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Ever since my parents told me I was 1/2 French, 1/4 Norwegian, and 1/4 Scottish, my bucket list included visits to France, Norway, and Scotland. After a recent reunion trip to Edinburgh, I can now cross off two of those countries off of my list!
Scotland’s capital was the desired destination for our group of cousins. Our party represented The Netherlands, San Francisco, and Spain; all looking to spend some time together and for the Leslie descendants, to explore some of our heritage.
Javi and I heading towards our gate in Madrid:
Before arriving, we knew that Leslie was one of Scotland’s clans (Clan Leslie) and that Game of Thrones/Downton Abbey actress, Rose Leslie, is the daughter of Sebastian Arbuthnot-Leslie: the Chieftain of Clan Leslie. The lands belonging to Clan Leslie are in Aberdeenshire (home of my favorite illustrator, Johanna Basford) and our motto is Grip Fast. Learning these little facts throughout the trip was really exciting for me, along with seeing the name Leslie on numerous documents, books, and souvenirs.
Javi and I arrived in Edinburgh one evening before reuniting with the rest of the group. We promptly visited a pub and ordered beer (duh) along with Bangers and Mash and Shepherd’s Pie. To say they were both delicious is an understatement. Being carded was one thing I had to get used to in the UK; in Spain I don’t think I’ve been carded once! After eating, we walked to Edinburgh Castle and admired city view by night.
We began the next day with more delicious food next to our hostel at the Southern Cross Café. Javi ordered a traditional Scottish Breakfast: beans, sausage, bacon, one egg, a thinly sliced potato, sautéed mushrooms, half a tomato, and…haggis. Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish containing the lungs, heart, and liver of a sheep mixed with beef and a number of spices. The café served it in a meatloaf-like fashion which I was not a fan of, but I tried it a couple days later in another pub and surprisingly enjoyed it. The second time was served in a drier, more crumbly form.
We quickly learned that Edinburgh is fairly small (just under 500,000 people) and that you can walk just about anywhere in 10-15 minutes. We walked down the colorful Victorian Street, visited a library, walked by the Elephant House (“the birthplace of Harry Potter”), and visited the impressive National Museum of Scotland which houses the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep. The museum also provided in-depth Scottish history from daily life in the highlands to the reign of Sir Robert the Bruce. Robert the Bruce and William Wallace were made famous in the 1995 drama, Braveheart, but the movie doesn’t accurately portray all the facts about these two men. It did however, put Scotland on the map.
On day two, all of us hiked up the hill to Edinburgh Castle: an enormous stone structure complete with beautiful views of the city, dungeons, a war museum, the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles, the one o’clock gun, Mon’s Meg (the world’s most famous Medieval weapon) and much more.
Close to sunset we visited Calton Hill~a go-to place for iconic photographs of the city. It sprinkled mildly, but stopped to give us perfect lighting as the sun went down! When it grew dark enough, we set off on a whisky hunt to end the day.
Our third and last full day consisted of a day trip to St Andrews. This quiet little seaside town is the home of Scotland’s first university (the University of St Andrews where Prince William and Kate Middleton met, along with where my cousin studied for a year) and the St Andrews Cathedral. It’s also considered the birthplace of golf with the oldest golf course in the world.
Our final evening was spent visiting and drinking Leslie’s Ale at the John Leslie pub. Our late grandfather was named John Leslie, so we thought it appropriate to visit and have a toast for his birthday (the next day) which was my birthday as well. 🙂
The weekend flew by and none of us wanted to leave so soon. However, we were happy to have had some time all together as our family is literally scattered all around the world. Who knows, maybe our next ancestral journey will be to Norway!