Edinburgh, Scotland: Day 1

Saturday, June 9, 2012

As much as I love traveling, I still struggle with the whole rising-before-the-sun-to-catch-a-flight thing.  I was up and out at 5 am to meet my friends Inna, Claire, and Ciarán at the airport. This was my first experience with Ryanair and, while I've heard some horror stories about it, it really isn't bad if you just play by their rules.  We had barely reached cruising altitude before it was time to come back down again and land in Edinburgh.  We were renting an apartment which had everything we needed and was just a short walk from the old town center.  It was still only around noon by the time we had settled into the apartment but with only a weekend to explore we had to start going pretty much right away.

Scott Monument
After a nice lunch in a nearby café, we started our walk to Edinburgh Castle.  I had been to Edinburgh about 12 years ago but I had little to no memory of the number of hills that covered the city.  It was also surprisingly sunny and hot so we had to stop to stock up on sunglasses and t-shirts at H&M to get us through the day.

The castle was a little too pricey for us so instead we visited Camera Obscura.  I wasn't really sure what to expect in there but according to their pamphlets they were one of the top rated attractions in the city.  I was a little skeptical but it ended up being a great time.  The camera obscura itself is essentially a giant periscope located at the top of a tower.  Through a series of lenses it reflects an image down into a wooden bowl.  The operator is able to control the lens so you can get a 360 degree view of the city. When it was first installed in the 1850's many people were terrified of it.  They had never seen moving pictures before.  It's amazing to see such a simple device and imagine how much controversy it caused in its earliest days.

Image from the Camera Obscura
While it is that device that gives the place its name, there is also a four floor museum.  There are all sorts of tricks using lights, mirrors, and optical illusions.  A few of their tricks I had seen before but some were entirely new and I think we enjoyed them as much as the children running all around us.

 I could spend this whole post listing all the awesome things we saw, but I think my friends will agree that our favorite part was the Vortex Tunnel.  It was just a metal grate walkway that passed through a rotating tunnel that had lights on it.  Although you didn't not move in any way, while walking through it your mind convinced you that you were spinning and that you were going to fall.  At one point we stepped out and then back in and we were instantly "thrown" up against the wall.  It's amazing how easily your mind can play tricks on you!

After our vortex experience we decided we needed some recovery time which, if you didn't know, is best with cake and beer.
Delicious way to end the day!


  1. sounds like a great trip! mom

  2. Ok, I have been trying to comment but it kept trying to make me log in - I think I'll just be anonymous and sign it mom. ok?

  3. Yeah if you don't have an account you just have to be anonymous or you can choose the "name" option from the drop down menu.... but if you just sign 'Mom' I think I'll know who you are!