x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The land of bagpipes, Harry Potter and convivial people

Holiday in Scotland has opened my eyes to friendly people and fascinating history.

'What you need," the shopkeeper told me critically, scanning my souvenir boxes of Celtic design jewellery, "is a Scottish accent. You'd be much happier in life." I meekly told him I'd try my best to acquire one as soon as possible and he snorted, gazing comfortably down an ample belly. In Edinburgh for a holiday, I'm enjoying - and still getting used to - the friendliness, languid sense of humour and quirks of the people here up north in the land of tartan and the Loch Ness Monster.

In most parts of the world, people consider teenagers, perhaps justifiably, as best neither seen nor heard. The first thing I noticed in Edinburgh, as we took the lift up to the hotel room, was how locals actually want to talk to you, if only about what a rainy summer they're having.

Heading out, it's rather disconcerting to have famous names from history or English lessons jump out at you from plaques or monuments dotted over the city, trumpeting how they lived or died in a street nearby. There's a pub called Rabbie Burns, named after the poet Robert. You don't quite know what to feel when you stumble across the grave of John Napier, the inventor of logarithms, in a parish church. Probably bordering on a vindictive pleasure that the cause of misery for so many teenagers lies dead below your feet.

Rather more exciting were the little restaurants, such as The Elephant House, claiming that it was the birthplace of Harry Potter, JK Rowling having written parts of the series at its tables. For some camera-clutching tourists, this was all too overwhelming. Pointing and shrieking at the sign, they flooded in to absorb some of the aura of greatness presumably still lingering.

Galleries and museums can appear excruciatingly boring, but we teenagers can quite appreciate blood, gore and guts that lurk within. It's fascinating what some of those marauding clans of yesteryear did to each other - creating a guillotine with the delicate title of "the maiden", for example. The Surgeons' Hall Museum revealed the legend of a couple of blokes called Burke and Hare, who took a liking to the practice of murdering people. Considerately, they even had the courtesy to devise a way that left the bodies undamaged. This was so they could sell the cadavers to medical professors who'd use them in dissections and learn all about saving patients. That's the sort of thing they should teach us in school.

I haven't summoned up the courage to try any haggis just yet, although I have enjoyed the lilting music of bagpipes from the plethora of kilted buskers on every street. The trip's almost over, and I know I'll feel a wee bit miserable as we leave these bonnie, bonnie banks, with the moon comin' out in the gloamin' and everything else that's wonderful about the place.