Day Thirteen (9/26/18): Nessie Searching, the Fate of Castle Urquhart, and Traveling “Diagon Alley” Through Edinburgh
We left Inverness and headed southward toward the legendary Loch Ness. The morning weather proved to be dreary and wet, with a low-hanging mist hovering over the choppy water, giving the surrounding area a sense of ancient mystery. Although Tim and I did a thorough search from where we had stationed ourselves along the west side of the Loch, we, alas, did not encounter Nessie (not that it means she doesn’t exist, mind you, only that she is introverted and enjoys her privacy).
I can respect that.
In looking over maps of the area, I had wondered why the shape of Loch Ness was so long and thin, almost like a stretch of river that had been capped off at both ends. It turned out that beneath the Loch, and running through the Scottish Highlands, was a pretty sizable faultline. I later learned that earthquakes were common in those parts, although most tremors were too light to be felt.
We continued our drive around the Loch and stopped off at Urquhart Castle, a medieval ruin situated on a rocky outcrop overlooking the water. Like many of the old structures we had encountered on our trip, the Castle had an interesting and bloody history to it, ending its role as a garrison in 1692 when the final occupants blew up the gatehouse to prevent their enemies from using the Castle. Despite its dilapidated state, Urquhart Castle was still an awe-inspiring site. Tim and I (along with legions of other tourists) explored the Castle from the ramparts to the cellars. A steady drizzle fell upon us throughout our visit, making the stones and ground rather slippery to tread on.
However, the real hazard came from the scores of visitors around us blithely welding their selfie sticks, trying to get just the right picture. I had never heard of anyone actually getting an eye poked out from a selfie stick, but I was determined not to be the first victim.
For lunch, we stopped off at a café in Spean Bridge, where I had the Scottish version of the English breakfast. The main difference in this was the introduction of haggis to the meal. I was well-aware of what went into haggis, and I was a bit wary of trying it. However, I was in Scotland, and well, when in Rome…Additionally, what would my friends back home think of me if I left the country without trying it? So, I tried it, and to be honest, it wasn’t bad at all. I notified some of my friends online about my bold undertaking, and the response was universal: yuck!
Our AirBNB house du jour, located in Edinburgh, was actually a B&B. We were welcomed by our hosts into a luxurious three-floor building. We didn’t stay indoors for long, as we wanted to explore the city. For several hours, we walked around, looking at churches, ancient cemeteries, monuments, and the Edinburgh Castle, which was perched high up on a bluff. We also toured Victoria Street, which looked very familiar to me, though I wasn’t sure why at first. Then Tim pointed out a shop that sold nothing but Harry Potter souvenirs. Of course, I couldn’t pass the store up! Soon after entering, I learned that Victoria Street was the model for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies. Among other purchases, I bought my second copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this time written in Scot. The idea of purchasing the same book in different language was not a new idea. A friend of mine had made it a mission to collect a first edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone in every available language, which he succeeded in doing! https://www.harrypottercollector.com/ I wasn’t that ambitious, but after my second purchase, I was starting to enjoy the hunt!
For dinner, Tim and I went to Quattro Zero, an Italian restaurant in heart of Scotland, run by a Hispanic family. This was the perfect reflection of the Edinburgh experience; diverse, lively, surprising. We walked around the city some more after we ate, soaking up the energetic night life. There were a lot of people out and about, popping in and out of stores and pubs, and generally strolling along the sidewalks. In short, it didn’t take long for Edinburgh to become one of my favorite places on the trip!