Since returning from my long term travels towards the end of 2016, my aim for 2017 and beyond was to experience (and come to appreciate) a little more of my own turf. This is something a great deal of us neglect to do; we get so caught up in jetting off to distant lands, that we forget what is on our own doorstep and I for one, can hold my hands up and plead guilty to this.
A trip to Edinburgh had been on the cards for a good while; years in fact, and my 29th birthday last November seemed the perfect excuse to book some time off work, hop on a train with my bestie and spend some quality time exploring this enchanting city.
So, without further ado, here’s what we got up to and what I’d recommend to anyone visiting for the first time:
Visit Edinburgh Castle
I mean, this is an obvious one, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to visit a castle perched on a rocky volcanic plug, dating back millions of years? The rock itself was creatively named, Castle Rock and has been inhabited in one way or another, since approximately 850 BC. There has been a royal castle of sorts on site since around the 12th century.
Entry into the castle isn’t particularly cheap, but you get your money’s worth, as there’s plenty to see inside, including the Royal Palace, the Crown Jewels and Stone of Destiny, St. Margaret’s Chapel (Edinburgh’s oldest building), the One O’clock Gun, the National War Museum, some creepy prison quarters and the Scottish National War Museum.
I would recommend tagging along on one of the free walking tours, which set off regularly and give you a brief but interesting introduction into its rich history.
The views over Edinburgh from the castle are just lovely.
Explore the Royal Mile and surrounds
As well as thoroughly enjoying learning about its fascinating history, Edinburgh for me, was all about the architecture. Walking around Old Town was like being transported back in time. Every building was more stunningly beautiful than the last. I loved meandering down the old closes (alleyways), each of which are named after memorable occupants or trades; Fisher’s Close, Writer’s Close, Bakehouse Close, to name a few.
I found myself constantly craning my neck upwards, to admire the higgledy-piggledy roofs, windows and turrets of each unique building.
This beautiful lady is named ‘Tea’. She’s a tawny owl, who we met whilst wandering along the Royal Mile. Her handler told me that female owls make the ‘twit’ sound, whilst males go ‘twoo’. So, if you ever hear ‘twit, twoo’, you know it’s a pair!
One of my favourite buildings in Edinburgh, the Canongate Tolbooth, built in 1591 and just by looking at it; definitely haunted.
Climb Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s Seat is actually an extinct volcano. Rising jaggedly above the urban sprawl of Edinburgh, it provides amazing panoramic views of the coast, distant mountains and the city itself. Located in Holyrood Park, around just one mile from the castle, it is easy to reach by foot; and this is precisely what we did on the morning of my birthday.
Despite the cold, drizzle and sharp wind, Holyrood Park was teeming with keen walkers. There are numerous paths around the park and depending on the direction you walk from, most are well trodden.
We looped up around Sailsbury Crags, which was a long, slow burn, and then up the steep, uneven stone steps towards the summit of Arthur’s Seat.
It was so windy at the top we could barely walk, but the views were unforgettable.
Somehow on the way down, we took a wrong turn and ended up on a path which required a touch of scrambling. Luckily, we love a good accidental scramble!
My favourite thing about Arthur’s Seat was its accessibility from the city. Within a few hours, we had gone from the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile, summited an old volcano, scrambled back down and rewarded ourselves with tea, cake and a nap. It’s not very often that you get to combine both urban and rural escapades in a mere morning!
Hop on an open top bus tour
I think bus tours are a great way of seeing a new city from yet another perspective. They also mean you get to sit down and relax for an hour or so. We hopped on the Edinburgh Tour bus, complete with live guide, and went on an fun-filled hour-long trundle around Old and New Town.
Be traumatised on a ghost tour
From the get-go we were on edge; partially due to standing in the freezing cold, huddled like a couple of frightened penguins, and partially due to our tour guides’ blood-curdling shriek to get out attention; “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!” she screamed, waving her black cape and beckoning us towards her with utter amusement.
I knew this was going to be one hell of a tour. I for one, love a bit of horrible history, which was just as well, what with the tour being named ‘Doomed, Dead and Buried‘.
We skulked around the dark streets and along alleyways, stopping regularly to hear about grizzly tales of murder and suffering, before descending into the terrifying Underground Vaults and then on to an eerie graveyard.
Mercat Tours offer a wide range of tours and are well worth checking out.
Have you been to Edinburgh? Stay tuned for my next blog post, which will be talking about my favourite Vegan eats in the city!
How we got there: We got a direct train from Manchester Piccadilly to Edinburgh Waverley, which took just over 3 hours. We booked our tickets a few months in advance and got a cheap deal!
Where we stayed: We stayed at The Inn Place, just off the Royal Mile. It was a fab little hotel and again, we got a cheap deal by booking online in advance.