Edinburgh - One of the Most Inviting Cities of our Trip
We loved our time in Edinburgh! We spent just over 2 weeks there, which is the longest amount of time we have spent in any city during our trip so far. By the end, we were quite sad to leave. We found this city to be very comfortable, welcoming, easy to love, and so picturesque!
Our stay here was a bit unique, as we had a 10-day house sitting assignment right in the heart of the city. This gave us an opportunity to live like locals and really experience the sites of Edinburgh at more of a relaxed pace. There is so much to see and do here, we really feel like we just scratched the surface. It is definitely a city you should visit, especially if you are traveling through Scotland.
Some of our favourite places are must see stops for almost all tourists. So they can be quite busy regardless of when you are visiting. We were in Edinburgh in mid-October, and even though it was off-season we still felt like there were thousands of tourists everywhere.
On of our favourite parts of Edinburgh were the colourful sunrises and sunsets. The whole sky would turn beautiful shades of pink, purple, orange, and blue. We were so lucky as this happened every day we were there. Hands down, they were the best we have seen on our trip, and because of this, it became Sharleen’s mission to head to Arthur’s Seat to catch a sunrise during our time in Edinburgh.
Arthur’s Seat is the main peak in Holyrood Park – located just east of the city centre. It is an extinct volcano, so it is quite the climb to get up, but once you reach the top the views are outstanding! It was the perfect place to catch the sunrise, as you could see the sun rise over the water, painting the sky with gorgeous colours. It was easy to spend an hour up there, however it was extremely windy, so if you visit make sure you are appropriately dressed and maybe even find one of the various large rocks to shelter yourself from the wind while you admire the views. The views really were spectacular, and it is a wonderful place to see a sunrise or sunset while in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Castle sits at one end of The Royal Mile, perched up on yet again another extinct volcano. Since it is located on top of the hill, you get great views of it from all around Edinburgh. We enjoyed walking up to the castle, and seeing it in the skyline during most of our walks through the city. We opted not to do a tour of the castle, since we have kind of had our castle fill coming from Aberdeenshire. However, there are crown jewels located in the castle, which would have been pretty cool to see!
Royal Yacht Britannia
There is something about being in the UK that makes anything “Royal” seem really cool. During our last few days in Edinburgh we were staying north near the coast, in an area called Leith. We were walking distance to the Royal Yacht Britannia, and quite curious to see what Her Majesty The Queen’s yacht would look like!
The yacht is no longer used and is permanently located in Edinburgh. The majority of items found on the yacht are original, which means you do get a real feel for what it would be like for the Royal Family. We are pretty sure that we read somewhere that 98% of the yacht artefacts are original and on loan from the Royal Collection, so it is really like walking through a museum.
The tour is a self-guided audio tour and very good. Probably one of the best tours we have visited. They provide a lot of information as you tour through 5 floors of the yacht, and the pace is very comfortable. All in all it took about 2.5 hours, which included a quick stop for lunch in the Royal Deck Tea Room.
The Real Mary King’s Close
One of the most popular sites recommended to us was The Real Mary King’s Close. It is a tour that explores the way Edinburgh looked in the 1600s. It does a really good job explaining what it would be like for residence living in Edinburgh at that time, and you even get to tour the “underground” streets to get an idea of what it looked like. We put underground in quotes because the streets are not really underground, rather under a government building that was built on the flattened apartment style houses.
It was a cool tour, and worth exploring to get an idea of what it was like to live in Edinburgh over 400 years ago. The small streets and cramped living quarters were super interesting to see and experience. The guides are very knowledgeable and entertaining, and the hour long tour is really enjoyable and goes by very quickly! Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures on the tour.
We wanted to tour around a different part of Edinburgh, so we spent an afternoon walking north west of Edinburgh Castle to an area called Dean Village. While walking through Dean Village we felt like we were transported to a different city – maybe even a different country. It had a very Austria/Germany feel to it. We really enjoyed looking at the building and walking along the Water of Leith. There are also a few old mills located along the water, which was really cool to check out! It was a fun place to walk around and get a few different views.
You can spot this huge gothic structure throughout Edinburgh. It is located on Princes Street, and is definitely worth a close up visit. We both love gothic architecture so we had a lot of fun photographing and visiting this monument. However, it was only later that we realized you could actually go up the monument! There is a museum on the 1st floor where you can learn more about Sir Walter Scott – the Scottish literary figure for whom the monument was created.
From this area of Prince Street, you can look towards Old Town and get great views of the city. We love the architecture here – it almost felt like we were transported back hundreds of years. As Canadians who aren’t surrounded by old historic buildings, places like Edinburgh take our breath away!
The most popular streets for shopping are The Royal Mile and Princes Street. The Royal Mile is located in the heart of Edinburgh’s old town, and stretches from Edinburgh Castle all the way to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. If you are visiting Edinburgh you will no doubt end up on this street. We ended up on this street almost every day we went into town – but apparently we have no pictures of it!
The Royal Mile is packed with shops – mainly souvenirs. Edinburgh had more souvenir shops then anywhere else we have visited! It seemed like they were lining every street. Popular items include shortbread, anything tartan, wool and cashmere, Harry Potter items, and family history/clan items. If you are looking for little souvenirs, these shops are perfect and will have what you need. But if you are looking for a specific quality item, make sure you do your research!
Sharleen was on a mission to find a very specific Harris Tweed item, which we were unsuccessful at finding. But she did find a beautiful cashmere scarf. You can find scarfs ranging from £10 to £500+ depending on the material, quality, and brand. So it is helpful to know what you are looking for before heading into the store.
Princes Street has more department stores, luxury brands, boutique stores, and some souvenir shop. It is a great place to walk to get views of Edinburgh and do some retail therapy! We popped into a sporting goods store and stocked up on some UK essentials – wellies (rubber boots) and additional rain gear. They have been extremely handy over the last few weeks! Sharleen also popped into a bridal store and had a great experience finding a bridesmaid dress for her best friend’s wedding. There are so many options and great variety – you will definitely walk away with something when you visit Princes Street.
The Elephant House
Just off The Royal Mile sits a little café called The Elephant House. The first time we passed it there were a bunch of people taking pictures of it and we thought it was kind of a weird thing to photograph. We paid no attention to it and continued walking past. The same thing happened the next day. On the third day there was no one taking pictures, so we stopped and read the little sign posted in the window. This café was the café J.K. Rowling sat in to write a much of her early novels. It’s considered the place where Harry Potter was brought to life!
We are not Harry Potter diehards, however this café ended up being the first of many Harry Potter related sights we would see as we make our way through Scotland.
During our adventures through Edinburgh we were surprised by how much greenery and green space there was. We seemed to find beautiful parks everywhere, and there were numerous people out enjoying the spaces. It was really lovely! Since we were there on a dog sit for the majority of the time, it was nice to walk around to the numerous parks and let Cookie roam around off her leash. Our favourite park was The Meadows, which had so many activities for people to enjoy! Year round there is a practice pitch and putt course and in the summer there is tennis, lawn bowling, and croquet. Not to mention the numerous frisbee and soccer matches we saw.
We felt completely comfortable in Edinburgh. It seemed like a place that would be great to call home, even with the rainy weather. So far it has been one of our favourite cities, but then again, it is the city we have spent the most time in!