadn’t ever made it here. My paternal grandmother’s second husband was a Scottish man, so I grew up with “Grampa Duncan” and stories of Scotland. They also visited Scotland many times, and I even spent the summer housesitting for my Grandma in Florida when she went back to Edinburgh once. I was 16, and that is a whole other story…

Unfortunately, we only had 3 nights here, which is not nearly enough time to really explore. After spending time more in countryside settings for the last two ports, we decided we were ready for a city again. So although we docked on the west of the country (at Greenock), we hopped on a train to Edinburgh. We had to switch train stations in Glasgow as well, so we saw it for about 5 minutes…

Edinburgh is beautiful. Really, really beautiful. We stayed in an apartment sort of nestled between Edinburgh castle and the Royal Mile (more on that below), the theatre district, and the University of Edinburgh. On our first full day we toured the Castle. It is massive, and is still home to a garrison. Several small museums are inside the castle itself, it has an awe-inspiring war memorial (more like a church; but no photos allowed inside), and gorgeous views of the city.

Edinburgh Castle from below
Edinburgh Castle
One of the many city views from the Castle

Then, we walked down the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the official residence of the British Royal Family when they are in Scotland. It is called the Royal Mile because it is about a mile from palace to castle, and the kings and queens of old would be transported from one to another along that route in their carriages.

Along the way it is pretty touristy, but there are still gorgeous buildings, small mews (alleys), and impressive statues. And about halfway, there is St. Giles Cathedral, which was gorgeous. And among all the kilt and souvenir shops, there are also really nice sweater stores. Joe got a stylish wool sweater that he really loves. 

Exterior, St. Giles Cathedral

At the other end was the Palace. I don’t much care about the current royals, but this is also the place where Mary Queen of Scots lived, and where Bonnie Prince Charles and the other Stuarts lived. So much history here, and the palace is pretty impressive.

Holeyrood Palace
Interior courtyard, Holeyrood Palace

On the way home we stopped at Greyfriers Graveyard, which Dan and I had spotted on our first evening looking around. It’s very old, and frankly super creepy. Lots of plague deaths, and 17th century graves with memento mori skull and crossbones. And apparently there is the grave of an actual Tom Riddle, for you Harry Potter fans, as well as a Mcgonagall, and other names that inspired J.K. Rowling. Some of the graves and headstones are built right into the ancient city wall. 

The second day we wondered the other direction, away from the more touristy areas and to the university, and its lovely greenspace called The Meadows. Really a beautiful spot with the sun shining and lots of students out and about. Also dogs, so Joe was very happy. Beautiful skyline views of the city as well. 

The Meadows, University of Edinburgh

So I can’t wait to come back to Scotland. I want to visit the north, go hiking, see Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, you name it. And I could definitely spend more time here in Edinburgh. But this was a wonderful sampling, which is something I love about Semester at Sea.

Next up: six long days at sea, as my courses start to wrap up, students start presenting their final projects, and get ready for final exams. Instead of Poland next, which was cancelled for a variety of reasons, we are heading to Copenhagen, Denmark. We have 5 days in Denmark and as I write this in our last night in Edinburgh we have no idea about where we will stay and what we will do. I’ve been to Odense and Copenhagen before, and I have fond memories, but that was about 25 years ago, so this will feel really new again I think!

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