Awoke on Monday and it was strange not to be heading to Download. That was all consuming for three days straight and it was bliss now looking back. What an exceptional time! I just might have to come back next year now that I’ve been trained in the way of the Downloader.
I loaded up my gear including an offensive sack of Download laundry that smelled like I’d been digging up bodies. I figured with so little changes in apparel, I may as well just wear the same clothes as I’m just going to get dirty anyways.
Hopped the train to Edinburgh from the Derby train station and I was off on my next adventure. I absolutely love the trains. They just seem to lull me off to sleep. Very relaxing. The country side was beautiful for the most part as it blared by me at how ever many miles an hour we were going. I have no idea, but I’d guess 70 or 80mph. Fields and forests and lush, lush greens. The occasional city or village and that was about it. I was in a quiet car full of Downloaders who probably hadn’t slept in days and they were all out cold. It was completely silent in the car for the most part and my headphones blared with the music of the bands at the festival. I couldn’t of felt more at peace.
Getting into Waverly station at Edinburgh was a mess as the station and the surrounding area are all torn up with massive construction installing new city trams. The residents seem to be fed up with it as it’s already a year overdue and judging from the looks of things, it’s going to be at least another one (or three). The city was every bit as breathtaking as you would imagine. Right as you emerge from the crypt they call Waverly, centuries-old buildings line the hill leading up into Old Town where we’re staying. It looks completely medieval and is very, very cool. It’s easy to imagine the view would not have been all that different 200-300 years ago. Even longer.
I arrived at our hostel and checked in. I was surprised to not find Michelle and Todd as they had been off on their own jaunt while I was at Download. I figured they’d have arrived by now and been all checked in. Not so. The room is basic, but clean and nice and there’s plenty of room to move around. We are right on the roof line so there’s a sloping wall with a great skylight we can fully open up and the view is stunning. I have the single (hey, I got here first) and they’re sharing bunks. We have a private room for three and there’s a community shower and toilets just down the hall. All very nice and I have to say I reallyl dig the communal living just fine. There are several lounges full of kids playing pool, reading, fiddling on laptops and they don’t seem to mind having old farts around at all. In fact there are people here older than us and it’s a really cool vibe at the Castle Rock hostel. I would stay here again any day.
Had a look about the place and it is huge! Went downstairs and within minutes I was reunited with my mates. They told me of their harrowing tales driving through Oban and journeying to the Isle of Mull as well as Iona. Happy to report they made it safe and sound, and they were looking forward to getting out of the car as they’d spent a great deal of time driving.
Our hostel is right underneath the great Edinburgh Castle. It is quite an awesome sight to walk out everyday and look up at the fearsome fortress. Still haven’t made it up there, but we’re finally going up for a whiskey tasting tomorrow and we’re all looking forward to it.
We chilled for a bit and then met my old friend Emily who was a bartender at my favorite local watering hole at home, the Just Left. She left about 5 years ago and had always talked about wanting to move to Scotland and go to school. Well she actually did it and through the miracle of Facebook I knew where she was! She looked just the same as always except her hair was a bit longer and she had a full Scottish accent. It was quite funny to hear it, but if I didn’t know, I’d say she was 100% Scottish. The three of us spent the evening pub hopping and tasting whiskey with Emily and her husband, Ben. They were great hosts and both work in the bar industry here in Edinburgh so they were very knowledgeable on the beers and the booze! The whiskey list at one place we were at was about 10 pages long. Rows and rows of different kinds of whiskeys.
When we got back to the hostel late about 1am we decided we should have a nightcap. Us drunks are funny that way. Michelle had picked up a 3-liter bottle of Apple Cider back in Liverpool and hardly cracked the seal. Well we brought it down to the lounge and shared it with our new housemates. This stuff is like pure gasoline. It’s the foulest, most disgusting drink I think I’ve ever had. Most were happy to have a cup, but no one asked for seconds. Eventually the room cleared out as everyone had gone to bed. The old farts were the last! We wound up back in our room just passing the bottle and having an impromptu slumber party. It was quite entertaining and will be a highlight memory. Real pissed in Edinburgh.
Having had such a late night, we slept in today. Which we all needed. Finally up and showered and all doing surprisingly well, we decided to take a hop-on hop-off tour of the city to get our bearings and see some of the sights. Well we wound up doing a few loops and I think we got a good look at everything there is to see, at least from the outside. The city is charming and busy and we’ve traveled outside the city a good bit too. Many tourists and many locals. We’re nearby the Royal Mile which is very touristy, but just enough off the beaten path where we don’t feel much of it, but it’s easy to get to. The huge Gothic cathedrals here are my favorite of any I’ve seen in all of England. The one right out the door of the hostel is my favorite and I can practically picture it in the center of Gotham City with Batman perched on top. It’s pure awesome.
Tonight, we’re off to Emily’s pub for dinner and drinks and I know it will be an early night. (wink, wink). In the morning we are heading up the castle then visiting Mary’s King Cross (or something like that. I’ll know more tomorrow). We’ll be able to get an early start as we have a full day. After our two city excursions, we’re going to get Todd back on the road and take us up to Sterling Castle and hopefully have dinner around or on Lake Loch Ness looking for Bessie.
Our trip is rapidly winding down, but we’re squeezing every last moment out of it. We travel perfectly together and have had no instances of any kind with ourselves or our trip. It’s been right perfect and I expect it will be through Saturday when we say goodbye and return home.
I miss my wife and kids very much now that its going on two weeks, but it won’t be long now. And I’ve had a wonderful, eye-opening adventure. It’s been a real blessing to be able to take it with such great people!