As our train chugged into Edinburgh on Friday, a very merry Englishman sung the entirety of the Flower of Scotland (which is, IMHO, the best rugby anthem), and the entire carriage whooped and cheered. That kind of spontaneous joy and spirit lasted the whole weekend.
Edinburgh is one of those cities where you could wander for hours and hours without getting bored. It’s a mishmash of the modern and the ancient, beautiful crumbling down castles hunch next to shops, graffiti sits beside stone walls that look like something out of a fairytale. It’s basically magic.
On our first afternoon in Edinburgh, there was one thing on my to-do list: visit The Elephant House. The Elephant House is a beautiful little cafe just off the Royal Mile, filled to the brim with elephant models. It also does a fab apple pie. But there’s another thing about The Elephant House–it’s where J. K. Rowling wrote parts of Harry Potter. (Also, the lovely Lauren Magaziner wrote The Only Thing Worse Than Witches here, which is just as cool!)
OBVIOUSLY, it’s a must see for any Potterhead and I forced my friend to take a cheesy pic of me pretending to type, because, duh–I’m a writer!
But that’s not the only cool thing about this awesome cafe. The ladies’ bathroom is completely and utterly covered in HP graffiti. Messages of love, and jokes, and dedications and quotes are plastered all over the walls. I’m not ashamed to say I teared up a teeny bit.
Day two, and we decided to be tourists. TO THE CASTLE! Edinburgh Castle is an iconic part of the skyline of the city, and has been at the centre of major historical events for hundreds of years.
As you can see the history geek was VERY pleased to be there. The views from the top are spectacular, and the museums focusing on military history and the various prisons are fascinating and rich in knowledge.
If you’re planning a trip to the castle, I’d recommend two things: Firstly, pre-book. The ticket buying queues are horrendous. Secondly, be an early bird. We got there as it opened and had a leisurely stroll around, taking in everything. By the time we were leaving, it was very, very crowded.
The Potter Trail
After leaving the castle, we headed to the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who spent 14 years guarding his owners grave in the 18th century. Apparently if you touch his nose, you get some luck, so…
Then we went on The Potter Trail. The Potter Trail is a magical walking tour of Edinburgh, visiting places that are linked, in some way to Harry Potter. Our very knowledgable guide, Will, wore a cloak and handed us wands to begin the tour.
We first visited Greyfriars Kirkyard, supposedly the most haunted graveyard in the world, where we saw the Riddle’s (SORRY, Riddell’s) gravestones. It’s been visited by Potter Fans so much that the grass under our feet was completely worn away! We also saw a plaque where J. K. sourced the best person ever, Minerva McGonagall’s name from. I pretty much fangirled the entire time.
We also visited the cafe where Rowling wrote the very first book (Was Nicolson’s, Now Spoon), and the inspiration behind Diagon Alley.
Also, did I mention that this tour is COMPLETELY FREE?? I highly recommend it to all Potter fans, and just fans of Edinburgh’s history in general–it was fascinating!
Day 3 and what’s a girl with a very bad hypermobile knee who’s absolutely TERRIFIED of heights to do but climb a gigantic hill?
Arthur’s Seat is an unmissable presence in Edinburgh, the high point of a cluster of hills in the centre of the city. It’s also an ancient volcano. We decided to go the easy route, but Google Maps hates us and instead we did it the hard way. We stopped countless times for me to get my breath and about half way up I realised that this hill thing was actually really blooming high. I tried not to think about that and didn’t look down as we neared the top.
Despite climbing the last few metres by clinging on to rocks with my hands in the blistering wind, the view was completely and utterly worth it.
My legs were burning, I was drenched in sweat, and half afraid of falling down the sheer drop, but I can only describe this moment as exhilarating. I’d done something I never ever thought I’d be able to do; I climbed a volcano. Pun completely intended, but this was the high point of our visit to Edinburgh.
We did countless other things in Scotland: we visited the Palace of Holyroodhouse, tried haggis, drunk A LOT of gin, walked for miles, peeked into the Museum of Childhood, and so much more. We didn’t see all of Edinburgh in a long weekend, but I saw enough of it for the city to completely capture my heart. Scotland, I’ll be back.
Train journeys are perfect for book reading, so obviously, that’s what I did!
Spellbook of the Lost & Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle
One stormy summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hair clips and jewellery, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something bigger; something she won’t talk about.
Then Olive meets three wild, mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel and Rowan. Like Rose, they’re mourning losses – and holding tight to secrets.
When they discover the ancient spellbook, full of hand-inked charms to conjure back lost things, they realise it might be their chance to set everything right. Unless it’s leading them towards secrets that were never meant to be found . . .
This book absolutely blew me away. It was witch-y and feminist and mysterious, and at its core was the importance of friendship. It captivated me from start to finish, the magical realism was exquisitely done and I also love the diverse cast of characters. This is one of those books that hits you straight in the heart–I have a feeling I’ll be thinking about this story for a very long time.
Jim Reaper: Son of Grim by Rachel Delahaye
You might have heard how the universe began with the Big Bang?
Well, the universe as Jim Wimple knows it is about to end. With a Bazoom!
Not only are Bazoom! scooters super fast and deadly cool, but fierce (and swoonsome) older girl Fiona has just started riding hers to and from school, and possibly out of Jim’s life forever. Disaster! Jim Wimple needs a Bazoom!, and fast. So he and his best friend Will devise a clever scheme, which involves having to sneak into Dad’s workplace. But when the boys break into the Mallet & Mullet ‘accountancy’ office they find that the walls are lined with ancient portraits, the staff are highly secretive, and Jim’s dad’s office bears the sign ‘G Reaper’. . . And then all hell really breaks loose.
What would YOU do if you thought your dad might be . . . Death?!
Illustrated with cool art by HAMISH artist Jamie Littler.
This was laugh-out-loud funny! I absolutely adored the concept, thought the mystery was really well done and this was the perfect set up for the next book (which I am really excited to read). If you like funny middle grade, this one’s for you!
The Rose Muddle Mysteries: The Amber Pendant by Imogen White
When Rose Muddle is plucked from the workhouse to become a maid in a grand mansion, she discovers that her new mistress has secret plans for her – plans which involve a strange amber pendant with extraordinary powers.
But fearsome enemies lurk in the shadows, intent on finding the mysterious pendant. As the shadows begin to close in, can Rose uncover the truth of her own destiny to stop these forces of evil?
I love me some Edwardian era middle grade, and this one did not disappoint. Our heroine, Rose, is feisty and brave, I LOVED Rui, her Sherlock obsessed partner-in-crime, and the mystery was well plotted and fast paced. The world of Hove in 1907 was fantastic–it read like it had been written completely effortlessly, and I really adored reading about a location that wasn’t London. I was hooked from the get go, and read it in one sitting–I cannot wait for the next book in the series!
P.S: I was unashamedly the most touristy tourist whilst I was there. Here’s me in my Edinburgh hoodie, with my tartan scarf, waving my Scottish flag whilst sipping from my thistle mug. #EdinburghFangirl