Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland known for its reputation for its rich history of the royals, greenness and one of the most haunted places. The majority of the bridges in the city goes over land rather than water and sometimes could be confusing navigating place to place without a map. The city is divided on Princes Street between the old and new towns with the division in its architecture. From the top of Castlerock by the Edinburgh Castle to the end of the Royal Mile at the Palace of Holyroodhouse are the oldest buildings and narrow streets dated with medieval architecture and street design that makes up Old Town. The new town buildings are shorter Georgian style townhouses and where the shopping district of Edinburgh is located with commercial retail stores such as H&M, Top Shop and Primark.
Here are some highlights of what you can do in Edinburgh:
1- The Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Yacht Britannia & Bus Tours
If you like to indulge on the history of the royals, you may want to visit the Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Royal Yacht Britannia. In a previous post I had given a description of Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse along the Royal Mile (Click on the link for The Locals Know Best: Edinburgh for information of these two places).
The Royal Yacht Britannia served for the royal family over forty-four years for royal honeymoons, family holidays (vacations), state visits and official receptions. It also had a dual purpose of being a hospital ship, if needed. The royal yacht was decommissioned in 1997 and now is one of the great attractions in Edinburgh. The Britannia offers audio self-guided tours among sections of the famous yacht from the rooms of the royals and the ship’s crew.
You can even dine in the Royal Deck Tea Room as a small break from your day of exploring Edinburgh. The Royal Deck Tea Room offers an array of options of small meals from soups to salads, sandwiches and baked goods. I would recommend ordering a pot of tea (£3.00) and their Britannia special (£12.50). The Britannia special includes a choice of soup and sandwich served with homemade potato wedges sprinkled with smoked paprika and garlic mayonnaise. I decided to try the cream of Cullen skink soup and the Scottish oak smoked salmon sandwich. The cream of Cullen skink soup was creamy, smooth with a full flavor of the smoked haddock and a hint of the potato and leek. It was seasoned with pepper and salt then topped with chopped chives. The consistency of the soup was about right in thickness. The Scottish smoked salmon sandwich was light in flavor and fresh tasting. It was served with a hearty whole wheat bread with a creamy black pepper cream cheese that had a hint of lemon. The sandwich was topped with bitter microgreens to balance the meal. The potato wedges were cooked perfectly with a crispy outside, a soft inside and smokiness from the paprika. The garlic mayonnaise gave a tanginess and balance to the fried potato wedge.
Using the bus tours are the best way to discover Edinburgh’s history and culture from local tour guides. The ticket you purchase will be good for any of the five tour buses that start at Waverly Bridge. The buses are either equipped with an audio recording or with a guide. I prefer the live guided tours since each guide puts a little personality in the tours. Each bus takes different routes throughout Edinburgh with stops by popular attractions. Some of these attractions are difficult to reach without transportation and therefore makes the tour bus a great option to do. Feel free to hop off at any of the stops since the buses run on a hop on and hop off system. You can purchase the Royal Edinburgh Ticket at the Edinburgh Information Centre by the Princes Street Mall or at the ticket booth by the start of the bus tours on the corner of Prince Street and Waverly Bridge.
The Royal Edinburgh Ticket (£48, SAVE £14): If you planning to visit all three attractions and go for the bus tours around Edinburgh, the best way to save is to purchase the Royal Edinburgh Ticket. It gives you 48 hours access to any of the five tour buses and admission tickets to the three royal attractions that can be used at any time.
Holyrood Park is a great way to explore the greenness of Scotland if you do not have a car to travel outside of the city of Edinburgh. Also mentioned in a previous post (The Locals Know Best: Edinburgh), Holyrood Park sits adjacent to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The alias name of the park changes depending on the gender of the reigning monarch. Currently the alias name is the Queen’s Park since Queen Elizabeth II is the current reigning monarch. If the next ruling monarch is a male, the park will then be called the King’s Park. You can get some daily exercise exploring the hills, lochs, ridges, cliffs and glens among the park. Often you will see locals hike or do their daily run from day to day. The main attraction here is Arthur’s Seat which resides at the very top of the park and is the highest point in Edinburgh (250.5 meters above the city).
3-The Scott Monument
On the corner of the East Princes Street Gardens by Waverly Bridge is the tall standing structure known as the Scott Monument. The structure is a monument dedicated to the famous Scottish and Edinburgh-born writer, Sir Walter Scott. George Meikle Kemp designed the monument that dawns a Victorian Gothic style to its structure. At the base of the monument is a marble figure of Sir Walter Scott and Maida, his dog. The monument has a climb of 287 steps to the top and four levels that you can view over the city of Edinburgh among Prince Street.
Be sure to see the first level that has beautiful stained glass windows and gives a background to the famous writer. As you make your way to the top, the staircase will get narrow, very narrow. Remember that the stairs are a two-way staircase. You may need to wait to let people pass, especially from the third level to the top level. The top level is very tight that even the average sized person can have difficulty squeezing on to the outside observation area. Despite these difficulties, the climb is well worth it. Plus as a bonus, you get a certificate to show your friends and family that you achieved the climb to the top.
Before deciding to make the trip into the monument there are a few good facts to know. The monument has no elevators and is therefore neither wheelchair accessible nor handicap friendly. Those who have claustrophobia may want to defer from making the climb up the monument since the staircase does get narrower as you reach the top. If you do feel dizzy, taking a break on each level is encouraged on the journey up and down. It can also sometimes get windy as you go up each level, so it is best to place loose items in your bag and to have a sturdy grip to the railing or wall.
4-Princes Street Gardens
After visiting the Scott Monument, take a walk through the Princes Street Gardens. The gardens are located between Waverly Bridge and The Mound. It is a public park that lies in the division of the Old and New towns. The gardens have a great view of the Edinburgh castle that sits on top of its hill. From this view you can see how the castle was a great fortress in the past. Among the beautiful flowers and green lawns is the Ross Fountain, another landmark in Edinburgh. Also throughout the park are several other monuments that commemorate famous writers and historical figures.
Weeks before Christmas the east end of the gardens are transformed into a Winter Wonderland. The gardens are filled with amusement rides and a Christmas Market that offers gifts and food for the season.
5- Princes Street Shopping
Princes Street has many retail stores to buy the latest fashion and souvenirs for your loved ones. One of the most popular stores on the street is Primark. Primark is where you can get the latest fashion at an affordable price. This retailer has locations all over the United Kingdom and other parts across Europe. You can snag more fashionable goods from other major brands such as Top Shop, H&M, Marks & Spencer department store and Jenners. Jenners was once the longest independent department stores in Edinburgh until its partnership with the House f Frasier in 2005. The architecture of the building and balconied halls are quite stunning.
As for getting some souvenirs, there are many various items available at the Pride of Scotland store. From clothes to magnets, trinkets and food items there are lots to choose from. If you do not find anything at this particular store, there are plenty of more souvenir stores along the Royal Mile.
Also on Princes Street is a tea shop called Whittard of Chelsea. They usually have a couple samples for customers to taste and excellent service if you need help in choosing a selection of tea. Whittard has a variety of loose-leaf teas, blends, flowering teas and instant teas ready to take home. In addition coffees, hot chocolate, tea pots and other supplies are for sale to get that perfect cup.
For more information, see below:
The Royal Mile
Edinburgh EH1 2NG
+44 0131 225 9846
Summer Hours (April 1st-September 30th) 9:30am-6pm/ Winter Hours (October 1st-March 31st) 9:30am-5pm, Last entry 1 hour before closing
Admission: Adult £16.00, Child (Ages 5-15) £9.60, Under 5 Free, Concession (60 yrs+ and unemployed) £12.80
Palace of Holyroodhouse
The Royal Mile
Edinburgh EH8 8DX
+44 020 7766 7334
Summer Hours (April – October) 9:30-6:00pm/ Winter Hours (January – March, November & December) 9:30am-4:30pm, Last entry 1 hour before closing
Admission: Adult £11.00, Over 60/Student (with valid ID) £10.00, Under 17 £6.65
Under 5 Free, Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £29.25
The Royal Yacht Britannia
Ocean Drive, Leith
Edinburgh EH6 6JJ
+44 0131 555 5566
Summer Hours (July-September) 9:30am-4:30pm/ Spring & Fall Hours (April-June & October) 9:30am-4:00pm/ Winter Hours (November-March) 10:00am-3:30pm
December 24 last admission 2:30pm, December 31 last admission 3:00pm
Closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day
Admission: Adult £12.00, Over 60/Student (with valid ID) £10.50, Under 18 £7.50
Under 5 Free, Family (2 adults, 3 children) £35.00
Edinburgh Bus Tours
Edinburgh EH1 1BQ
+44 0131 220 0770
Bus Tours start at 9:30am daily
Edinburgh Information Centre
3 Princes Street
Edinburgh EH2 2QP
+44 8452 255121
East Princes Street Gardens
Edinburgh EH2 2EJ
+44 0131 529 4068
Summer Hours (April-September) Monday-Saturday 10:00am-7:00pm, Sunday 10:00am-6:00pm/ Winter Hours (October-March) Monday-Saturday 9:00am-4:00pm, Sunday 10:00am-6:00pm
Admission: £4.00 (cash only)
Princes Street Gardens
Edinburgh EH2 2EJ
+44 0131 529 7921
November – February: 7:00am – 5:00pm (closing from 4:15pm)
March – April: 7:00am – 7:00pm (closing from 6:15pm)
May – June: 7:00am – 8:00pm (closing from 7:15pm)
July – August: 7:00am – 10:00pm (closing from 9:15pm)
September – October: 7:00am -7:00pm (closing from 6:15pm)