Road trip to Edinburgh and the Lake District

Hello everyone,

Before jumping into the new semester, I thought it would be a good opportunity to write a post about a recent trip north I took with a few friends. One of the great things about living in the U.K. is that everything is relatively easy to get to. In fact, my home state of Texas is more than three times the size of the entire U.K. This means that you can get anywhere within a day for the most part, unless your journey involves ferries or other exotic forms of transportation. Another nice thing about the U.K. is that there’s actually a lot more variation than people imagine. It’s not just rainy farmland forever and ever (although sometimes it feels that way). In the south, where Surrey is, it’s a lot more sunny (although “sunny” is a very relative term). The north is much colder and drearier, but it also becomes more mountainous, with the Scottish Highlands being the highest point in the country.

For our road trip, my friends and I decided to go to Scotland, partly because Edinburgh is one of the greatest cities in the world, and partly because the Lake District is a legendarily spectacular part of northern England.

Some of the beautiful landscape in the Lake District that we drove through on our way to Scotland

We decided to rent a car and drive instead of taking a train, because it’s a lot easier to explore new places by car. Unfortunately, traffic in this country is strikingly similar to L.A. traffic, minus the sun and possibility of seeing movie stars, and after about an hour of sitting in standstill traffic outside Oxford, we were tempted to bail. Luckily we pressed on, and I’m so glad we did. In future, though, the train is an excellent alternative.

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland. Edinburgh Castle, which towers over the city, dates back to the 1100’s and has seen so much bloodshed and turning points in European history that it would take at least five hours to give even the roughest of outlines. Suffice it to say that some crazy things happened there, and if you ever visit the castle, you will feel it. It’s one of those places where the history is so powerful that it becomes a physical presence as you walk through the rooms and stand outside of it.

The view of the castle from Grassmarket Street

In spite of its rich history, Edinburgh is a very modern city, and actually leans very heavily in a hipster direction in some areas, which is a little strange at first, but gets better once you try the avocado toast.

This café made its own bread, kettle corn, hot sauce, and candles.

Speaking of food…haggis. If you don’t know what haggis is, just order it. Don’t ask. Just order. Like whisky, haggis is a Scottish institution and should be shown the respect it deserves…even if it’s basically oats mixed with lamb tongue wrapped in a sheep’s stomach. It’s great!

We spent the day wandering around the city, visiting the castle, eating delicious food, vintage shopping, and generally being overwhelmed with how beautiful everything was and how much time we felt like we needed to really see it fully. (This enthusiasm about everything is an American stereotype that all British people make fun of, but at least it makes you nice to be around.)

Blue sky!

We left Edinburgh after two days (nowhere near enough time), and began our journey back south. We decided to make an overnight detour to a tiny town in the Lake District because of how beautiful it looked on the drive up, and ended up staying in a farmhouse that had been built in 1705 and hadn’t been renovated since. It was very creaky and cozy, and we woke up to the sound of mooing cows.

The farmhouse in the Lake District that we stayed in on our way home.

We were sad to leave, but so glad we decided to add the extra day and spend some time in the Lake District. And for whatever reason, the traffic on the six hour drive home to Surrey was almost nonexistent.