This past weekend I took a sort-of impromptu trip to visit my sister Krissy in Edinburgh. Whilst I've been all over England and Wales, before this weekend I'd never been to Scotland, and I was expecting Edinburgh to feel like any other UK city. I knew Edinburgh had a fab museum and lots of attractions but to be honest I was more excited for meals out and The Jazz Bar.
BUT, as soon as I left the train station and we walked down to the high street so I could buy an emergency jumper (I'm not a skillful packer) I was absolutely flabbergasted by the Scott Monument - a huge Victorian Gothic monument dedicated to the Author Sir Walter Scott. Whilst I'm sure this monument has a hell of a lot of cultural significance, I was mainly fascinated by its position directly opposite the big shops of the high street, and the way it was framed by the hilly terrain of Edinburgh's Old Town in the background.
Fast forwarding to Saturday afternoon, we decided to embark on a tour of the Old Town - an area so intensely Scottish that you'll feel like you've been slapped round the face with a ball of haggis.
The first thing I noticed was how steep and hilly the landscape is - which somehow makes the Gothic buildings and narrow streets even more charming. After looking round some delightful artisan market stalls we came across another building of interest - St. Giles' Cathedral. We didn't actually go inside but just staring at the building's facade was delightful enough. Along with the amazement of the fact that the Cathedral was built in the 1800s, its shape against the perfectly blue sky gave me lots of ideas for future illustrations. A slightly off-white building paired with a crisp blue sky has got to be one of the world's most relaxing colour combos - and I'll definitely be painting with this colour palette in the near future.
On Sunday, all of my tourist dreams came true with a visit to Edinburgh Castle. Now I'm no history buff (mainly because the way I was taught history at school wrenched any sort of enjoyment out of it), but the sight of its rounded fortress walls perched on an overhanging chunk of volcanic rock was enough to revive the history nerd in me. The way it's perched at the top of a steep incline, looking over the Old Town, makes you immediately imagine Medieval processions and battles, even with an extremely limited knowledge of history like mine.
Again Edinburgh's hilly landscape served it well, as the castle dominated the skyline with the sun just poking through above. It looked like a real spectacle whilst remaining relatively simple in design. Again this gave me some great painting inspo, by showing that sometimes simple shapes in a composition can be the most striking.
After a beer in a delightfully quaint cafe/pub and after a decidedly Medieval day I was literally feeling like Guy Fawkes and since it was indeed bonfire night, we decided to continue the celebrations and trek up Calton Hill. According to Trip Advisor this was a sure fire way to see some of the city's best fireworks and it did not disappoint! After making our way up a footpath that was almost too much for my unfit thighs to handle, we made it to the top of the hill. The first thing we noticed was that the moon looked HUGE, and was a glowing orange/yellow colour, framed by whispy dark clouds. The magical colour of the moon seemed very apt for bonfire night, the colours reminiscent of crackly flames and cinder toffee.
Calton Hill looked deceivingly underwhelming from street level, but at the summit the panoramic views really were stunning, with dwarfed buildings and clusters of popping fireworks. At this point I somewhat regretted my decision to go 'off-grid' and leave my phone at home for the evening, as Krissy's phone died and it became very apparent that we needed a torch.. Nevertheless we soldiered on, and venturing a bit further up the bumpy hill brought us to a magical view of the Old Town - allowing us to see the castle in all it's glory, surrounded by protruding Gothic spires and illuminated clock towers. The fireworks that followed (presumably set off from somewhere at the bottom of the hill) really were the icing on the cake, and we also saw two shooting stars, meaning 5th November 2017 will officially be named the most magically festive night in existence.
The morning after, deciding that one visit was not enough, we made another trip to the top of Calton Hill. Armed with my sketchbook and pens I managed to do a few quick sketches. The Hill is home to the National Monument and The Nelson Monument, among others, and made a great place to sit and sketch.
Monday afternoon soon came around and marked the end of my long weekend - I literally felt like a kid at the end of the summer holidays. The culture, architecture and natural surroundings of Edinburgh were so much more amazing than I had expected, and I've got so many new ideas for future illustrations. Guess it just shows how travel can really broaden creative horizons.