Today was our free day in Edinburgh, and we packed in a lot! We started out with a quest to find a tin whistle, something Mickey wanted to buy while she was here. We hadn't found any in the last two days, but she'd found a place online last night which opened at 10am, so at 9:00 we set off and got off the bus at Princes Street, then walked up the road to St. Patrick's Square, where the store was. We stopped in most of the tourist stores along the way (which were mainly around the place where the road crossed the Royal Mile) and ended up getting to the store right as it opened. They had plenty of tin whistles there, as well as any other musical instruments you could want, and Mickey managed to find one she liked. The shopkeeper was very interesting with his Scottish accent and the way he said "close but no cigar" and that he would just find "a wee box" for the tin whistle or that some of the other ones were "a wee bit more" [expensive].
We ate breakfast at our hotel today (it was just yogurt, toast, and jam, and we missed our English breakfasts from London a little) and then set off for Edinburgh Castle. We took a bus ride up most of the hill to it, and then walked up part of the Royal Mile before arriving at the castle. Mickey and I started our Edinburgh Castle experience with a guided tour. The guide's name was Gavin. He had a great Scottish accent and was hilarious, calling the movie Braveheart a travesty and using expressions like "as useful as a chocolate teapot." He showed us what all the buildings at the castle were and some interesting facts, like that the first archaeological remains on the site of the castle dated to 850 BC, so there's been some sort of structure up there for almost 3000 years, and no one really knows when it first appeared. Like most of the castles we've seen, this one has been added onto over the years. Unlike the other castles, this one is still a military base and contains the house of the governor of Edinburgh. It is also the location of the National War Museum of Scotland, the Scottish National War Memorial, and the Honours of Scotland (the crown, scepter and sword of the kings and queens of Scotland).
Today we traveled to Edinburgh! This involved a four-hour train ride from London to Edinburgh, which wasn't bad at all, because we purchased things from the snack trolley going through (mainly to further emulate Harry Potter's first trip to Hogwarts even more--we left from Kings Cross station and everything!) and looked at the beautiful scenery out the window. The English countryside is mainly very, very green rolling hills spotted with sheep, horses and dairy cows. There are also some really beautiful old stone or brick buildings, stone bridges over brooks, and fields of some sort of crop with yellow flowers. As we progressed further into Scotland, we were also privileged to views of the ocean and the Firth of Forth and patches of evergreen forest.