The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page
– Saint Augustine
If the Josheph Conrad was alive today then he would have described the UK as the country of organised ‘Sameness’. I can totally vouch for it as during my stay in the UK, one thing I observed among many towns, counties and shires, the sameness, whichever town you visit, those red brick houses, similar set of shops in the town center, same set of services by Royal mail or NHS or trains or jobcentreplus or universities remains common, even today. But I was surprised when I visited the Edinburgh for the first time, it was a pleasant change from traditional British way of life. It was Easter holidays and we were thinking about taking a trip to Lake district but somehow ended up going to Scotland and the first stop was Edinburgh.
Let’s straight to the plan,
The plan was to travel Middlesbrough – Darlington – Newcastle – Edinburgh – Dundee – Glasgow – Bulloch Island – Glasgow -Newcastle – Middlesbrough.
I must say, Edinburgh is the exception, Unlike what I experienced in the UK. It is Scotland’s compact, the hilly capital. Just to brief, It has a medieval Old Town look and feels of an elegant Georgian New Town with gardens and neoclassical buildings. Then, there are many popular spots to wonder around including the Edinburgh Castle, Looming over the city and home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, used in the coronation of Scottish rulers. Then, there is Arthur’s Seat, an imposing peak in Holyrood Park with sweeping views, and Calton Hill surrounded with monuments and memorials, the Royal mile and the Grassmarket for pubs and bars.
Trivia: “Edin”, the root of the city’s name, is most likely of Brittonic Celtic origin, an Iron Age tribe known to the Romans as the Votadini.
Having visited Edinburgh, it’s easily one of my favourite cities in the world and there are multiple reasons – it’s absolutely pretty, has such strong history, amazing traditions, home to many worldwide art festivals, really friendly people, and is a traveller’s delight. As per the data, it is the most visited city in the UK outside of London. Visitors from all over the world keep pouring down to this wonderland.
You have to see it to believe it.
Once we decided to visit Edinburgh, the first question was:
How to travel?
we had two three options one, we could take a flight, second, we could hire a car but we chose the third one and travelled in a train. It was the most economical (costed us about £30) and relaxing option (you don’t want to get exhausted by driving those long distances unless you don’t mind it). Also, the fact that UK train journeys are the traveller’s dream, one must experience it at given chance especially when you travel in the northern UK.
Second question was:
Where to stay in Edinburgh?
There are many hotels in Edinburgh suitable to your luxury and pocket power. But you need to make sure one thing, book hotels in advance as during holidays it is hard to find accommodation in Edinburgh. Our intention was clear, we need a place to sleep as we will be spending our most time exploring the Edinburgh city. Hence, we decided to opt for a hostel which is a best option, not just money point of view but you get to connect with lots of new people from all over the world. It’s a unique way to meet new people. We arrived at Edinburgh in the late evening and went straight to the Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel which was closer to the train station and checked in, left our luggage and head to the town centre to experience the nightlife. Due to last minute booking we paid bit higher price that was about £22/night per bed.
When we were walking, One of the first things I noticed, the most buildings of the town centre were built using grey stone which is very unlike of many British town and cities. It felt like the entire city was painted in grey colour, quite unique to the city.
Next day, It was all about what to do in Edinburgh? the best things to explore.
I wish I could have find such a travel diary. Knowing about the place before you visit is very important as you will spend more time exploring the best places than just roaming around. Due to lack of time, we decided to take the red double decker hop- on-hop-off-tour bus for the local sigh seeing. They charge you about £15/Adult but totally worth it. They will also give you commentary about the history of different places as it comes.
So, let’s start,
Top things to do in Edinburgh!
First, get a peek
[ Credit to SkyScanner ]
1. Royal Botanic Garden
First thing, we visited was the Royal Botanic Garden which is situated at Inverleith, one mile north of the city centre. This is a must visiting spot for every traveller, the Botanics captures the imagination of everyone who visits and is world renowned for its horticultural excellence. Spread over 70 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, provide a tranquil haven, just outside the bustling of the city centre. Enjoy a gentle stroll through Edinburgh’s stunning botanic gardens and enjoy the sights, sounds and scents throughout the changing seasons. No free charge, but access to the Glasshouses and some exhibitions carry an entry fee. It’s up to your preference and available time if you like to visit any ongoing exhibitions.
2: National Galleries of Scotland
After a relaxing morning in the Botanic garden stroll back into town via the beautiful village of Stockbridge, before making your way to The Mound where you’ll find the National Galleries of Scotland complex. It has two magnificent neo-classical buildings, comprised of the Royal Scottish Academy building and the National Gallery of Scotland, designed by William Henry Playfair. The best part, entry is free (although there is sometimes a small charge for dedicated exhibitions)! For your information, there are three other buildings that make up the NGS – the Dean Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art in the West End, and the National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street.
Trivia: The gallery exhibits works of many old masters, including Titian, Da Vinci, Raphael and Vermeer, as well as other pre-eminent artists such as Monet, Degas, Constable, Turner and Cezanne.
3: National Museum of Scotland
If you like to learn about a bit of a history about the city, then walk straight to the national museum – Located very close to the National Galleries on The Mound. The National Museum of Scotland houses collections the nation’s culture, history and people. For example, Journey into the heart of Ancient Egypt, build a plane and explore the mysteries of the Lewis Chessmen. And that’s just for starters!
It’s a great way to explore Scottish history from the primaeval age right up to the modern era, and the 360-degree views of Edinburgh from the roof garden are spectacular. Again, Entry is free (that means you can spend more on your beers).
4: Edinburgh Castle
This is not just Edinburgh’s but Scotland’s No1 visitor attraction which is situated at the top of the Royal Mile on top of Castle Rock. It felt like an extinct volcano and has unparalleled views of the city. Although entrance to the Edinburgh Castle isn’t free (entry fee is £17 for adult) the views that can be enjoyed from the Castle Esplanade are completely free and utterly stunning. But I suggest visitors take a time to go into the castle. It’s worth time spent. However, the ticket queues are quite long so be patient as there will be rush.
5: Arthur’s Seat
This was my personal favourite spot in this trip, Arthur’s Seat. It is the main peak of the group of hills which form most of Holyrood Park. It is famously described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design“. It is located towards the eastern side of the city centre, just about 1 mile to the east of Edinburgh Castle. The hill rises above the city to a height of 250.5 m (822 ft), provides excellent panoramic views of the city and beyond, is relatively easy to climb, and is popular for hillwalking. However, by the time we came to Arthur’s seat, we were exhausted so it wasn’t easy to climb. The peak can be climbed from almost any direction, however, the easiest and simplest climb is from the east, where a grassy slope rises above Dunsapie Loch.
6: The Royal Mile, Edinburgh
This is probably explorer’s delight to escape the hive of activity and clamour of The Royal Mile and get lost in one of its many narrow lanes, hidden in plain sight, for your chance to discover a hidden retreat. A prime example being Dunbar’s Close Garden located just beside The Canongate Kirk. Wander down Dunbar’s Close to reveal a garden laid out in the character of the seventeenth century, donated to the City of Edinburgh by the Mushroom Trust in 1978 and named after Edinburgh writer David Dunbar who owned tenements on either side of this close in 1773.
7: Greyfriars Bobby
After uncovering the many hidden closes of the Royal Mile make your way down George IV Bridge where you’ll find a little statue commemorating one of Edinburgh’s most beloved residents – a little Skye terrier is known as Greyfriars’ Bobby. Made famous by numerous books and a Disney film.
Trivia: In the 19th century, Bobby faithfully guarded his owner’s grave in the nearby Greyfriars Kirkyard for fourteen years until he died himself on 14 January 1872.
8: The Grassmarket
After saying hello to Greyfriars Bobby, walk straight to the historic heart of the city –The Grassmarket. In our case, we visited the Grassmarket in the late evening (the day before) when we arrived in Edinburgh. You can be assured of warm Scottish experience with many options of lively pubs and bars in this area.
Trivia: Originally a marketplace for horse and cattle from the 14th century right up until the early 19th century, the Grassmarket was also renowned for its public executions and is undoubtedly a must see for any trip to Edinburgh.
9: Camera Obscura
If it is your maiden visit to Edinburgh then Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is the spot you shouldn’t miss out. It is a major tourist attraction in the Old Town and located on the Castlehill section of the Royal Mile next to Edinburgh Castle. The tower, with its six floors of interactive exhibitions, is still open to the public, making it the oldest purpose built attraction in the city, and one of the oldest in the United Kingdom. The floors beneath the Camera Obscura hold the “World of Illusions”, which offers interactive exhibits demonstrating aspects of optical illusions, light, colour. There are also puzzles, a mirror maze, and a vortex tunnel. Although the project is primarily a tourist attraction, it also serves as a learning centre about optical illusions, holograms, the origins of photography and about Edinburgh itself. Admission fee is £15/adult and £11/Children.
10: Scotch Whisky Experience
This is quite popular attraction among young lads. The Scotch Whisky Experience is a whisky visitor attraction located on Castlehill in the Old Town of Edinburgh, immediately adjacent to the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. Don’t get shocked or surprised if you do bump into William Wallace, a true Braveheart. There are many offers and options available for whisky tours. On average they charged about £15/Adult. It’s quite unique experience if you enjoy scotch whisky.
In the end, this may not be for everyone but if you are one of that braveheart and open to crazy experience then you can join evening walking hunting tours closer to Royal mile in old town. It’s about 2 hours hunted walking tours with Edinburgh’s grisliest tales. You will experience the ghastly histories of monsters, madness and murder that cast a dark shadow on the capital city. Tour generally narrates the stories about witch trials, pagan rituals and executions, and the tale of local monsters that live in urban myth. Further, they will take you to visit the chilling Old Calton Burial Ground or Canongate Kirkyard cemetery to learn about body-snatching and some of the infamous interred. They charged anything between £10 – £16 / person.
There are also many other places you can visit including Holyrood palace, St. Giles cathedral, Edinburgh Zoo, princes street (for shopping), Linlithgow Palace, Isle of Skye, Stirling Castle, Forth Bridge, Falkland Palace, Jacobite Steam Train, Scott monument, the queen’s gallery, HMY Britannia and many more.
Edinburgh is a city of rich history, strong cultural connect and paradise of UK. Once you visit, I can guaranty, you are going to fall in love with this beautiful city. One visit is not enough to explore the beauty of this place. It’s truly a picturesque serenity for explorer and photographer.
If you love to explore the different parts of the world then you may like to check out the my recent road trip to the Heaven on Earth.
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