When I think of Scotland, the usual suspects spring to mind first: bagpipes and haggis, highlands, a charming but at times incomprehensible accent. And wouldn’t you know it – Edinburgh has all of those! On one side, it’s a city devoted to tourism; the Royal Mile has no shortage of souvenir shops offering kilts and plushie Nessies, overpriced whisky shops and chippies advertising fried Mars bars on their windows. On the other hand it’s an old, impressive city where houses are build of sandstone and shopfronts painted in bright colours, and where writers like J. K. Rowling and Arthur Conan Doyle found inspiration.
I spend two days in Scotland’s capital just before New Year’s and I’m looking forward to visiting again in the future. For the past two years I’ve ran Burns Night at my university but it was my first time visiting Scotland.
It’s worth starting the day with a traditional Scottish breakfast. Yeah, it’s heavy, and yeah, it does keep you going all day. While most parts of a full Scottish are same or similar as in full English, you get to sample local flavours with black pudding, a potato scone, a Lorne sausage (pretty much just a beef patty) and haggis.
As you’d expect, the #1 attraction in the city – Edinburgh Castle – is notorious for long lines, so if you can, I’d suggest to get a fast track ticket instead of queuing for a normal one. There’s no difference in the price. If you didn’t have time to grab your ticket online the day before, there should also be a guy near the queue advertising the fast track tickets, but you need an internet connection to purchase them so unless you’ve got data, it’s better to get the tickets online.
The Royal Mile lopes down from the castle hill and leads you past a multitude of cute little closes (alleyways) and points of interest as well as overpriced pubs and souvenir shops.
Edinburgh has no shortage of great viewing points. The Castle grounds offer a view of the new town, Arthur’s Seat and the faraway highlands as well as a glimpse of the famous Forth Bridge. (I never understood the coolness of the bridge – Ben was freaking out about it the whole time, but (luckily) we didn’t have time to go see it closer. I felt like Adam Scott’s character in Parks and Rec when everyone’s going crazy about Little Sebastian and he just doesn’t get it. Forth Bridge is my Little Sebastian.) From Arthur’s Seat you see the view over the whole city and the castle. However, you’ll find yet another vantage point on Carlton Hill that, strangely, is the resting place for some Roman ruins. (Honestly, Edinburgh has everything and anything.)
I understand why many might be slightly hesitant to try haggis – after all, it is basically just intestines stuffed into the stomach of a sheep. Appetizing, right? If you’re curious to try it but not ready for a full meal of it, try Highland chicken (as above) or Balmoral chicken (which comes wrapped in bacon). Both are stuffed with haggis and taste amazing.
Oh and hey, you can’t really come to Scotland and not try deep fried Mars bars! Here is a list of places that apparently have battered Mars on their menus in Edinburgh, but most fish and chip shops would be able to fry up a bar for you if you bring them one. I was charged a pound for this, but it’s still cheaper than paying the 2 to 3 pound for a battered Mars bar in a chippie.
It’s insane – literally in the middle of a city with half a million inhabitants stands a mountainous outdoor area as fit for hiking as any remote nature trail. The climb to the top isn’t very taxing, but the steps are uneven and can be slippery.
All in all, I really enjoyed Edinburgh. It’s a beautiful city with lovely people and some real history. On top of it all, it’s extremely walkable. Even if you felt like taking the bus, a single journey only sets you back 1,60 pound and a whole day of travel 4 pound. I hope I can return soon and when I do, I will definitely also explore some of the highlands and other cities in Scotland.
This is the first photo journal of a series of photo posts that I’m hoping to bring out once a week or two weeks now that I’m going travelling for a longer time. What do you think of the idea? I also apologise for the, uh, quality, since my free photo editing programme keeps on butchering my picture quality. If anyone’s got any tips for a good (free!) software or a website that might not ruin my photos, I’d love to hear that!
Anyway, have you ever been to Edinburgh? How did you like it?