Almost as soon as you arrive in Edinburgh you’ll begin hearing bagpipes and seeing kilt’s everywhere. These images and sounds immediately transport you to another time. This was my second visit to the incredible capital city of Edinburgh, Scotland and I am so excited to share my love for this town with you too. I felt like I was an old pro this trip romping through the streets of this ancient city well into the night. Here are a few things I love to do in Edinburgh as well as some things I want to do still ~
According to the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group, tourism is a £1.5 million industry and supports over 30,000 jobs in Edinburgh. So I think if you are a travel and tourism major and speak English, this would be a huge draw. Don’t be surprised if the streets are crowded all the time with different nationalities walking ALL around the city. This is normal. I’ve just decided it’s part of the electricity and charm of the city
What to see
Museums are FREE in the U.K. ~ you read that right. FREE, however most of the galleries and museums will ask politely for donations. An appropriate amount would be £5 per person (or more if you really like it!)
St. Giles Cathedral (Church) is located right in the heart of the Royal Mile in Old Town Edinburgh. St. Giles was a prince born in Athens around 650 AD. He is revered by the Catholic faith for this miracle, love of animals and is the patron saint of lepers and cripples. The stained glass windows in the church are amazing. There is a €2 photography fee and they give you a sticker. With maps available at the front desk it was an easy walking tour of the church and helped me understand how the church that was once Catholic church changed to Presbyterian and then the establishment of the Church of Scotland.
The Chancel or Choir is amazing and I would recommend seeing this, the oldest part of the church that was build between 1320 and 1380.
Things to do
I promise I will make it over to Scotland at least once in August to see the military Tattoo. This world-famous exhibition began in 1950 in Edinburgh to showcase the Scottish military bands, music, and dance. It is supposed to be spectacular and even though rumors were circulating that tickets were sold out this summer, we found just walking in the shop you could find dates available. However, they might be a bit higher in the stands or very expensive.
Travel Tip – get them as early as you can ~ also book your room at the same time since finding a spare room on short notice is IMPOSSIBLE. I had a friend tell me today, she booked her stay in Inverness and is driving in – phew! The Tattoo annually has around 220,000 visitors for their performances. Don’t dilly-dally if this is a must for you.
The intimidating and beautiful skyline fortress of Edinburgh Castle can be seen for miles around. Once home to Mary Queen of Scots and many, many others this majestic castle is about £16/adult to tour. A little on the steep price side for me, but my friend Frances, loves castles and spent SIX hours here and loved all the furnishings and learning about its history.
On our arrival, we decided a creepy, ghost and ghoul tour was in order so we booked through Mercat Tours for a late night of tales of torture, terror and fear. We were not disappointed, our friendly, scary tour guide, John delighted in his job. He was very good at it, and we were thankful for the few teenagers in our group who occasionally would let out a YELP! as he banter would faint off and then “boo!” Good fun ~
John also shared the unfortunate fate of over 3,000 accused witches who stood trial and were killed in Edinburgh during 15 and 1600’s. Read more about the famous “can’t kill her” Maggie Dixon below in the Good Eats section.
Rated one of the top five experiences of Edinburgh the Scotch Whisky Experience can’t be missed on the Royal Mile as it stands right before the gate to the castle. Jon and Doug enjoyed a tasting here while we shopped across the street at the Tartan Weaving Mill this was great fun and we learned a little bit about our heritage here.
Remember to visit on the 2nd floor, and ask to speak to their heritage experts who will look up your name (or origins of your name) to help you identify your family’s Scottish Tartan. This was a great place to get souvenirs as well, and I didn’t think they were overly pricey.
Every single month of the year, Scotland has festivals ~ so choose your visit wisely. This itinerary element is something that goes overlooked. However, if you time it right you might be there at the same time as a Jazz, food, or art festival and wouldn’t that be a shame to miss it? For sure do a Google search for Scottish festivals before you go ~ you’ll be surprised.
I just don’t seem to have any luck when it comes to seeing this castle. Both times I have visited the Queen has been in residence. Maybe that is lucky! So tours were not available on the day we were there, however picture taking was fun ~
Oink ~ you may be surprised one of the most delicious pulled-pork joints in Europe is a little family-owned chain in Edinburgh. Oink before you even get to the front door the smell of smoked pork beckons you from the street. This was why there was a line when we arrived. This little sandwich was affordable too ~ £10 for sandwich, chips, and a local beer. Wow! Right ~ those aren’t tourist prices. Plus, the food was spectacular, if you’re adventurous get yours with a “haggis” topping. I stuck to the slaw. Not a lot of restaurant seating so you might have to get yours to go ~ just follow the Royal Mile south and right before you arrive at Holyrood, there is public seating.
Located in the Greater Grassmarket district, Maggie Dixon’s Pub was introduced to us by John from Mercat Tours. Poor Maggie was a beloved local girl who was abandoned by a no-good and left in Edinburgh. She befriended an Inn owner who took her in and gave her a job. She fell in love with the Innkeeper’s son and concealed a pregnancy. In 1723, this was not only considered a sin but a crime. On the day of her hanging, her friends were in deep mourning, they took her down from the gallows and placed her in the coffin. They then stopped at the pub to drown their sorrows leaving poor Maggie in the carriage. She awoke and lived another 40 years. Her nickname became ~ “Half-hanging Maggie.” She went on to open this pub, where enjoyed a few drinks there ourselves.
Where we stayed
This visit we stayed in the New Town area of Edinburgh in an apartment with Beautiful Holiday Homes. Although I did begin with a search through Booking.com I loved working with Celia and soon found email to work great! We were traveling with six adults and were just staying a few nights in Edinburgh as we were heading to Inverness for a few days too.
Our very nice apartment slept six comfortably, however, we did only have one bathroom. This is quite typical for the downtown area and we made do. I know when traveling most people want to have their own potty, however, if you are trying to “live like a local” and embrace all the beauty that is, than compromises are made. As you can see from the pictures it was quite delightful and our location was perfect.
Within walking distance to the car rental office, train and bus stations. We could also catch the downtown tram in about 5 minutes. A grocery store was close by so Mark and Frances picked up our breakfast fixings and we enjoyed a relaxed second morning in Edinburgh.
This past adventure to Scotland rates at one of the tops for me ~ Scotland definitely never disappoints, I may be planning a regional trip too for 2018! I really can’t wait!