I love that my work sometimes takes me to different parts of the country. If, like me, you go for a couple of days and have meetings spread out with big gaps, it would be a shame to sit in a hotel room and not soak up some of the city’s culture. Instead, put on your walking shoes and head out into the heart of the city to try out one or more of these exciting attractions you’ll remember forever.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I expected Edinburgh to be like most big cities in the UK – bustling and vibrant with lots of shops and pubs and a monument or two thrown in for good measure. What I didn’t expect was just how rich in culture and proud of its heritage the city actually is and how much it had to offer in terms of everything being about a 10 minute drive away, whether you fancy climbing a mountain or eating at a hole-in-the-wall seafood restaurant with the best delicacies of the sea in town. Another thing I didn’t anticipate was just how hilly Edinburgh actually is. Trekking up slopes and tackling flight after flight of stairs is inevitable, so be sure to pack your trainers.
.While the weather wasn’t particularly on my side when I was there, (it rained pretty much the whole time), I did manage to get a few pictures and have a pretty great time, even though I was there with work!
Visit the Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh’s most iconic tourist attraction doesn’t come cheap at roughly £17 per ticket, but if you’re here, you may as well go the whole hog. Especially since the fortress that has been around since the Iron Age dominates the city skyline and is filled with interesting attractions like a war memorial, the Stone of Destiny, a chapel and most excitingly, the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles. There’s a whole list of the attractions within the castle here.
Climb Arthur’s Seat
Situated right in the centre of Edinburgh is the city’s tallest peak, formed by an extinct volcano. It isn’t too much of a trek and can be conquered easily by hiking amateurs like yours truly, but boasts breathtaking views of the city like you’d never see them elsewhere.
Discover the Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia was a home to Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family for over 40 years during their travels overseas. It sailed over 1,000,000 miles with them, but is now permanently docked in Edinburgh and is open to the public to discover what life was like on board the Queen’s floating residences. Fancy!
Pay a visit to the National Museum of Scotland
I’ve always been a lover of museums and drool at the thought of discovering a new one in each new city that I visit. This one, however, was special. Not only was the building positively breathtaking on the inside, but it also happened to be the most interesting, interactive museum I have ever visited! Never a dull moment in there for a person of any age group, enjoy testing your general knowledge, discovering what the vibrations feel like when a whale calls out, how it feels for tigers to use retractable claws, play along to musical instruments and even mix and match outfits from different countries if you’re fashionably inclined. Almost every single display has a game to play or some way to interact with it and use your hands and brain – its fantastic! Oh, and if you get tired of all the awesomeness, there’s a posh cafe on one level. The entry to the museum is free and they’re opening a Lego exhibit in the next month so you can go in and build a part of a monument with your own hands and watch it be a part of a big display!
Take a Haunted Tour
Did you know that Edinburgh has a very spooky history? They say you’re never more than five minutes away from a dead body in this city! And while that may be a little far-fetched, if you enjoy your fair share of stories about ghosts, ghouls and the like, you should definitely take a haunted tour. It lasts two hours, is at night and is probably not for the faint of heart. But it is a great way to meet people, indulge in a few harmless goosebumps and soak in the city’s ‘haunting atmosphere’. For more info, read this insightful article that tells you all you need to know. I can’t wait to go back and do this!
Go shopping at The Royal Mile
If its a traditional Scottish experience you seek (or one carefully catered to tourists anyway), be sure to visit The Royal Mile, a row of quaint little shops selling souvenirs like cashmere tartan scarves, kilts, Celtic charm jewellery, any conceivable item with a Scottish Terrier on it, shortbreads and whiskey.
Eat like a Local
If you haven’t eaten or heard of Haggis yet, you need to get on that train! Its Scotland’s most famous delicacy – a savory pudding, the contents of which I won’t get into as some of you may be vegetarian. Believe me, if you forget about the ingredients and actually try it, it is absolutely scrumptious! The Scots like to add it to as many things as they can and we discovered a little restaurant called ‘Arcade‘ in the city center which served us Haggis nachos, Haggis stuffed in a chicken breast (probably one of my top 10 meals of all time) and Haggis in pure form, too. Try it!
Scotland is also renowned for its seafood. We surpassed one of Edinburgh’s nice chain seafood restaurants and went instead to a delightful, quaint little establishment across the street, right by the harbour called ‘C-Shack‘. Frequented mainly by locals, it was quiet the service was the nicest, most personable we’d ever experienced and the food was simply out of this world! I’d go back to Edinburgh just to eat at C-Shack and couldn’t recommend it more to everyone we know.
Angels and Bagpipes at Devil’s Advocate is another restaurant highly recommended to us by our friends that I hope to visit the next time round.
Struggle through a Whiskey
And I say struggle because I started out with a great deal of confidence and enthusiasm. However, even though the kind bartender gave me one for beginners which he claimed was very light and fruity, I could barely pass it through my lips and felt ill at the very smell of it. It is definitely an acquired taste. But, if like me, whiskey just isn’t your thing, don’t feel shy about ordering yourself a gin. Edinburgh is fizzing about gin lately – its a fast-growing phenomena, a popular trend and is considered quite fashionable to be ordering gin when in the city.
My favourite bars in the city were Whiski where the atmosphere was buzzing with a live band playing Scottish music with lyrics from modern-day songs mixed in. The service and drinks were amazing, too and I look forward to visiting again.
Cover all your bases
Everything I listed above were all activities I would / have enjoyed in Edinburgh. However, this amazing city has something for everyone, so a little more research wouldn’t hurt. If you’re a writer or a book-enthusiast, you might find visiting the Scott Monument intriguing, or if you like modern architecture, be sure to stop by the Parliament building. If you want to learn more about the spirits of Scotland, sign up for a whiskey or gin tasting or if you love a stroll in a garden blooming with flowers, check out the Dunbar’s Close Botanical Garden in the summer. Oh, and if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll have a fantastic time visiting the real-life places that inspired the books and a few spots from the movies. Check out this link for all the details.
PS here’s a little Scottish trivia I discovered on this trip. Did you know that Alexander Fleming who invented penicillin (the cure for the common cold), Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone, Charles Darwin who came up with the Theory of Evolution, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote ‘Sherlock Holmes and Hound of the Baskervilles’ and J.K Rowling who wrote the Harry Potter series are ALL Scottish? I most certainly didn’t!
Also, most importantly, did you know that Scotland’s national animal is the UNICORN? I mean, if that isn’t reason enough to don a kilt and move over, I don’t know what is! See you at the next post!