Going to Scotland was one of the best choices of my life. I made the decision to go on a spur of a moment, when my friends spontaneously planned the trip and invited me. Little did I know that this short trip with a random group of people would be one of my favorites. We didn’t even plan for the trip to have a Harry Potter theme, it just happened!
The first night we got there, we decided to eat dinner at The Elephant House. What is that, you ask? Just the place where JK Rowling began writing Harry Potter. What? Yeah, it was a pretty cool experience. We walked in and it didn’t seem very out of the ordinary – until we went into the bathroom. There was graffiti everywhere, featuring everything from Harry Potter quotes, to jokes, to stories of how Harry Potter has impacted people’s lives. It really was amazing to be in the place where JK Rowling began the story that changed so many people’s lives. And the food was good too!
The next morning, we woke up and headed out to do a walking tour of Edinburgh. Our tour guide was a very funny Scottish man named Dave the Guide. He had a wonderful accent, and always got very into his stories of the blood and guts littering Scotland’s past from bloody massacres, to horrific battles, to stealing the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey. He even pointed out the school that likely inspired Hogwarts, and the graveyard that held the names of many Harry Potter characters, including Tom Riddle! It probably would have been the greatest tour of my life, except five minutes into it rain started falling that was freezing cold, and I didn’t have a rain jacket so I spent the rest of the tour freezing. But that was okay! We told ourselves we were on a magical quest to destroy seven horcruxes, and after buying some cheap Scottish rain jackets, we followed Dave the Tour Guide on our second tour of the day (yeah, he was that great of a guide) up to Edinburgh Castle! It’s an absolutely beautiful place with stunning views over the cliff it was built on. I was still shivering for most of the tour so I don’t really remember what was said other than a couple more bloody stories, but I remember I had a great time and I slept very well that night.
The next morning we woke up early to meet our bus for a tour of the rest of Scotland. First stop, Glasgow! It was a lovely city and all decorated for Christmas, but we only stopped there for a few minutes before heading to my favorite stop of the day – Loch Lomond! It might not have a mythical creature living under it, but it was simply stunning to walk around, kicking up orange leaves and feeling the cool wind on my face with some of my best friends.
After a good walk we headed a little further toward the Highlands before stopping at a pub for a lunch of gluten free pizza and Irn Bru! If you don’t know what Irn Bru is, that’s because they don’t sell it in America. It’s a Scottish specialty that tastes kind of like Big Red but better, and must be called with a Scottish accent. Also, fun fact, every time we bought it we were told it was a great hangover cure.
Bellies full, we piled back on the bus to tour the Highlands! I know I keep saying that Scotland is really beautiful, but the Highlands took my breath away. The views were so gorgeous, and seriously I want to move there. Sorry mom, I’m not coming home. (Just kidding I miss y’all.) In the middle of taking that all in we spotted some cows, so our bus driver pulled over to let us get some pictures. He warned us to stay away from the heads because the cows sometimes swing them and hit you, but me being me just thought “Cute cows, must pet and take pictures!” I got some really great pictures, however no sooner had I taken them than the cow, true to form, swung it’s head and knocked my phone out of my hand and into… uh…. mud (it was probably poop). I managed to get it back and clean the…. feces? off, but it was still quite the adventure. So if you ever go to Scotland and see a cow, WATCH THE HEAD.
Adventures of the day concluded, our bus driver dropped us off in Edinburgh and we contemplated what to do for dinner. We had nearly made a decision when we remembered that we needed to visit the graveyard where Tom Riddle lay! Excitedly we ran off in that direction to find it. It really shouldn’t have been a hard task, but we had waited until the sun had set, and it was pitch black. So there we were in a graveyard in what felt like the middle of the night, disturbing the dead people by shining lights on every tombstone to find the one that said “Tom Riddle.” It took a good 10 or 15 minutes along with the rest of our iPhone/flashlight’s batteries, but we found it!
Satisfied that we were hardcore Potterheads we headed over to Deacon Broodie’s Tavern for dinner. You may not have heard of Deacon Broodie before, so let me give you the name he more commonly goes by – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. That’s right, that story was based off of a real person who lived in Edinburgh! Everybody thought Deacon Broodie was a very respectable town member, but secretly he had a gambling problem and was always in debt. How did he get out of debt? Well, he was also a carpenter, so when people hired him to make something for them, they gave them the key to their house, which he would copy and later use to break in and steal stuff. How could such a respectable man be so evil??
Overall, Scotland was one of the best trips of study abroad. I got to spend the whole time being a literary nerd, and I got to see some of the most beautiful sights of the world! I can absolutely understand why any one would move there for writing inspiration, and one day, I plan to do just that.