Edinburgh: Much more than just the castle!

Edinburgh has been on our to do list for a long time now and every time we try and book something, something else gets in the way of our plans. Finally, a couple of weeks ago we decided that enough was enough and we needed to follow through with our plans, so we booked our flights, accommodation, looked into the city for sights and activities and prepared for the weekend.

Getting to Edinbugh is easy as most of the low cost airlines fly to the city. We had a little glitch with getting to London Standstead, as our National Express Bus was nowhere to be seen, so we were forced to take the train, however that was were our troubles ended and an hour after leaving Stanstead we were in Edinburgh.

Now, getting to Stanstead airport by train cost us 45 of Raquel’s pounds and by bus 15 of the Queen’s currency… Not cheap. However even in prices the Scots like to beat the English as tickets for the 30-minute bus journey from Edinburg Airport to the city centre cost us only… Drum roll please… £7!

From the city centre it was only another twenty-minute walk to get to our hotel. The hotel’s location is it’s biggest asset; not smack bang in the middle of the action in the city centre, but also not too far away thus requiring additional transport. It was well past 11pm when we arrived at the hotel and considering that we wanted to see as much as possible the next day, we retired to the sweet bliss of a comfortable bed.

Despite my opposition to pre 9am waking, we got up early in order to make the most of our day, however when breakfast is included in the hotel price, then you eat, as in the UK, meals can be expensive! However our hotel, didn’t really grasp the concept of breakfast too well… Bad croissants, bad cheese and bad cold meats… That’s what the offer. We instead scoffed down toast hoping it would last until after lunch.

After ‘breakfast’, Raquel and I made our way to the city centre. As always, Raquel and I didn’t have a set out plan, but we knew which sights we wanted to see, so we would play it by ear.

Calton Hill

Calton Hill was our first sight of the day.  The hill lies in the centre of the city and affords visitors great views of the city and it also includes some of the city’s most important and popular monuments including a curious one Raquel and I found slightly funny: A Portuguese cannon from Burma, which was sold to some British guy. I can imagine the scene… A drunk Brit approached by a Portuguese soldier saying “Hay, my frend. You want to buy a cannon?”

However, dark clouds were gathering overhead, so we decided to head towards the Royal Mile, which leads up to Edinburgh Castle. The Royal Mile is a road that stretches from Holyrood Palace at the bottom of the hill, to Edinburgh Castle at the top of the hill.

Some of Edinburgh architecture

As we walked up the hill the dark old city kept distracting us with its architecture and whiskey shops. The Royal Mile has its fair share of churches and religious monuments, one of which is St. Giles Cathedral. A beautiful gothic church that unfortunately doesn’t allow for photography, however I did manage to sneak in one photo.

St. Giles Cathedral

Further up the hill we arrived at Edinburgh Castle, the city’s most famous landmark. Our timing was impeccable as we arrived at the changing of the guards and then once past the main gates we ran into a military band playing in commemoration of the Queen’s birthday.

Our welcome to Edinburgh castle

I have to be honest, I’m not one for castles and palaces unless they are odd and out of the ordinary, but there is something about Edinburgh Castle which I liked. I’m not sure if it is its location, perched on the hill overlooking the city, or the pride Scots have for this monument, but there is something about it that made me like it.

Snapshots of Edinburgh Castle

Some more of Edinburgh Castle

You can spend a good two hours exploring the castle, its buildings and museums, but that does build up an appetite, especially if you have only had the lousy toast the hotel offered.

Scottish Parliament

Our post-lunch strategy was to head down towards the Scottish Parliament building at the other end of the Royal Mile. The Scottish Parliament building is modern piece of architecture which sits across the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the Royal family’s residence when in town. This all sits perfectly right next the edge of Holyrood park.

Holyrood Park

Our final activity for the day was a ghost tour in the vaults beneath the South bridge. It was a fun and different thing to do as it not only taught a bit about the city’s history but also a bit about the darker history of the vaults. It’s definitely something I’d recommend if you want to do something different.

Edinburgh by night

After our tour, we took our time to walk through the city as it becomes even more beautiful by night.

Some more of Edinburgh by night

Day number 2 (our final day) started off with the miserable breakfast again before checking out. However, there was going to be some redemption by the hotel… They didn’t charge us for our second night when checking out. I still don’t know whether this was an error, but hey, considering the silly cost of the hotel, we were not complaining!

Princes Gardens

After our lucky start to the day, we walked along the beautiful park below Edinburgh Castle which leads up to the National Gallery. I like parks in cities anyway, but this one I found fascinating as it was not at the same level as the city and felt like it is nestled between the Princes Street and the Castle.

The Scotch Whisky Experience

We left the best for last: a tour at the Scotch Whisky Experience. This was great way to learn about whisky making and its traditions in Scotland. Not to mention you get to taste some free whisky! They have a personal collection of a collector that reminds me very much of my dad’s own collection.

The great collection

After the great tour, we visited the free Scottish National Museum which is another striking piece of architecture in the city. It’s great place to learn more about Scottish history.

Raquel and I enjoying the sites

This was followed by the cheapest (and probably tastiest) lunch we had in the city at an independent café. Alas, our time in Edinburgh had come to an end and we had to make our way back to the airport.

The trip was a great little vacation away from London and experiences something different on this British Isle. We definitely recommended anyone coming to the UK on holiday to consider visiting Edinburgh!

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2 Responses to Edinburgh: Much more than just the castle!

  1. Lu says:

    Great post – and I think you managed to just about cover all the basics! Edinburgh is, by far, my favourite city in this world – it even beats Cape Town 😉

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