Monday, December 28, 2015

Wet and Soggy in Edinburgh

Some of the sights to see on the Royal
I decided to take the kids to Edinburgh to partake in the famous Fringe festival for a couple of days. If you ever make it to Scotland in August be sure to make this world famous festival one of your stops!  This is an amazing three-week event, which takes place each August with over 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues across Edinburgh (August 2015).  The venues are located throughout the city with shows taking place on an ongoing basis. The Royal Mile is packed with visitors from all over the world and the atmosphere is something I have never experienced elsewhere. Unbeknownst to me, our two-day visit to this iconic city would take place during this heightened tourist event but would also coincide with the world re-known Scottish Tattoo.  For those travellers who enjoy the crowds and mayhem of such an event this is excitement itself but to the unprepared and uninitiated, it can be an overwhelming and stress-inducing nightmare!

Castle Rock Hostel
Our claustrophobic room.
Upon exiting Haymarket train station our group headed onto the packed streets of Edinburgh. Luckily, Shelby, who has an uncanny sense of direction and an amazing memory for places she has visited, we headed off to our abode for the night. Shelby had stayed at the Castle Rock Hostel the previous summer and upon her recommendation I had booked it for our overnight. This hostel is at the foot of the famous castle and the interior, with its winding staircases and middle age d├ęcor makes the guest feel like they are staying in a medieval castle. Like all hostels the guests can book dorm rooms or semi private rooms with shared baths. I had booked a semi private room with two bunks to accommodate
the four of us. Now I am not exaggerating when I say that the room we entered, soaking wet due to the rain that never seemed to stop, was no bigger than my rather small bathroom at home! The four of us could not stand at the same time in this space but had to take turns trying to organize ourselves one at a time while three sat in the claustrophobic bunk space. The upper bunks boasted about two feet of headroom and the unfortunate person assigned to that space had to be ever mindful not to quickly sit up or they would smack their head against the slopping roof. Despite being the most vertically challenged of the group, Sasha and I commandeered the lower bunks and left Bobby and Shelby to face the hazards of the uppers. The room did boast a skylight on the slanted roof, which could be opened, to alleviate the somewhat cave like atmosphere and this window did have a stunning view of the castle right above. Unfortunately, before retiring for the night we did leave this open and predictably it rained so all of our bags and clothes, which were deposited below this space, were a soggy mess in the morning.  The hostel itself boasted a very large common room, which put me in mind of a commune, hippy type hangout, a passably clean and large shower/washroom, and a very friendly and helpful front desk. Now Shelby, who had stayed here in a twelve-bed dorm the previous summer, and myself, were perfectly happy in this environment and I was thrilled that we had managed to secure such a prime location during the festival, even if the price was exorbitantly inflated!  I’m not so sure if our fellow travellers Bobby and Sasha were equally charmed by the surroundings. Now I’m sure Sasha can rough it with the best of us if need be – she once did a two week farm stay in the Dominican – but lately, her tastes run more to five or six star accommodations so she was less than impressed by our choice of abode.  After getting ourselves checked in and ridding ourselves of our backpacks we headed out to explore the festival! 

Our samples!
Since we were all rather weary from the long train ride and walk up the hill to the hostel we did what any sensible cranky group of companions would do in Scotland – we searched out someplace to imbibe in that most time honoured cure all, a good shot of Scottish Whisky.  The term whisky originates from the Gaelic usquebaugh. Uisce for water and beatha from bethad meaning life, so in my way of thinking this is actually a health restorative – the water of life!  (
We did the touristy thing by visiting the Scotch Whisky Experience on Castlehill right below the Castle.  For about £20 each we were treated to a barrel ride sort of thing, which seems to be a bit of a rage at these places, an informative little movie, a lecture, and then finally what we all really came for, five shots of various whisky.  Luckily for me, my daughters are not quite as fond of this liquid gold as their mother so I made the supreme sacrifice and helped them finish off their shots.  Much revived, we headed back out to face to throngs on The Royal Mile.

Taking in the culture at the Scotch Whisky Experience!

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