Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The Witching Place


When we arrived in Edinburgh, the skies were wild and ferocious and the last few leaves of this seemingly forever autumn were clinging to the trees. Time seemed slowed down, in the same way that the leaves floated slowly from the trees and every moment was stretched to it's own afternoon with every step feeling like a mile. 



We love the city of Edinburgh. We first came to the place a couple of years ago for George's birthday on a January so windy and wet, the wind channels in the streets nearly blew our heads off.
This time, the weather was much more serene- no rain, only a few mischievous breezes and a mild un-scottish temperature, most curious for late October.
We have been mulling over the idea of moving here, for quite a while and decided that going to 'scope out the neighbourhood' was an excellent excuse to whizz up to the other side of the island for a little Halloween weekend holiday, and what better place to spend it than in our favourite Gothic city?





I adore the gothic buildings. In my world of fairy tales, existing in a place like Edinburgh, I feel so close to that windy, austere place of Grimms stories and legends. When I was 15, I went through a 'dark' phase which I think was just my younger self playing with indulging in my love of the austere and eerie. Basically - I died my hair black and was all about the skulls. Hard to believe in someone who tries to be a fairy as much as possible eh? Despite my sunshine loving persona, I harbour a deep and passionate love for the gothic, ghost stories, dark castles and an unlikely fascination of the history of witches and the plague. I just LOVE medieval history. SERIOUSLY LOVE. And that's partly why I am head over heels in love with Edinburgh. Me? love a city? yes, it's possible if that city boasts many intriguing tales, winding secret streets and a castle built on an extinct volcano. I do have very high demands, its true.
On the morning of Samhuinn, we went to explore Dean village on the water of Leith, once a Mill village outside of Edinburgh but the city grew and swallowed it up. It retains its delightful medieval charm and the river that flows through it feels as though time hasn't touched it at all. It was hard to believe we were in the capital of Scotland and not a pokey little village.









We wandered about Wells Court, the iconic stooping tenements of Dean village and sat in the little nooks over looking the river. George said he wanted to live right here and I agreed that that would be a fine idea. Life goal established. We encountered a beautiful, victorian swimming pool that you had to be part of an exclusive club to join and debated getting put on the waiting list already in case we do move here and marvelled at the front doors of these homes. We do appreciate a nice front door. 






I feel as though we truly chose the finest time of year to come and visit this wonderful old city. Autumn fitted it so perfectly. 




If you ever find yourself in Edinburgh, and you have an appreciation for the antique and gothic - I highly recommend a trip to Dean Village. It's easy to reach on foot from the centre, we didn't take a bus once. We found Edinburgh to be fairly walkable. There's not really any cafes but the Scottish Art Gallery is near by to see also, if you like looking art contemporary art. I, sadly don't.





I love these chimneys :)


One of the many things I love about this place, is that no matter where you are around the castle - the view of that rock is just incredible. The castle was built on an extinct volcano and there has always been a  castle on that rock since records of Edinburgh began - being conquered, torn down and rebuilt as time went on. What a great place to put a caste though right? Good luck trying to climb those crazy  rocks. It's incredible to look at them and imagine armies trying in vain to reach it and the battles that would have taken place. 






Can we take a moment to appreciate that gnarly cloud next to the castle? It was really spooky in real life. Below, is the Royal Mile. It's the length of road that stretches between the Castle and Holyrood Palace at the other end and it's the main thoroughfare of Edinburgh's old town, for of course you know that Edinburgh is really two city's - the Georgian one and the medieval one. The Royal mile, though pretty and intriguing is full of what we call 'tat shops' (shops that sell cheap novelty clutter stuff at high prices to tourists) and over priced cafes. The best way to experience Edinburgh's old town, is to explore the little 'closes' and 'wynds' that creep off the narrow alleys of the Royal Mile.
You will find yourself in courtyards of delightfully gothic buildings with bartizans, winding stone steps, stooping roofs and flickering street lamps. You will stroll through narrow alleys that were in fact the standard street size that you would have found yourself in had you existed in dark ages Edinburgh and try (or not) to imagine all manner of ghastly things you'd see around you from plague flags, shambles and buckets of poop. Edinburgh was a gross, beastly medieval city and if you're a bit of a ghoul like myself and enjoy the grotty sides of history, there's lots of tours to appease your appetite for the grim. We only did a historical walking tour this time round, but last time we went to a 'Ghost tour' which we loved for the fun and comedic experience (Our guide was hilarious) and also I had desperately wanted to see the underground vaults (Which people actually lived in!). We also visited Mary Kings close the last time round- one of those typical windy alleyways that is now entirely built upon by the city and can be accessed underground. You can enter rooms that people once lived in inside the old tenements and one of the rooms is home to reportedly the ghost of a little girl called Annie (if you believe in such things) and people leave her teddy bears and toys to keep her company. Those kind of tours are pricey and in the case of Mary Kings close, you have to take them with a pinch of salt and get beyond the tacky props, but if you're like me, and you just want some sort of access to these incredible historical places they're worth it for the ticket to get in and explore. Just expect fake rats and barrels and all that manner of tat.





If you're lucky like us and you're wandering down the backstreets, you may bump into a lady adorned in medieval robes holding an owl! I would have thought I was seeing a ghost, had it not been for the fact there was a girl with her with a DSLR camera taking photos of the owl for advertisements in their campaign. I think it was some sort of sanctuary for birds of prey because there were other people in the street later that day with Ravens. I've decided I really like Ravens - they're amazing! So smart and beautiful.





George on the other hand really wants an Owl. Look at his little face of longing as we watched the owl flying about in the courtyard. I don't think our lettings agency who are already the most wickedest organisation imaginable, would let us have an Owl - even if they are comparable to a coven of witches. *cough* 'Romancity'. 



I really want a cloak like that. Why don't we dress that way anymore? I'm hoping that the HP society this year will give me an excuse to be able to wear a cloak! They are so beautiful - much nicer than coats. 



Down the side of the castle towards the Old town, you'll find Grassmarket - a delightful space of pubs, cafes and quirky shops. This is where they were holding the Samhuinn festival this year and looks to be a regular events area as many of the flats had signs hanging out of their window in protest. I personally would have loved to have a flat in Grassmarket because we would have had a much better view of the parade! Grassmarket is great and the streets around it are delightfully austere and allow you to entertain for a few moments that you are an anachronism existing many, many years ago.



I love this street. I think everyone in Edinburgh does, but can you blame them? it's so flipping cool! They have a gnarly tweed shop, a take away hog roast AND a massive balcony to walk along and sit outside a wine bar.






And you know the best bit about Grassmarket? There's a little alleyway named after my family! Generally, in life I NEVER EVER meet anyone else with my surname. It's just unheard of. My auntie explained that our family have a clan reunion every few years called Tweedsmuir near Edinburgh. I did a little research and found out that we were very disliked, fancy folk who owned land and taxed people in this part of Scotland and probably ripped them off and made them unhappy. Well, I guess karma got us because we're not fancy folk anymore, we don't have any land and have bugger all money, but its okay cause my branch of the family forgot how to spell our name properly and dropped the 'O' for no reason at all :P So we're not true Porteii anymore so maybe the curse will lift eventually. We still bear the typical signs of celtic ancestry though, like coppery hair, thick bones, a passionate love of food, flat feet and an excellent capacity to deal with cold weather. 




Of course no halloween is complete without a trip to Edinburgh's most haunted graveyard to visit Voldemort, the poltergeist Mackenzie, Greyfriar's Bobby and the covenanters prison. 




As the sun began to set, we headed quickly to the Scottish National museum which I LOVE because it has an astronomy department, a celtic department AND Narwhals but we didn't have a lot of time this visit so we got the lift to the roof terrace to enjoy the sight of the last sunset of October fall over Edinburgh.












And then it got dark so we hit Grass-market to watch the Beltane Fire society put on their eerie, fascinating and beautifully celtic tribute to Samhuinn which marks the celtic official end of summer.
The costumes were so much more interesting than the modern day American take on Halloween, they had fire dancers and each of the dramatic groups were telling stories from Celtic folklore through dance and acting to the sound of Samba drums and the smells of burning incense. It was very evoking and atmospheric but our view was somewhat marred by all of the tall people and I felt that the only people who could really see anything were the people on the front rows. to enjoy Samhuinn festival, you need to either be really tall, on the front row, camp out at one of the bollards and claim it for your own or own a flat in Grass-market. We saw it out though till the end and then wandered back to our B&B to catch Dracula and Cabin in the woods (which I feel asleep to).










And that was how we spent all Hallows eve this year. It was the perfect place, but not only because it's gothic and spooky and rich in history nor because of it's brilliant festivals but because we feel an affinity  to this mystical city of bartizans and gothic spires. We spent the rest of our trip exploring every inch of the place and looking at flats in the windows of letting agents, dreaming about the day we might move here for our next adventure. We also watched a crazy weird  film called 'Lobster' in the coolest cinema 'The Cameo picture house' which was simultaneously hilarious and disturbing  but that's not all... if you're my friend or family you will know full well by now... 















...That this weekend, George and I got engaged. 
But that's a story for another time.





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29 comments

  1. Sarah - this was such a treat to read and look through! I think this might be one of my favourite posts ever, and not just because Halloween happens to be my favourite time of year. Your photos are utterly gorgeous and you have inspired me to go back to Scotland as soon as I procure a car.

    Oh, and of course, I know I have already said it but...CONGRATULATIONS! <3!!

    - Laura

    www.eggshelldays.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thankyou Laura! :D Halloween is probably my favourite festival, I deliberately timed my proposal to coincide! You would LOVE Edinburgh Laura, it's amazing! It's only an hour by plane and didn't cost too much for flights - cheaper than the train which is super expensive.
      There's so much to do and explore in Scotland which is part of my reasoning for wanting to live there for a while :) If we do make the move, you, Connor and Robin will have to come stay with us! :D <3
      xxxx

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  2. Ahhhhhhh!! These photos are divine and I am just wriggly with excitement for you both - for your engagement and for your future in Edinburgh together! ^_^ All the congratulations to you both! You two adventurers, are made for each other <3 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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    1. Thankyou Alex! :D I'm super excited for Edinburgh but I also super miss Cornwall and can't wait to come back so I feel all very mixed up :P Can't wait to see you soon so we can do some arty stuff for operation 'Malex gets Wed'! (Matt + Alex) :P muahhaha xxxxxxox

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  3. I'm so glad you love Scotland! The national museum and old cinemas are my fave parts of Edinburgh. And omg, way to leave us hanging at the end, I wanna hear that story now!

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    1. I think it is in my blood to love Scotland :P I can't wait to come back again and hopefully for a real long time ^_^ I could spend all day in the museum! It's even cooler cause it's free :P Thankyou to all you lovely Scots people for having such a rad city! (and letting us foreigners enjoy it :P)
      Teehee, I'll try to not keep you guys waiting too long for the story :P xxx

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  4. a beautifully written trip through Edinburgh, thank you for sharing, I love seeing different parts of the world. Best bit about blogs I think. xx

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    1. Thankyou Rebecca! I do love blogs that travel :D I especially love reading blogs from different places around the world ^_^ I'm glad you enjoyed my account of Edinburgh :D xxx

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  5. How sneaky are you! Just casually dropping your news in at the end! Wow!! I'm so so happy for you both, congratulations xxx

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    1. Teehee, Sorry! I felt it deserved it's own post rather than lumping it in at the end ^_^ also, you know - couldn't resist a cliff hanger! :D Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou <3 xxx

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  6. Love this! Congratulations are in order then :) what a wonderful place to be in for the happy news too! I also visited Edinburgh right around the same time now last year and loved loved loved it, so thrilled to see amazing photos from you and relive it through you!

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    1. Thanks Cherie! :D Edinburgh is so magical! A real Wizarding city :D No wonder it inspired JK Rowling and helped her through writing Harry Potter ^_^ Did you catch the Samhuinn festival? :)

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  7. Ohh the dramatic description in this post kept me so captivated throughout, and your photography is unbelievably beautiful as always! Congratulations, that was such a lovely twist in the tale at the end and I'm super duper chuffed for you both! Bring on Tales from South Cornwall/Scotland! Reading other peoples happy posts brightens your day so much! Alice xx

    www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

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    1. Thankyou Alice! Edinburgh certainly deserves a dramatic description :D I don't often photograph cities so it was definitely different to work with :) Heehee, yes I did leave it on a bit of a cliff hanger! perhaps I'm subconsciously channeling what we are taught in class :P Cliff hangers are essential, they tell us! I'll always be a Cornish girl at heart, I long for the day when I can move permanently back home and have my poky cottage with chickens! :D I hope you're having a super happy week, Alice! :D <3 xxx

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  8. I love Edinburgh, one of my favourite places in the world. And what a wonderful city to get engaged in, congratulations!! xx

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    1. Thankyou Jenny! It really is a magical place ^_^ It was a toss up between Edinburgh or Cornwall, but that little voice in my head told me it had to be Edinburgh! :D xxx

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  9. Aaah congratulations!! I'm SO happy for you! And what a wonderful place to get engaged. I love Edinburgh, and you've really captured the city beautifully. These photos are just magical! Oh and the owls - my goodness, I love owls (they're my spirit animal). I agree with you about ravens though - they are wonderful birds. And I think you should definitely move up to Scotland. It's a great place to live.

    Mimmi xx
    Muted Mornings

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    1. Thankyou Mimmi! :D Owls are so wise and beautiful! I wish they could carry post and everyone could have Owls like in Harry Potter ^_^ I feel that Ravens are too stubborn and temperamental to carry anyones post :P If I do make the move to Scotland, we can meet for tea and cake! :D xxx

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  10. Oh Sarah, what wonderful news!!! Many congratulations! I'm taking it you asked him from the ring shot! That's so cool! George has a seriously cool jumper (but then I've thought George was cool since I first began exploring your blog world!)
    I've never been to Edinburgh and I would love to! Alexander McCall Smith has made me long to go there and your evocative photos amplify that longing to a greater degree!
    I've never met anyone else with my surname- there are a million Allens but not Allins!!!x

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    1. Thankyou Kezzie! :D Yes, I did ask him ^_^ I've written all about it and I'm putting that post up on Sunday :) Haha, it used to be my jumper but he wears it more than I do! He has a habit of acquiring my clothing >.<
      I think you would love Edinburgh! It's so wizardy and magical :D It's super quick to fly from Bristol and not too expensive either (cheaper than the train!)
      Allins is indeed a cool name! I've not met anyone with it before you :)
      xxx

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  11. Enormous congratulations too, what a beautiful setting for such romance! And amidst planning an exciting future together. Gorgeous.
    And your photos are as divine as ever, you've shot Edinburgh right back to the top of my wanderlust list.
    M x

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  12. Thankyou Michelle :D Edinburgh is certainly romantic in it's spooky, gothic way! Gothic romance is my favourite type of romance ;) other than the Romantic literary and art movements :D
    You must visit Edinburgh, there's an incredible atmosphere about the place :) There are so many great little nooks and crannies to explore ^_^

    Sarah xxo

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  13. Such gorgeous photos! I too am a fan of Gothic architecture, so I'd love to visit Edinburgh one day. Your's and George's outfits seem so fitting for the setting, you match all the lovely autumn colours. Congratulations on the engagement!

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  14. BEAUTIFUL pictures ! Wow!!

    http://allornothing-blog.blogspot.co.uk/

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  15. Edinburgh is my favourite city in the whole world! I love it so much and me and my boyfriend have decided this is where we want to live when we graduate and I cannot wait!

    http://www.lifewiththeroofdown.com/

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  16. Ahh this is actually the most BEAUTIFUL post I have ever laid eyes on - your photography is amazing, I actually saved some of these photos for reference points because I'm hopefully off to Edinburgh early next year!! You've absolutely inspired me, I love this! P.s. what camera do you use??

    http://the-lifeofjax.blogspot.com.au

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    1. Thankyou Jacqueline! I apologise for my late reply - I haven't been on my blog in such a long time, I've been so busy v.v
      I use a Nikon D610 :D and a Fuji XT1. 90% of the photo's on this blog are taken on the Nikon :)
      I hope you have the best time in Edinburgh :D It's awesome! xxx

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  17. I've heard this part of Scotland (for a city) is the place to go and I can see why. It's so picturesque and more green than I'd thought. It looks like you had a wonderful time there, I'd like to go sometime soon as my other half is always telling me how beautiful it is and I've told him once I've the Wales addiction done with, I'll venture further afield... Hehe.

    xxx

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    1. It's certainly something :) (for a city ;) ) I am yet to properly dive into Wales! I drove through Betws Y Coed for my friends wedding in Criccieth and was blown away. I must definitely explore this wonderful Celtic Country! :D I am also very keen to explore the highlands and Hebrides. Anyplace green, hilly and wild! ^_^ But I don't need to tell you that, You know the feeling :P xxx

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