Edinburgh or Edin’brrr!’? As I’ve been calling it for the last few months!
Yep, so we may have picked the coldest month of the year to visit but I can still complain because let me tell you, it was bitter! In December 2018, my friend and I took a trip to the delightful (and cold) Scottish capital; and I’ve got to say, despite the freezing temperatures and seriously strong winds, it is my favourite city of all. *Alarm sounds abruptly*. Yep, I said it, raise the alarms, I think I’ve found my favourite city; for the following reasons…
- Everyone we met was bloody lovely. Now the fact that Christmas was just around the corner may have contributed to the amicable and friendly glow of the Scottish faces we encountered, but I’ve been told by many Edinburgh visitors that in general, the people there are just bloody lovely – all year round – and gosh doesn’t it make a difference?! I’ve been to plenty of places where the locals are unwilling to help or just seem incapable of smiling so to feel welcome so quickly, was just great.
- It’s the best of all worlds. For sure, you’ve got a bit of everything in Edinburgh…a large city abrim with the high street favourites as well as the more trendy tiendas, every type of eatery going (don’t forget the Haggis stalls!) and even a Maison de Moggy – Scotland’s first cat cafe! You’ve also got plenty of green spaces and amazing scenery just a hop, skip and a jump away from the city centre. For example, the stunning Pentland Hills Regional Park is approximately 30 minutes down the road and Arthur’s Seat, the main peak of the group of hills in Edinburgh, is walk-able or within a 15 minute car ride from the city. Crucially, from Arthur’s Seat, and certainly most vantage points in the city, you can see the sea; with the buzzing port district of Leith as well as Portobello Beach just a 20 minute drive away.
- It’s mediev-ally pretty. Now I do like my history, and medieval history especially, so for me, it felt like I’d stepped back in time and was basically on the set of what would probably be my favourite film – well except from the cars and the trams and the modern day attire and well, you get the picture. Ultimately, the buildings are old and extremely pretty, making the city picturesque, traditional and just bloomin’ great really.
So where did we go and what did we do…?
National Museum of Scotland
Bigger than you think with an impressive and unexpected high ceiling dome inside! Lots to be learnt here with Sea life, Space, Minerals and Fashion collections. It certainly kept us amused and out of the cold for a few hours!
Oh I do love a good castle, and Edinburgh’s did not disappoint. Standing high and proud on a huge rock – it is visible from many places within the city. At the time of visiting – December 2018 – the entry cost for one adult was £18.50. Once inside, I also bought an audio guide for an additional £3.50 which was definitely worth it. I learnt so much about the castle, it’s history, the conditions, the people who lived there, who was born and died in which rooms! And so on.
Before visiting, I’d heard about the Ghost Tours conducted around Edinburgh and as a history nerd and somewhat of a thrill-seeker, I was eager to do one. We did a bit of research online and found that actually, the free ghost tour came highly recommended. We booked our place online earlier in the day, and come the evening, scurried on down to the meeting point for a 7pm start. Our tour guide was a young Scottish woman with a strong accent, who was a great story-teller with a real passion for Edinburgh’s dark history – the very epitome of who I expected to lead such a tour – I loved it. The tour lasted approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes and was entertaining from beginning to end. Upon conclusion of the tour, the guide asks that if you want to make a cash donation, they’d be very appreciative but also, that it is not at all required.
The Christmas markets were actually the first thing we did because we arrived on a Thursday and knew it would be considerably quieter then than on the weekend (we returned on the Saturday to purchase some earrings I couldn’t stop thinking about and sure enough, our suspicions were confirmed as we joined the huge mob of people being herded through the walkways between stalls; moral of the story – avoid the weekend!)
With it being calmer on the Thursday, we had plenty of space and time to mooch around the stalls and see everything the market had to offer. Being surrounded by the city’s medieval buildings and outlines, with glistening lights and festive music, was really quite magical.
Scottish National Gallery
The National Gallery was situated right next to the Christmas markets and we popped in for an hour for shelter from the rain one afternoon. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m not a huge art person, I couldn’t tell you what brushes, strokes or effects have been used, but I can appreciate good pieces when I see them and this place had plenty. It was a nice hour spent gazing at paintings far superior to the stick men I have spent years perfecting.
Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
This place isn’t far from the castle and was a really fun way to spend an hour or so. We went one evening and managed to capture some moody photos of the city and its colourful lights from the viewing platform on the top floor. There are some entertaining activities and illusions inside that get your brain thinking and bring out your inner-child!
Arthur’s Seat was the last thing we did – mainly because it took us a few days to hype ourselves up to do it! In two of the Edinburgh Castle slideshow photos above, you can see for yourselves that the peak looks quite formidable and can then perhaps understand and share our apprehensiveness. Anyway, the main thing is is that we did it! And I’ve got the photos to prove it!
As mentioned above, Arthur’s Seat isn’t far from the city at all, you could probably get there in a car from almost anywhere in Edinburgh town within 15/20 minutes, depending on traffic of course. The walk itself is longer and harder – as you’d probably guessed! It took my friend and I a good 50 minutes to reach the top, however, we did stop for air and views, okay well yes, mainly just air – a number of times.
Warning! The summit is very rocky and not easy to climb so don’t be wearing your high heels up there – although we did see one lady in huge heeled boots who managed to do it without twisting her ankle, so credit to her! You can see the terrain in the last photo in the slideshow above – behind the dial. I’ve learnt that it’s this way because Arthur’s Seat is in fact, an extinct volcano! Fun fact for you there. Anyway, it’s well worth the climb because the views of Edinburgh and the sea are both pretty amazing; I’ve heard it’s a good vantage point to see the sunset too:)