Edinburgh and celebrating all things Scottish

If you ever visit Scotland I would imagine that you will make a point of experiencing the mighty capital that is called Edinburgh.

I’m not usually much of a city person, but Edinburgh has a special feel about it. It has a great mix of history, architecture, old and new, hills and open green spaces. I have only visited the capital a handful of times, so I was really excited to be going to a Scottish event called Scotcon at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange on Sunday 4 September 2016.

Scotcon

Scotcon was Scotland’s first ever Con of its kind. It was similar to a Comic Con, but celebrating everything Scottish.

Part of this celebration was meeting some of the actors from the TV series Outlander. I’m a huge fan of the show, more than I care to admit. I was totally hooked after the first episode! Series one and most of Series two is filmed in Scotland. I love this. The series has been a huge boost to Scottish tourism with people from all over the world visiting the filming locations. I’ve visited many new places too. Check out Visit Scotland’s website for more details.

I’d never been to anything like this before. I love Scotland so this was something I felt I shouldn’t miss. So I booked well in advance. The tickets were expensive, I couldn’t really afford it, but as it was a charity event I felt I was contributing to worthy causes.

My friend who I was going with sadly had to pull out as the event date was changed. My sister came with me at the last minute, which was great. This was the first time we’d ever been away for a weekend together. After a few bumps along the way with the event, it was eventually travelling day on Friday 2 September. I was still looking forward to it. I was also going to meet fellow peakers from My Peak Challenge!

Travelling to Edinburgh

We travelled by train from Kilmarnock to Glasgow Central, then Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Park Station.

Kilmarnock railway station dates from 1846 and has seen much improvement recently with rooms being converted for community use. It’s known as the Kilmarnock Station Community Village. As I’m from Kilmarnock it’s brilliant to see my home town improving. The new Ayrshire College Kilmarnock Campus opens on 24 October 2016 and this will bring more people to the town. I can also see this little old station becoming a busier place!

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Kilmarnock Railway Station

Whilst I was waiting for my sister I popped into the ‘Storm in a Teacup’ at the station for a coffee and a chat with friendly staff. I love this old piano!

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Old piano

When we reached Edinburgh Park Station we caught a Lothian bus just outside the station. It took us straight to the Ratho Travel Lodge near Edinburgh airport. The bus stops on the road below and you only need to walk across the footbridge to the other side. So travelling there was pretty straight forward.

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Ratho Station Travel Lodge

We were going to be staying at the Travel Lodge for three nights (Friday to Monday). The room was spacious for two of us. The double bed was more comfortable than the single though. My sister can personally vouch for that as being the main tester!

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Travel lodge room

To the city

My sister was looking for something tartan to wear for the event on Sunday so we caught a bus to the city centre. I don’t travel on public transport very often and it was quite confusing what bus to get in Edinburgh. There were three different bus companies that all went to different places. Luckily the bus stops have timetables displayed and friendly locals also helped us by telling us what bus to travel on.

Edinburgh is packed with shops that sell Scottish gifts and tartan. Possibly too many shops are similar though. The staff were all really friendly. We walked along Princes Street and I enjoyed looking at the castle faraway in the distance and the trams going past. It was busy with people doing their own thing getting ready for the weekend. The big wheel looked fun! Of course I was thinking, great photo opportunity at the top.

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Princes Street, Edinburgh
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Tram on Princes Street, Edinburgh
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Scottish National Gallery
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Looking up to the old town
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The stunning Edinburgh Castle
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Origin of the rock

Later we walked to the medieval old town, the Royal Mile, still looking for something tartan. We eventually found the perfect tartan skirt at a reasonable price.

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Scottish National Gallery

When you approach the old town the architecture is very impressive with its pointy spires. The author J K Rowling was inspired by Edinburgh to write her Harry Potter stories. I can understand why!

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Some photos of the magnificent buildings on the Royal Mile:

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The Royal Mile
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The Royal Mile
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The Royal Mile

The stunning St Giles Cathedral. We sadly didn’t have time to explore inside.

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St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile
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St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile
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Mercat Cross on the Royal Mile
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Living statue on the Royal Mile

We both started to feel hungry so Frankie and Bennys on the Royal Mile it was for some food. I also enjoyed a nice glass of white wine and soda. Lovely food and friendly service.

After dinner we walked around some of the side streets to see what was there. It’s a busy place at night. As it was getting late we made our way back down to Princes Street to find out what bus we needed to get back to Ratho. We soon found out that you need to be at the right bus stop for the right bus. Sometimes if you don’t put your arm out the bus can just drive past!

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Edinburgh at dusk

As it was dark, we didn’t know when to get off the bus at Ratho, so I asked the bus driver to give us a shout when we were there. Yet again a friendly bus service was welcomed. It was bedtime after a tiring day but fun day. The next day we’d go back to the city and explore.

Arthur’s Seat on Saturday

On Saturday we made our way back into Edinburgh. We hadn’t really decided what we wanted to do and ended up venturing towards Arthur’s Seat. The bus took us right to the top of the hill near Holyrood and we eventually found our way to the start of the walk.

This was the first time my sister had tried a bit of hill walking. She is still building up her fitness and asthma can be a nuisance, but I said take it slowly and just go as far as you can. It’s never a race and with regular breaks you can do anything!

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Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags
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Walking to the start of Arthur’s Seat
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Arthur’s Seat

We broke the walk into three sections. The first stop was the St Anthony’s Chapel ruin. There was a wedding taking place at the chapel. What a lovely place to get married! There are some great views across the city even at this height.

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Looking towards Calton Hill
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St Anthony’s Chapel
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St Anthony’s Chapel
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St Anthony’s Chapel

The second part was walking up to the plateau. I could see dots of red coming towards us. Lots of red! Yikes! Was it a redcoats invasion? We stood aside and waited until the red people passed us. One person looked at our wondering faces and shouted across “Argentina”. At that point I felt like bursting into song “Don’t cry for me Argentina …”.

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The red people from Argentina

We reached the plateau and stopped for a wee break.

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The plateau

The third part of the walk was to the summit. Here was another adventure where I seen a lost boot. I wonder whose foot this belonged to?

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Boots are made for walking
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Cobbled and rocky climb

I’m pleased to say it was a successful climb for my sister! It was really windy at the top, as always, and very busy with people coming and going.

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Sisters achieve
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A rocky summit

Does anyone know what the metal ring was used for in the photo below? Maybe people were handcuffed here as a punishment? Or you could attach a kite :).

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The ring of Arthur
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Summit view

I was so happy for my sister and her achievement getting to the summit. Handbag and walking sandals didn’t stop her either! This will be the start of many more I hope.

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Sister with handbag and sandals

Farewell Arthur, we’ll meet again …

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Looking back up Arthur’s Seat

Back to the city life

When we reached ground level again we walked back towards the Royal Mile and passed Holyrood Palace. We didn’t go in, but I’d like to visit the next time.

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Gates of Holyrood Palace
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Holyrood Palace
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The Royal Mile

I loved this little door. A magic portal I would imagine…

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Magic door to where?
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Pork anyone?

The World’s End

I really wanted to go to the World’s End pub. A cold bottle of Schiehallion lager was calling me after our walk. It was really busy and a small place but we managed to get a seat and stayed for one drink.

The pub holds this name as after the Battle of Flodden in 1513, a wall was built to protect the people of the burgh. The people of the burgh believed that outside these gates was no longer their world and became the world’s end. Parts of the wall still exists in the foundations of the building at the bottom of St Mary’s Street.

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World’s End

Brass cobbles in the road show where the ancient gate once stood. How cool is that!

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Brass cobbles
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World’s End

When it started to get dark we headed back down to Princes Street. We’d hoped to climb up the Scott Monument but it was closed. Thunderbirds are go!

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Scott Monument

I had a real notion for a bag of chips. Proper chip shop ones. Yes, I had an unhealthy moment, but we need that sometimes. Believe it or not we couldn’t find a chip shop anywhere on Princes Street or the streets behind it.

It was pouring with rain, and my sister fancied a coffee so we popped into the Starbucks coffee shop on Princes Street. This coffee shop had the most amazing windows and views out to the castle. I wish now we’d sat in rather than having a coffee to go. We didn’t want to miss our bus though.

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Coffee and the castle

Scotcon

Hurrah! It was Scotcon day. We had to get up about 6.30am to get ready. We booked a taxi for 8.15am to take us to the Corn Exchange near the city centre. It was a beautiful sunny Scottish morning and we were dressed in red tartan.

When we reached the Corn Exchange a queue was already starting to form and we met some lovely people from Ohio who were Outlander fans. The girls have read the Outlander books as well as watching the TV series. I need to get reading the books too!

Then a fellow peaker recognised me and said hello too. She was really complimentary about my blog and I really appreciated her lovely feedback. Sometimes I doubt myself then a compliment like that makes me think I’m doing something right. Thank you so much D for your kindness!

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Meeting new people and peakers

The start of the day was an introduction to Scotcon by the wonderfully funny Scottish Gaelic consultant Àdhamh Ó Broin. He sang some songs in Gaelic, my favourite being Caledonia. Then it was time for the guys from Outlander to come on to stage for the question and answer session.

Mr Steven Cree, originally from Kilmarnock, asked if anyone in the audience was from Kilmarnock. Of course my sister and I jumped off our seats excitedly and shouted out. It all went by too quickly though.

The next stop for me was my meet and greet the cast. So I abandoned my sister and queued for the next event. This would be a professional photo and chat, exciting!

The room was pretty  small and crowded but we made the most of it. I met another fellow peaker too! She was travelling alone and exploring Scotland, this was one of her peak challenges. Most of us either had our peaker t-shirts on or our pin so we could recognise each other at events. Brave and brilliant achievement K!

So here was my five second photo with the handsome Outlander guys. Left to right:

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Photo with the Outlander guys

The actors circulated all the tables for autographs and a chat, except Stephen Walters as sadly he had to leave early. All really lovely guys. The table layout wasn’t ideal and I couldn’t hear some of them but I did manage to speak briefly to Clive, Steven and Graham.

I mentioned to Clive I was at the Dean Castle in Kilmarnock when they were filming there and Steven was mostly talking about Kilmarnock. When Graham sat at the table I mentioned that I’d visited Finnich Glen, The Devil’s Pulpit and how challenging it must have been for them to get down those steps with cameras and gear! It’s such a beautiful place though.

Peakers meet

After the meet and greet (I didn’t cry, honest) I caught up with my sister and new peaker friends. We had a group photo taken with our online My Peak Challenge (MPC) coach from the Glasgow gym Every Day Athlete Gym.

As usual I didn’t get a chance to talk to everyone. The day was passing too quickly already.

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Peakers achieving

Most of the peakers here took part in a Muay Thai session with the coach that day. A brilliant £400 was raised for Bloodwise UK!

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The red tartan sisters

One of the vendors at the event was Micaela who is also a fellow peaker. Painting is part of her own peak challenge and this masterpiece of the ‘Lads of Leoch’, including the actors’ signatures, was auctioned for the charity Bloodwise UK. She raised an amazing £1470!

What a talented artist she is! Visit Micaela’s website to see more of her beautiful work.

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Micaela and the Lads of Leoch

I didn’t get a chance to go round and see all the other vendors and missed some of the events.

My sister and I met up with two lovely peakers K and L. We all popped out to Asda to buy some lunch and came back to the venue to eat it. We sat outside in the sun which was ideal. I had to quickly go to the other lounge though as the actors were drawing a raffle for the Lallybroch Lounge attendees (full price ticket payers). I didn’t win anything, but that doesn’t matter. It was nice to see the guys again and they were funny.

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Sitting in the sun

Clanadonia

Clanadonia, drums and pipe band, played outside and they were amazing. I’d never heard them before. I loved the sound of the drums and pipes together.

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Rolling drones

The Rolling Drones were next to play us some fantastic Scottish music. Just beautiful and the dancers were brilliant!

Learning to dance ceilidh style

My sister and I really wanted to go to a Ceilidh for a while now but we didn’t know all the moves. The last time I tried traditional Scottish dancing was at primary school when we had to do it and hated it … This was because we had to pick boy partners and vice versa. Some of us, myself included, were left sitting with no one to dance with. This really didn’t help my confidence in those days.

So here at Scotcon was our opportunity to try some dancing for fun. When we eventually found out where to go for the lessons we had a laugh. Twists, turns, wrong way … you get the idea.

Dinner time

After the lessons we realised it was almost dinner time. There was a formal Gala dinner at the venue but we didn’t have tickets for this.

As there wasn’t anywhere in the venue for us to eat we had to go outside and find somewhere. K, L my sister and I got together and looked around the area for a nice place to eat. L  eventually had to drive to an area of town with more places to eat. We found somewhere at last where we could all eat. Good food and glass of wine, perfect. Then we headed back to the venue to get ready for the real Ceilidh!

The real ceilidh

Only thing was we weren’t allowed back in until the Ceilidh started at 9pm. We had about an hour and a half to wait. This wasn’t ideal, but we waited patiently. When we were eventually allowed in, the room looked lovely and the actors were still there mingling with the guests.

We had a few glasses of free wine and watch the dancing. Guess what, we didn’t even go up to dance! I think I was more nervous I got the moves wrong and we were hoping for a dance that we’d practised earlier. It looked fun though. We’ll arrange to go to another one nearer Christmas.

So we left early, feeling tired. The lovely L gave us a lift back to our travel lodge. Thank you L! It was lovely meeting L and K too.

Home time

We checked out on Monday and it was homeward bound. We had a great time exploring Edinburgh and we met lots of friendly people at the event. Celebrating all things Scottish has certainly made me more proud of our music, culture and country. There’s a whole Scotland out there!

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Edinburgh Park Station

Thanks for reading.

Dawn-Marie

6 Replies to “Edinburgh and celebrating all things Scottish”

  1. What am amazing time you both had !
    Great tour of Edinburgh and I saw bits I never knew existed
    I must commend you on this post , certainly shows the history we have in beautifully written terms

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading Eileen and your lovely comment. There’s still so much more to explore. I’ll need to go back again 🙂

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  2. Hi Dawn-Marie

    What an adventure….I love Edi. I think it’s a lovely city where the old and the modern go well together.

    You lucky girl, you got to meet some of the Outlander cast. I wish I could have gone too. Sadly Sam wasn’t there….

    Take care x

    Elsa

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Elsa! It’s really nice to hear from you :).

      It was so amazing to see and meet the guys from Outlander! It went so fast, but I have my photo to treasure :). It would have been lovely to meet Sam again, maybe another time I hope.

      I hope you are well and planning your next trip to Scotland 😉

      Take care
      Dawn-Marie xxx

      Like

  3. Great post. One of our offices is at the corn exchange so I’m through in Edinburgh every month but I still get ridiculously excited every time I get there and see the castle. So jealous of Scotcon. Looks like a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ali. Lucky you visiting every month! I still have so much to see. Three days wasn’t enough. I’ll need to go back many more times! It was a fab weekend, love Edinburgh! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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