In 2016, I finally made it to Scotland, a place I admittedly did NOT have high on my list. And for that, I was wrong, because Edinburgh and I clicked from the moment I arrived in this majestic city. It didn't hurt that the weather was uncharacteristically beautiful, but I have a feeling I would've loved it even if it had been overcast and rainy (perhaps a little less love but still love).
Though I did not get to visit Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival or one of their other well-known events, I still had plenty to do while there and found the city really exciting in a way that felt sort of like being in London (another love of mine) but not. Seeing as how they're both in the UK, it would make sense that there are some similarities but then you throw in the gothic architecture and medieval castle serving as the city's centerpiece and that's where Edinburgh separates itself and shines. For anyone visiting Edinburgh (pronounced Eh-Din-Burr-Uh), here are a few things to do, see and eat.
- Sit in Princes Park: Though it's likely not the first thing you would do in Edinburgh, if it's nice out, head to Princes Park to bask in the sun and take advantage of the nice weather. Chances are you’ll see many others doing the same.
- Stroll around the city: Edinburgh is, like London, a pedestrian city made for strolling. There are numerous things to do and see as you wander from one neighborhood to the next. Just make sure you have comfortable walking shoes on.
- “Walk” up to Arthur's Seat: Before going to Edinburgh, a friend of mine told me to walk up to Arthur’s Seat. I’m pretty sure that’s how he phrased it: “walk up to Arthur’s Seat.” It’s not a walk, at least not how I did it. I huffed and puffed my way up the stairs (there’s a less strenuous way that I didn’t know about until afterwards), but both the journey and the destination were worth the hike (not walk).
- Shop: Edinburgh does not skimp on the shops. There are many of the same stores you’d find on London’s high streets that can also be found in Edinburgh, but what’s unique about this city are the large array of stores selling cashmere. Scotland is known for its cashmere (and its plaid), and offers you many options to choose from.
- Taste some Scottish whisky: A trip to Scotland isn’t complete without some whisky. In fact, it’s pretty much a requirement to try some, even if you’re usually not a whisky drinker.
- Edinburgh Castle: How can you even miss it? It’s the centerpiece to this beautiful city, and I recommend not only seeing it from afar but up close as well. Take the tour to learn a bit about the history of the castle and the country.
- The view from Calton Hill: Before going to Edinburgh, I had read several times about Calton Hill as a place to visit. When I arrived in Edinburgh and saw how gorgeous and sunny it was, I knew I had to take advantage. The views did not disappoint.
- The Royal Mile: Located in the heart of Old Town, with Edinburgh Castle on one end and the Palace of Holyroodhouse on the other, the Royal Mile is one of the top attractions of the city. Shops, markets, restaurants, pubs and more are situated along the succession of streets that make up the Royal Mile.
- The Scottish Highlands: This isn’t in Edinburgh, so maybe it doesn’t count but I’m including it anyway. How can one go to Scotland and not try to see the Scottish Highlands? I was only in Scotland for a few days but I knew I had to leave the city for the country. I did a Scottish Highlands day tour with Timberbush Tours and what started as a heavy and cloudy morning turned into a vivid, colorful and enchanting afternoon. Plus who doesn’t love seeing a Highland Cow (see below)?
- Edinburgh nightlife: One of the things that struck me about Edinburgh during my visit to the city is how vibrant it was, particularly at night. Granted, it was late May and the weather was phenomenal, but I have a feeling people would be packed into pubs, bars and restaurants regardless of good or bad weather. I also learned to make dinner reservations on a Saturday night (at least near the Royal Mile). Or you may find yourself bouncing from place to place like I did in search of an available table.
- Haggis: I admit that I didn’t actually know what haggis was before trying it. Maybe I should have looked it up but I just knew it was something that people had very mixed opinions on. I went in blissfully ignorant and tried what I could only describe as gourmet haggis at this slightly more upscale restaurant, and I loved it! Next time I’ll try the pub version.
- A full Scottish breakfast: Similar to a full English breakfast, a full Scottish breakfast often includes eggs, bacon, sausage, buttered toast, baked beans, mushrooms and/or tomatoes and black pudding. Not meant to be eaten every day (unless you hate your arteries), it’s worth indulging in at least once during your time in Scotland.
- Neeps and tatties: What most people know as mashed potatoes and rutabaga, neeps and tatties often accompany haggis (they’re like the ying to haggis’s yang). You can’t have one without the other, so if you’re going to try haggis, you may as well go all in and get haggis, neeps and tatties.
- A scone and chai latte (or coffee) at Wellington Coffee: I stumbled upon this cute and cozy spot during one of my early morning haunts around Edinburgh, and I was so happy I did! It’s a place where I could see myself hanging out every Saturday or Sunday morning, plus the food and drinks are actually good. Go for one of their massive scones and if you’re a coffee drinker, have the coffee. If you’re not a coffee drinker, get the chai latte like I did. So good!
- Deep fried Mars Bar: I don’t know the background behind the deep fried Mars Bar or why it’s become a thing in Edinburgh, but it has. Don’t eat one every day, but give it at least one try and see if the deep fried version is better than the original.
Will be back again one day, Edinburgh!
Have you ever been to Edinburgh?