edinburgh I - impulses

edinburgh is bewitching, and the minute i said goodbye to beez on the street corner and headed for my hostel in the shadow of the castle on the hill, i was under its spell. i was so excited to see the city that i quickly checked in and changed my clothes and hit the streets. this afternoon and evening in edinburgh was full of impulse turned brilliant decisions.
i saw a sign in the hostel for tickets for the open top bus and thought, what the heck, i’ll get a quick overview of the city. i bought one, hopped outside and onto one of these:
to see lots of enchanting views under stormy, gloomy skies, like this:
and then i quickly chose to meander up streets like this:
until i got here:
and man oh man, the royal mile was alive. i came to edinburgh right in the thick of the edinburgh international festival, which attracts roughly 1 million visitors every year from around the globe. there are all kinds of theater, art, dance, music and comedy performances going on the entire month of august, and best of all for a broke traveler, there is a constant and fantastic stream of street performers doing their thing along the royal mile.
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i saw jugglers, comedians, musicians, magicians and people with all kinds of weird but remarkable skills among the shopping stands and cathedrals and cobblestones and history and deep feeling of scotland. the city was pulsing with energy and art and excitement. of course there was a lot of bagpiping going on, and the occasional random costumed person:
there were hoards and hoards of people, all filled with the same brand of thrill and magic that i felt. as evening approached, i noticed a general movement of the crowds up the royal mile toward edinburgh castle. as i followed them i realized they were on their way to the edinburgh military tattoo – the crowing jewel of the festival: a opening-ceremonies-esque display of music, dancing and spectacle.
i had heard about the tattoo but the tickets were so expensive online, and so i figured it was way out of my plans. but, i decided to ask the scalpers on the corner how much they were selling their tickets for, just out of curiosity. 30 pounds. half of what i found online. i hesitated for 10 seconds and then, completely on impulse with a tickle down my spine, i said, “i’ll take it.” and i followed the crowds to the castle.

instantly it was worth every penny!
i walked into the esplanade between the grandstands set up on the castle mount and was completely dazzled and enamored. the castle was lit up with torches; people were buzzing with excitement all around; the views of the city were hazy and dreamy and glimmering. i found my seat among a big group of belgian tourists and sighed such a happy sigh.

IMG_9838IMG_9850the show was spectacular. i can’t tell you emphatically enough how spectacular it was! maybe i cried. maybe i wanted to sob. it was electric. and i couldn’t stop taking pictures!
the bagpipers came out of the castle over the moat in the mist under the indigo sky and i oohed and ahhed with people from all over the planet, just me as an island in the middle of thrill and spectacle. there were marching bands from all over the world, actors and dancers, and at the end we all got to take part by singing together. as per some tradition, we held hands and bounced our arms up and down to the music. the ripple of movement through the grandstand was such a delightful sensation. we were all connected. one of my favourite things was watching the bleachers sparkle as camera flashes went off – it was a constant sparkle from that castle mount that glorious night!
one of the coolest things was watching the castle change with different lighting for different acts/numbers. i kept wowing to myself.
at the very end all of the performers came out together and the noise was powerful and euphoric. that’s when my tears came. the finale after all that sound was a lone piper on top of the castle, then complete dark while the announcer said “scotland, the brave” in a booming voice, and then – fireworks. ahhhhhhh!!!
so can you tell i definitely think my impulse ticket buying was a good idea? i floated back to the hostel, exhausted but ecstatic.

serendipity in edinburgh!!!


  1. I am so jealous! SO so so jealous. I love Scotland. It's absolutely spectacular!

  2. Wow! How long have you been/will you be traveling the UK anyways? It seems quite the adventure!

  3. Glad you got to go to the tatoo.

    I just google it for you & if you want to get a copy of this on DVD there are loads available. I'm not sure if it's out at the moment but you could pre-order it.

    I just thought it would be lovely to see & hear it again:)

    They recently showed the tatoo on BBC 1 on the bank holiday weekend, they do this every year.

  4. Next time you need a travelling buddy let me know. It's awesome all the adventures you're having!

  5. Charity, I found you today through Shawni's blog. Oh my! I was so excited to see this post. My husband and I enjoyed Edinburgh in August also. I just blogged our adventures there but didn't do as well describing the military tattoo. My blog is private and I hope it's okay with you that I linked your post on my blog. Our extended family will better know the beauties of Scotland because of your description. You truly are a gifted writer! I wish I could meet you in person!

  6. Love Edinburgh...esp the side that overlooks the Firth of Fourth...great pics that remind me of my love.