The minute we started walking around Edinburgh, we realized what we had been missing in the Netherlands all these months: hills.

“That view right there is more beautiful than the entirety of the Netherlands,” Jesse joked when we saw the castle on it’s craggy perch. (Okay, he might not have been joking. But I find Holland quite beautiful in it’s own right!)

Medieval Edinburgh is built on a spiny stretch of rock that starts at the castle and runs gradually down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace. The rest of the city falls to either side, the small windy streets giving way to well-spaced Georgian New Town. With lots of upscale boutiques and cafes, New Town is the place to be seen. Older, twistier, and a bit more touristy is the Old Town and the Royal Mile.

Snaking out from the Royal Mile are dozens of hidden alleyways and squares called ‘closes.’ Originally small streets or entryways, the buildings around them were eventually built up so much that the closes became enclosed. They are now dark, eerie places where ghost stories and urban legends abound. Lots of companies offer tours, and I partly wish we had taken one since I feel like that’s such a huge part of Edinburgh. But our budget dictated other things, so we went without. (Probably best, since I don’t do well with ghost stories!)

I learned all sorts of things, like how Edinburgh is pronounced “Edin-burra,” and how the Flodden wall was built around the city to keep the English out. I also developed a huge love of the Scottish accent, and have since demanded Jesse to practice. Constantly.

Scotland history is a bit fascinating to me, and I indulged in completely. Audio tours in the castle told stories of Mary, Queen of Scots, of Bonnie Prince Charlie, of Robert the Bruce and yes, William Wallace. We gazed out from the castle walls to the hills and waters surrounding the city, fascinated by the long, bloody road that led to this sunny day.

Oh, and we also saw this cafe, which claims to be the place J.K. Rowling (who lives in Edinburgh) wrote the first books of Harry Potter. So, if you’re not into history, there’s another claim to fame for you!