I've been twice and would go every year if I could. No, I'd live there if I could. Edinburgh is a wonderful city with friendly people, beautiful scenery, inspiring historical landmarks, great take-away, and a public transportation system that I can figure out on my own and am not afraid to use. And that last one is a biggie, because if I don't have to drive, that's the place for me. The second time I went, we stayed in a flat on the bus line. I parked the car and there it stayed until we left a week later. Heavenly, because driving in the UK is whole other experience. The roads get narrower as you drive down them, I swear they do. And everyone parallel parks, and I'm not that good even when I'm on the left side of the car.
So, I love Edinburgh. And I'm falling even more in love with it with each Ian Rankin book I read. If you haven't read the Inspector Rebus mysteries by the best-selling mystery writer in the UK, you really need to. Each book gets better, and Rebus becomes someone you know so well you're tempted to send him a Christmas card, except that he'd probably just wonder what the hell that's for and throw it away. Rankin's novels are lovingly set in Edinburgh, and it brings the city back to me with each page I read. I think everyone remembers the first time he/she fell in love with a city, and Edinburgh is mine.
But, ah, the Highlands. Why is it that in this country I want to go to Chicago and New York and all the big cities, but when I go to Scotland, I can't get far enough into the country? As the train going into the West Highlands clacks down the track, the tension in my shoulders releases and I breathe easier. I've been to Royal Deeside and the Grampians and Ft. Williams and the West Highlands. All beautiful and breath-taking. All quaint and overpowering at the same moment. The overwhelming vastness can swallow you, but the small villages in town make you feel centered and at home. The market down the street from your self-catering has pretty much everything you need, from eggs and bacon (aaaaaahhhhh English bacon!), to firewood and cider (aaaaahhhh cider in 2 liter bottles!). The butcher has whatever the market doesn't, and the pub takes care of everything else.
Well, I'm going to stop here for now and just revel in my memories of walking the trail outside my cottage during those crisp, clear, cold mornings, with the insistent wind and the landscape opening before me, just begging to be explored.
"Yet who would stop, or fear to advance,/Though home or shelter he had none,/With such a sky to lead him on?" Wordworth, "Memorials of a Tour in Scotland, 1803.