By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer

A view of Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket area of the city./ PHOTO BY Margaret Waterman

A view of Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket area of the city./ PHOTO BY Margaret Waterman

Edinburgh, home to less than 500,000 people, is an absolutely amazing city that I was lucky enough to visit this weekend (and if I can feel that way about a place just after an eight-hour bus ride from hell, you know it’s true).

100 mile-per-hour crosswinds (at least, according to our bus driver) engulfed our bus all the way from London’s Victoria Coach Station to Edinburgh, making it a thoroughly terrifying ride. Someone on the bus actually blessed himself about 30 minutes in.

We finally arrived in the rain-soaked capital of Scotland at 6:20 a.m., wind-battered but not too worse for the wear.

After a short trek through the gorgeous and deserted streets, we slept off some of our nerves at our hostel (Budget Backpackers, a really cool and off-beat place with surprisingly comfortable beds) and then got right to sightseeing.

My roommate and I first wandered around Edinburgh Castle, an absolute must for any tourist in Scotland. The views from Castlehill and the summit of the castle were breathtaking and worth the price of admission on their own. We also got to see the historical dwellings of old Scottish royalty, the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots’ only son, James VI and an old jail that housed prisoners of war.

Next on the agenda, after a pint at Deacon Brodie’s tavern and a delicious dinner at a bistro called Maxie’s, was a City of the Dead ghost tour. On a complete whim, I decided we should check it out and booked us tickets for the 8:30 p.m. walking tour, which took place mostly in Greyfriars Kirkyard. According to our tour guide, Greyfriars (a huge cemetery in downtown Edinburgh) has the highest concentration of dead bodies anywhere in the entire world. Pretty disgusting stuff, if you ask me, but definitely good fodder for a creepy evening.

We got to walk in and around closed-off Greyfriars tombs and hear all about George Mackenzie, a ruthless man responsible for the violent deaths of thousands of Covenanters (members of the Scottish Presbyterian movement), whose spirit allegedly haunts Greyfriars and is responsible for seriously injuring nearly 400 of its visitors since Mackenzie’s tomb was disturbed by a homeless man in 1999. The existence of this “spirit” is highly debated; whether it is just a spooky legend, a series of coincidences or a real “poltergeist,” I guess we’ll never know.

After a fun night in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh (once famous for its public hangings, now known for its wide range of pubs, hostels and hotels), we woke up early to climb up to the highest point in Edinburgh, referred to as “Arthur’s Seat.” After an extremely muddy hike, we reached the summit and saw all of Edinburgh and its stunning scenery. I was so impressed by every landmark in the area — it seemed like every building we encountered was more beautiful than the last.

All in all, I had an amazing weekend in a gorgeous, historical city.