Alexandra Mayer is a student at the University of South Dakota and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Reading, England.
I decided to study abroad in England because I had always been obsessed with English culture and their way of life. I had seen classic English movies like Pride and Prejudice, but my decision to come to England was my love for literature and the romanticism that England seems to radiate. Like did I know, I’d find the romanticism I’d been looking for in the rolling hills of Scotland.
It was my second week studying at the University of Reading when the friends that I had made here proposed a trip to Edinburgh. I had never even heard of Edinburgh but I was all about adventure and new experiences. After a last-minute night of planning and purchasing train tickets, we were off for Scotland. We were able to buy train tickets for noon (always buy train tickets off-peal, ALWAYS) and I had window seat. I had planned to nap or watch Netflix on our six-hour train ride but as soon as our train left the station, I could keep my eyes off the view. The way villages were tucked away in hills and near rivers was nothing like I had seen before. For six hours I watched the view change from bustling London to hills to lush fields to villages tucked away near the coast. I looked out my window until the sunset and was even more excited for my trip in Edinburgh. Once we arrived, we were in the middle of what looked like a fairy tale. The Edinburgh Castle was lit up along with their churches, Old-Town, and New-Town. We walked to our hostel, which was located next to the castle, and then headed to a pub for some food and met some new friends who were more than happy to tell us Americans how beautiful Scotland was and what we needed to do while we were there. We started our next day touring the Edinburgh Castle seeing the amazing views that it had to offer. After having a tour and exploring more of the castle ourselves, we ventured off and walked around the shops. I even met William Wallace, sort of. My dad’s favorite movie is Braveheart, so I got a picture and sovereign to bring back. We then ended our night by going to Calton Hill around sunset and saw the city at night, a stunning view that anyone in Edinburgh must see at night.
My friends and I awoke early the next morning so we could hike Arthur’s Seat and take our time getting to the top, we did this because we were more out of shape than we would like to admit. We started out trek up the hill, unknowingly taking the hardest path to the top. The entire way up, I was out of breath, sweating because I was overdressed, and kind of cranky since it was so early in the morning, yet I kept climbing and was glad I did. The view was amazing. From where I was, you could see Old-Town, New-Town, the water, the untouched rolling hills, and the Edinburgh Castle, which looked tiny and that is saying something. While I was up there, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who lived in Edinburgh and told me if I thought this view was amazing, I needed to go to the Highlands. He said it was indescribable and that he couldn’t recommend it enough. He also pointed out hidden scenic spots in Edinburgh that most tourists miss.
If you’re ever in a foreign country, make friends with the locals. They are very proud of their home and want you to have the best experience possible.
I took what he said and told my friends about the hidden top scenic spots in Edinburgh. We went, we saw, we conquered. I also got covered in mud because I fell four times in the mud in search of our hidden destination. My friends also decided that we needed to go to Holyrood Palace, one of the Queen’s favorite residences, while I was covered in mud. If you love history or the Royal Family, then this is a must do. I am a huge history buff so seeing where Mary, Queen of Scots resided was amazing. I had a very eager history guide tell me everything there was to know about the history and those who had lived there. Again, the views are incredible. In fact, I am not sure how much more I can talk about how amazing the views are. Repeat: the views are indescribable and photos do not do it just. We ended our time at the palace by walking through the gardens and made our way to food.
I have always considered myself a city girl, but Scotland changed my mind. It might have been because I did not know what to expect, but Scotland blew my mind, and I had only seen Edinburgh. I am trying to find a time to head back to Scotland so I can tour the Highlands, see the Loch Ness, and see Stirling Castle (since I am a Braveheart fan like my dad) but I have many adventures ahead of me to look forward to. Scotland, you have my heart and I cannot wait till I visit you again.
More to come,
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The world awaits…discover it.