Ceilidhs, Castles, and Cathedrals

There’s an idiom that says, “The grass is always greener on the other side.”

Well, for Scotland this is true. Because it rains. A lot. Don’t get me wrong, I love Edinburgh so far. The city is full of life, the air is clean and crisp on top of Arthur’s Seat, the cars are small and fuel efficient, and the accents are wonderful to listen to.

But the weather…let’s just say that it leaves something to be desired.

But that’s the extent of my complaints. Also I was chronically sick for my first month here, but I can hardly blame that on an entire country. I will let my weak North American immune system take the fall for that one.

Since I’ve fallen a bit behind in my blogging, I will give a short summary of my experiences thus far in Edinburgh and places beyond.

The first week I arrived in Edinburgh was mostly a blur. It was Freshers’ Week. A week devoted to sight-seeing, fun activities, and partying to get new (and old) students into the university spirit. Highlights include:

Bumper Cars (known as dodgems here); taking a crash course in Scottish for North Americans; climbing Arthur’s Seat, a large rock formation located conveniently behind my flat; several ceilidhs, or traditional Scottish dances; visiting the Edinburgh Castle; coffee crawls; pubs, pubs and more pubs; and finally, the Freshers’ Ball to cap off the week in a classy way.


Some of my new friends and me on top of Arthur’s Seat, overlooking Edinburgh


The last day of Freshers’ Week, I had the privilege of  taking a day trip to St. Andrews with the International Student Center. The city itself was beautiful, lying roughly 30 miles north of Edinburgh and located right on the North Sea. I got to see the St. Andrews Cathedral, which is a deceptive name because it is actually in ruins. I didn’t even know I was “inside” until someone told me. See for yourself:


St. Andrews Cathedral: some standing, mostly ruined, all awesome.


Most castles, cathedrals, and pretty much everything old here is in ruins. Talking to some tour guides this was mostly due to wars between the Protestants and the Catholics in the Middle Ages. However I am not a historian and don’t really know much of the details.

Besides the cathedral, we got to visit the St. Andrews Castle, the University of St. Andrews, and St. Andrews Golf Course, the oldest golf course in the world. The city itself was very walkable and quieter than Edinburgh. It seems like a nice place to get away, but I would much rather live in a bigger, busier city. Edinburgh is definitely the place for me.

The next weekend, I went to the town of Lindisfarne in northern England. Being a tidal island, you can only get there when the tide is low, so we were warned not to be late for the bus, or else we would be left behind and would not be able to get off the island until the next day. Needless to say, everyone was back on the bus early.

Besides being a cool natural land formation, Lindisfarne also sports a pretty nifty castle which was renovated in the early 1900’s, hence the good condition:


The cold, windy weather was the hardest part about conquering the Lindisfarne Castle


Following Lindisfarne, we traveled to another town, Berwick-upon-Tweed. Along with having possibly the most English-sounding name ever, the town, like the others, has a castle. Berwick was a major point of contention between the English and the Scots and was sacked something like 13 times between 1100 and 1500. The castle didn’t fare too well in the fight for Berwick:


Berwick Castle has seen better days. Many times.


So to recap: Lots of rain, lots of castles, lots of friends, lots of pubs, lots of fun. I think I’m going to like it here.


One Comment

  1. Hilary says:

    I am in your blog, commenting on your post.

    Scotland sounds great, Andy Grube. I’d make fun of your weather issues some more but you are abroad and I am not so you win.

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