Throughout our term abroad here in York, every once in a while we have mandatory excursions as a group on the weekends. Our only overnight excursion was one to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. We all woke up at the crack of dawn to walk to the train station in York to catch our 7 a.m. train, and despite the desire to take a nice long nap on our way, there was a group of very vivacious women celebrating a fiftieth birthday, and they sure were getting a head start on the party.

Edinburgh was beautiful, and different than any of the other cities that I have visited in the United Kingdom. We all split up and did our own exploring, which included heading up and down the Royal Mile, which is the main road in Edinburgh that leads from one Palace to another. It’s lined with stores and restaurants – particularly lots of stores dedicated to Princess Diana, interestingly enough. Then our whole group met back up at the Scottish Parliament, where we had a guided tour. As our course taught by our Union professor is British Politics, it was great to see where the devolved government in Scotland operates. Considering Scottish Parliament isn’t as old as most, the building in which it is housed is super modern and very cool. In fact, it kind of reminded me of my high school, as the ceilings are modeled after the ocean and parts of the building are meant to look like a boat. All of the materials used to build Parliament were taken from Scotland as an homage to the country’s nationalism.

After Parliament, we were all free to do our own thing after returning to the hostel as a group. It was nice to stay in a hostel all together, unlike our accommodations at the University where we are all split up. Plus, the hostel was by far the nicest we have ever stayed in! After some quick naps, a big group of us headed to the Harry Potter walk of Edinburgh, also known as my dream come true. For those of you who don’t know, it is mildly concerning the level to which I love Harry Potter. This tour was guided by a man dressed as Harry Potter (of course) and he led us to all of the places in Edinburgh that inspired J.K. Rowling when she was writing the Harry Potter series while living in the city. It was the best part of my trip to Edinburgh.

That night, all of us went out together and it was so much fun! It really was the first time every single one of us was able to hang out with each other and it definitely brought our group closer. The next morning we all went to the Palace of Scotland, which was seated at the top of what felt like the steepest hill I had ever climbed…it was early. After we finally got to the top, the view was beautiful, as you could see the entire city. After our palace tour, we all had a delicious lunch together before splitting up to do whatever we wanted for the rest of the day. I chose to check out the Whiskey Scotch Experience, where we learned how whiskey was made as well as participated in a tasting, which was a lot of fun. Next, I went to the National Museum of Scotland, which is a free museum and bigger than any I have ever visited. I could have spent a year in there without seeing everything, so we focused instead on the special exhibit, Mary, Queen of Scots. The only things I knew about her reign had come from the movie Elizabeth, so it was incredibly interesting. Finally, before heading home, our last stop was the Palace of Hoolyrood, which is where Mary, Queen of Scots lived during her time in power. Complete with an informative audio tour, the Palace was beautiful and very interesting to learn about a less well known palace in the United Kingdom.

All in all, we had a pretty wonderful weekend together as a group in Edinburgh!