Contiki England & Scotland – Days 4 & 5: Edinburgh
We left our hotel pretty early in the morning & headed for the Scottish border. We stopped at a famous wedding hall, Gretna Green, just after crossing into the border. It was the site of many runaway marriages between couples from England due to Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1754 which allowed parents to veto a marriage if their child was under 21. This law was passed to prevent the rich from falling in love with, and eventually marrying the poor. As Scotland was not a part of England, the law did not apply to them, so plenty of English citizens crossed the border to pursue their forbidden love. Two members of our group had a mock wedding ceremony, so we were able to experience what it may have been like. After saying their vows, the “minister” had both parties put their hands on an anvil, struck the anvil next to their hands with a hammer & said I now pronounce you man and wife!
Then, we drove to Hadrian’s Wall which was built by a Roman Emperor, Hadrian, over 1,000 years ago after Rome conquered the lower part of what is now Great Britain to defend against the “wild, untamable clans of the North” – sounds very familiar to the Wall in Game of Thrones. Getting from the parking lot to the actual wall required a decent hike up and down a Scottish hill where sheep were grazing, but the hike was worth it! The ruins of the wall were breathtaking and you could imagine just how imposing the wall was by visiting the site. We even learned that the indoor structures of the wall had heated floors and that many of the soldiers defending the wall lived there with their families. When the wall was eventually abandoned by the Roman Empire, many soldiers chose to stay behind and raise their children in England.
We then drove a few minutes and took pictures at the Scottish border with a bagpiper that was playing beautifully next to a rock that said Scotland.
After the border, we headed for Edinburgh. We arrived into the city shortly after 5:00 PM and had a quick turnaround before we met around 20 new group members that joined the tour in Scotland for an optional dinner. I tried haggis for the first time & was pleasantly surprised. It tasted like stuffing!
After dinner, Contiki arranged for a bagpiper to come and play for us. He was very good & told lots of great stories with typical, Scottish humor. At one point, someone asked him if he believed in the Loch Ness monster. Without missing a beat, he replied “I am the Loch Ness monster!” It was hilarious!
After dinner, the bus dropped us off downtown so we could go out and explore Edinburgh’s nightlife. The first bar we went to had a pretty good musician, but we then decided to go to a more energetic night club and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so old. Since the drinking age over here is 18, people who sneak into the clubs are 16 & 17. The 10 year age gap was a bit too much for some of us to handle, so we decided to head back to the hotel shortly after 1 in the morning.
I love this quote. When we passed it between bars, I had to take a picture.
The following morning, we had a tour of Edinburgh Castle. Due to European driver regulations, our bus driver had a day off so we took public transit to the Castle. Edinburgh Castle is situated on top of Castle Rock (similar to Casterly Rock if you’re a Game of Thrones fan) & only has one way to enter the castle (another Game of Thrones reference – the Vale). The rock it is situated on top of was the result of a volcanic eruption, so the castle can be easily defended. The castle itself was beautiful and provided even more beautiful views of the surrounding city of Edinburgh!