True to how I envisioned Scotland, it was extremely gray, rainy, and cold. I was, however, taken aback by how beautiful the terrain was. Van and I joke that it was our trip of trains because I swear half of our time was spent on trains. It did give us an amazing opportunity to see a lot more of the countryside than we otherwise would have gotten to see. When we arrived in Edinburgh on Tuesday we immediately hopped on a train to Galway that then transferred us more north to our end goal in Fort William. Why would we stay there, you ask? Well, that’s where the Jacobite train, aka the Hogwarts Express, still runs and of course there is no way I could come to Scotland and not ride that train. Actually, to be honest, Scotland was chosen for entirely Harry Potter related reasons. On Wednesday morning we boarded the train as billows of smoke pumped out of the engine. It felt so magical, almost as if I could actually be boarding the train and beginning my journey to Hogwarts. If only! We spent the next three hours chugging through gorgeous green countryside, seeing massive lakes until we hit the coast near Mallaig. Our stop there consisted of a delicious fish and chip lunch at a place called Jeffrey’s before hopping on board for our return ride home. We had a lovely carriage but I spent at least half the ride by one of the doors in the train just looking out the window and taking it all in. It was nice to feel the wind in my face and smell the crisp air mixing with the smoke of the train. In every tunnel we went through, the smoke collected, creating a fog around the outside of the train – it made me feel like I was in Prisoner of Azkaban when the deatheaters came on the train (and yes, I know I’m cool).
We spent the next few hours in our hostel living room by a coal fire, embracing the much needed break from the cold, wet outdoors. Then unfortunately, it was time to board another train and head back to Edinburgh. See I really wasn’t kidding about all the trains. Five and a half hours later we arrived and found our new place called High Street Hostel. It was located perfectly near the old quarter and the train station. The next day, we held true to our theme and walked down Victoria Street, which is said to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley and I believe it! Tall stone buildings with deeply pointed roofs with different color facades for each narrow, little store. It was beyond precious. From there we went to The Elephant House for lunch (which is where J.K. Rowling wrote the first few novels hence their claim to the title of the Birthplace of Harry Potter) where we had a delicious pulled pork sandwich and chicken pot pie. And the Harry Potter tour wouldn’t be complete without a walk through Greyfriars Graveyard where J.K. Rowling walked through to get inspiration for names, most famously getting the name for He Who Must Not Be Named aka Lord Voldermort aka Tom Riddle (or as on the grave Thomas Riddell). Behind the graveyard you could see the four towers of the George Harriot’s School which is said to have been an inspiration for Hogwarts as it’s a private school with four houses and four towers. Coincidence? I think not. And of course no trip to Scotland would be complete without stopping into two of the breweries (okay one’s brewery and one’s restaurant) I love. Needless to say we had a tasting tray at BrewDog and afterwards went to the Beer Kitchen by Innis and Gunn, which was AMAZING. If anyone is going to be in Scotland at some point and wants somewhere superb to eat go here! We shared a vegetable goat cheese vegetable stack and chicken kiev with sweet potato mash and green beans – it was to die for!