I am bored of not travelling. Ireland is a beautiful country. But being confined to a five-kilometre radius is exhausting. The most exotic part of my weeks is the new queuing system Tesco has set up for their self-service checkouts. But, I am also bored of being bored. I have decided to stop focusing on what I can not do and instead on what I can. So without further ado, I introduce a new feature where I share my nostalgia for past travels and dreams for my future ones.
My last big adventure before Covid hit the fan was a girls trip to Edinburgh before Christmas of 2019. It was a trip that was a very, very long time in the making, as none of us had the ability to actually plan it until we properly sat down once and for all. All possible locations were discussed, but ultimately it just had to be Edinburgh. The hustle of the famous Christmas markets, seriously delicious food and the creepy Vault tour were just necessary for us to explore overseas.
We found a room for the 5 of us in the Castle Rock Hostel with a view outside our window of the castle itself. It was three bunkbeds between the five of us, so I consider myself particularly lucky as I took a top bunk (obviously), and had the lower one for my belongings. I am not particularly skilled at staying organised on trips – although I do try! So, really, this was just a beneficial alternative to having my things scattered across the room.
We arrived first thing that morning, reaching Edinburgh Castle just as the sun rose over the city. It was one of those perfect moments, each of us thoroughly enthralled by the beauty directly in front of us.
After we dropped our bags, we jumped straight into it! We found a cosy café just ten minutes from us for breakfast and to plan for the inevitably busy day ahead. Much to our surprise, another girl from school (a friend of mine since we were six), and her family were passing at the time. She ran in to say hi, it was such a funny coincidence, and lovely to see her, as we were all in college at that stage.
As my friends are quite passionate Harry Potter fans, it was no doubt that our first tourist stop was the ‘Royal Mile’. Walking down the cobblestone street, we passed all sorts of different restaurants and shops, each unique to their own beauty. It is every bit as charming as the photos depict.
The next stop was at Camera Obscura, a spot myself and Grace were particularly looking forward to after our absolute blast in Amsterdam visiting Ripley’s Believe It or Not. This was every bit as entertaining. We had such a fun time messing around with every type of illusion, really taking our time. I really do recommend this place. We laughed at all the fantastically ridiculous photos we took of each other, just really having a genuinely good time, mesmerised by everything. At the very top, we witnessed the original Camera Obscura show, where we experienced the live bird’s eye view of the city, just as they had back in the late 19th century. As well as that, we could stand out on the terrace of the top floor and take in the city with our own eyes, once again.
Later in the evening, we finally visited the famous Christmas Markets. They are really as lovely as everyone says. I wouldn’t even be the *biggest* fan of Christmas usually, but the music flowing from the speakers, the general sense of joy in the air, and not to forget the prominent scent of nutmeg and cinnamon at every turn. It was impossible to not get even a little excited for the occasion.
We got our dinner at the different food stands that called to us, followed by some very necessary crepes for dessert. All in all, it was just truly magical. But our day wasn’t over yet!
Our final stop before the night was over, was to join in on a pub quiz hosted by our hostel in a local pub. Honestly, I was sold by the pub purely for the Catalan flag on the wall. Biased or not, I was a fan. With a couple of drinks into us, our competitive streak came to the forefront, and although we did not win, we did place third, winning a voucher for a supposedly very popular wings restaurant. I am so sad to admit that I have absolutely zero memory of the name of that wings place, but it did live up to the expectations we were given. We used the voucher a couple of nights later for dinner and were in no way disappointed. They had such a selection! If anyone happens to know where I am talking about, I’d love to be reminded of their name.
In an unfortunate turn of events, Aoife injured herself the next day on a step in one of the shops, so ended up spending a large part of the day resting. We figured a bus tour would be the best way to get a thorough experience of the city without overexerting ourselves on the hilly streets. This was another good decision to add to our list, as we had a whole lot we wanted to get done in a short enough span of time, so this allowed us to achieve more than we probably could have otherwise.
As I mentioned above, another thing we really wanted to cross off of our list was a vault tour. Booking it in advance, we found one that was later at night, and supposedly a little scarier than the average one. We were excited. While waiting for our allotted time we had some food and drinks back at our pretty amazing hostel. Grace and I went on a little exploration of all the different corridors and stairways. The place is just absolutely unique and the general aura was so enjoyable. I can’t emphasis enough just how much we did enjoy our stay there.
The time for our haunted tour crept closer, so we made our way to where we thought it started, to be proven wrong with only minutes left! We hurried back the way we came and realised we had passed the meeting point originally. Thankfully for us, they had not started yet.
A young woman dressed in Victorian apparel led our tour. She walked us down the dimly lit back streets, telling us local horror stories of ghosts and the tales of the infamous Burke and Hare. Eventually, we reached the entrance to the vaults.
The first section of the vaults was a room dedicated to a variety of torture devices used in the past few centuries. They were supposedly real devices collected by the owner over the years, which managed to make it creepier, but so far, nothing was too scary.
Then we entered the vaults.
There was some ominous vibe there. The tour guide had such a way of telling these violent stories of crime and murder that kept us on the edge of her every word. We were hooked. We were told of paranormal activities that were said to have occurred in this very section in recent times. Voices that were heard, ghosts that were spotted, and the particularly eerie story of a coven from the 80s and the experience of their work there. That story really affected me. Holding hands with Aoife on one side of me and Grace on the other, I definitely stopped the blood flowing in their poor hands at one point!
Leaving that tour felt like we had gone through some experience. A truly riveting tour altogether. As chilling as we (I) may have found it, I would love to do another. Maybe an even scarier one next time. Although I can’t envision the girls allowing me to hold their hands again!
To allow our nerves to subside, we found a funky bar by the name of Paradise Palms that made some spectacular cocktails. The most iconic one being a buckets worth in the shape of a skull. This was a very, very memorable spot, even when intoxicated. They had such a selection, including a vegan Piña Colada for Grace. We wanted to try one of everything! Staying until closing, we managed to get a good tasting in.
Before heading straight back to the hostel, we were still in the mood for another fright so decided on a late-night walk through Greyfriars graveyard. It was late, and it was dark, and we couldn’t shake the feeling that we weren’t alone. We didn’t go too far into it for fear of anyone lurking or watching us. But it was fun, and I probably could have stayed a little bit longer looking back.
For our final day, four out of the five of us decided we wanted piercings so headed to the Devil’s Scribe. Well, I couldn’t decide originally, but I eventually went for it. £10 per piercing, who could say no! Eadaoin was first, getting her upper lobes done, Ciara got her lobes pierced, Aoife got one done, and after a lot of deliberation, I settled on my daith.
Hands down, it was the most painful piercing I have gotten. To be fair, I did kind of expect that. But, wow. It was sore. And incredibly bloody. Apparently, I was in there a while, though I don’t remember it myself. The lady doing it could not have been kinder though, bringing me some chocolate and sending myself and Eadaoin on a hot chocolate mission to up our blood sugars – which we did. The two of us had the worst reactions, but the hot chocolate certainly helped.
Our flight was fast approaching but we wanted a final meal before we left, and what better way than a tapas bar. A highly recommended restaurant, we were able to make a last-minute booking at Café Andaluz.
Yet another very good decision. We feasted on paella, calamari, patatas bravas, croquetas, and just a bit of everything. They also made some spectacular cocktails, but I opted against them out of fear of any more bleeding from the daith. The food was nothing short of delicious, we devoured evert last crumb.
Discussing our highlights of the trip was way harder than expected. As we went around the table, each of us would remember another part that exceeded our expectations. To this day, I still can’t choose my favourite part. I’m sure we all would still struggle.
As my last holiday before all of these lockdowns, I’m not sure it could have left much better of a memory. It was just filled with all those perfect moments.