Edinburgh: What to visit and do

Edinburgh: What to visit and do

Victoria Street

This was our third time in Edinburgh. My husband and I went there when we first moved to England 30 years ago, then last year on our way up to The Highlands and now. The previous two times were very quick, and we could not see everything Edinburgh has to offer, so we wanted to return with a bit more time. This time was a proper visit and we had three full days to explore Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and in my opinion the nicest of the big cities in Scotland. It is full of history, culture and covered in folklore and myths. It is famous for its culture, beautiful landscapes, and unique character. It is a UNESCO Heritage site, and the Old Town is full of Medieval buildings contributing to the magical character of the place. The New Town is also unique with its Georgian buildings filling up the wide streets. This town is ideal to explore on foot and slowly discover the hidden narrow streets, passageways and yards with stairs leading to surprisingly beautiful sceneries.

Edinburgh has everything a big city like that can offer, from museums and attractions to parks and quality restaurants, you can be sure that you will not run out of things to do in there or feel bored at all.

We arrived in Edinburgh at about 5 pm and went to our reserved accommodation. It was a two-bedroom flat on Leopold Place, near Carlton Hill and rented from Altido Scotland. Location was OK, but a good 15/20 minutes’ walk to the Old Town. Like most of the self-catering accommodation in Edinburgh, there was no parking and after unloading the bags, the husbands went in search of a long-term car parking to leave the cars for the entire length of our stay. They found one in a shopping centre nearby.

We were really pleased with the flat. It had everything you could need while away from home. It was modern with a hint of nostalgia with some period furniture that gave it its charm.

The Living Room at Leopolds Place

After arrival, we took some time to relax and book the attractions we wanted to visit. We managed to book everything we wanted to see, but not on the days and times we were planning to visit, so I advise you to book the attractions in advance as you may not find tickets for the day and time you want, messing up with your programme. Maybe this will improve with the open up of restrictions, but at the time of our visit, everything needed to be booked online and there was a certain number of visitors at each time to get in.

Next day, after breakfast at the flat we head out to the Old town on foot passing through the centre streets and reaching Princess Street with all the shops you can think of. We walked all the way down Princess Street and crossed Princess Street Gardens. We climbed up to the Old Town at the foot of the Castle. We were booked to visit the Castle at 10:00 and it was time to get in.

Edinburgh Castle was built on top of a rock that is actually an extinct volcano. It seats majestically on top of the rock and can be seen from all over the city. The castle is an important landmark of the city as its history links it to Queen Mary of Scotland and other important figures of the past. It houses the Crown Jewellery, and it has the oldest building in Edinburgh, St Mary’s Chapel, a small Chapel preserved after all the attacks and destruction the castle suffered. Very interesting place, especially if you are interested in history.

After visiting the castle, we went down the Royal Mile and to the direction of Grassmarket. We went down via Victoria Street, one of the most charming streets of the Old Town. We had lunch at a French café on Victoria Street.

After lunch we walked around Grassmarket and went to see the Greyfriars Bobby. This is the statue of a Skye Terrier that sat by the side of its owner grave for 14 years.

Continuing our walks, we went in the direction of the Royal Mile again which out of curiosity is not a mile long, but one mile and 107 yards.

We headed to “The Real Mary King’s Close”. This is a close in the middle of the Royal Mile and below the buildings. This attraction takes you to the bottom of the close where you can see and learn about how people lived in the close in the olden days. This is the hidden Edinburgh that is not open for all to see. The guide will tell you stories and you will visit the underground rooms and imagine on your head how horrible it must have been for these people who lived there on those times. Very realistic and interesting and we all were surprised and pleased with how much we learned about Edinburgh on this tour.

Once back on the Royal Mile we headed on the direction of the flat for a bit of a rest before going out again for dinner.

Tonight, the reservation was for “Contini” a beautiful and chic Italian restaurant. The food there is above the standard Italian serving pizza and pasta. They do serve pasta as well, but all in a more sophisticated way. The building where the restaurant is located is gorgeous, full of architectural details that gives the restaurant a very special flair. Again, another faultless dinner washed down with the best Italian wine we could taste. Everybody went home happy and fully satisfied.

We left the flat after breakfast and walked down to Holyhoodhouse Palace as we had tickets booked for 10 am. This is the Queen’s official residence when she is in Scotland. You can visit the State apartments, the Throne Room, and the Morning Drawing Room. You can also visit the Mary, Queen of Scots’ Chambers and where David Rizzio, the Italian musician and private secretary and confidante of Mary Queen of Scots was murdered. They even show the stain of blood on the timber floor on the site it happened …

The garden is a delight and at the time, the rhododendrons were in full bloom. Lovely place to spend a few hours lost in the history of the palace.

After the visit we went up the Royal Mile again and sat on a pub above Victoria Street on the terraces. It was a sunny day, and the streets were vibrant with people strolling up and down and you could hear the sound of the bag pipes playing in the background. We had almost an hour before going for lunch, so a cold beer was welcome at that time. At 1 o’clock we went to the most famous restaurant in Edinburgh for lunch, “The Witchery by the Castle”. The building is 400 years old, and the dining room is decorated in a baroque style squandering opulence and attention to detail. The food was not any less special. It was first class and could be described as sublime. It was a very special lunch experience in a quirk and historical atmosphere that is very difficult to replicate anywhere else. Super recommend if you appreciate high standard restaurant food.

After lunch we looked at the shops at the Royal Mile and stopped at John Knox House. It is a very interesting and attractive building, but nothing much to see on the inside. They have made the interior as a museum with lots of displays and it took the character out of the building a little bit.

After stopping for coffee in a café, we headed home.

After such a nice lunch we did not go out for dinner and chose to stay in and bake some pizzas instead. After dinner we settled down to watch a film and the choice was Mary Queen of Scotland. We really were immersed on our Scottish adventure…

It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new life and I’m feeling good … 😀

I always feel good when travelling, I’m in my element!

We really wanted to visit The Georgian House Museum. It is a restored town house full of paintings, costumes, and period furniture of the Georgian time. However, we could not book it online and we decided to walk down there, maybe there were a few spaces left and they would let us in. Fat chance, no chance at all. If you do not book online, you don’t get in anywhere. It was still a nice walk going to the house in a different part of town. From there we walked to the lovely Dean Village close by.

Beautiful place to live in, close to town, but at the same time secluded giving the impression that you are in the countryside. After spending a good time exploring the little village, we decided to walk all the way to Leith by the Water of Leith. Very long walk but very enjoyable as well. We could see the Edinburgh outside the touristic areas and how the local people spend their Sundays. Some on bicycles, some running, some walking their dogs or with children on pushchairs. That was real life on the background. The path leads to Stockbridge where they have a vibrant Sunday market with everything foodie. We stopped to investigate and had to refrain from buying anything and having to carry it all the rest of the way. We stopped for a coffee though and people watch a little bit. We continued with the walk and eventually we arrived in Leith. Leith is the port district, and it houses “The Royal Yacht Britannia”. It is also a shopping centre with lots of shops and restaurants. We stopped for lunch and only had a quick sandwich before going to the ticket office to enquire if we could visit the yacht without booking online. We had no hope that we would be able to visit, but at this time, luck was on our side and they did allow us to gain entry by buying the tickets at the time. The yacht is a very interesting attraction to visit, and you also learn a lot of facts about the life aboard and all that involves having VIPs aboard such a luxury yacht at the time it was in service. Once the visit was over, my legs were like jelly because of too much walking. We walked 17000 steps in one go! So, we decided to take a taxi on the way back to the flat.

Today is the last dinner in Edinburgh and after walking all that, it was good that the restaurant we had booked was on the same street as our flat. The restaurant was “The Gardener’s Cottage” It is in a small cottage on the London Road Gardens. They have a set menu, so there is no choice. However, the menu is very balanced and very well executed. Plates are small but full of flavour. Again, another excellent choice of restaurant on our trip.

To read the post about the complete trip, click here

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