Scotland: Edinburgh

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Our travel in Scotland started from Edinburgh. And I completely fell in love with this city!

On the first day, Edinburgh was very dark and gloomy, with intermittent drizzling rain and low fog. And by coincidence it was also a day of our visit to the Edinburgh castle. I was impressed: inclement weather matched those stone dark buildings very well! They have been standing there stately for centuries and seemed quite haughty to me. That day was the day I thought about Edinburgh as a very cold city that is so distant from its inhabitants as were noble people from peasants centuries ago. The only things that were creating bright moments were umbrellas and rain jackets of hundreds of tourists who despite bad weather were willing to get to know the city more.

But I was pleasantly surprised when on the second day the sun came out and Edinburgh completely transformed! In the gardens on the Princes Street, with a beautiful view of the castle, many locals and tourists gathered, enjoying warm grass and sunny hours. Streets did not seem grey anymore, but rather coloured in multiple tones of brown, intermittent with vivid signboards of restaurants and colourful scarves of hundreds of wool shops. We spent hours walking up and down the streets, window-shopping and sitting on the grass in the parks staring at people passing by.

View on the Princes Street and gardens

There were several things that I visited and did in Edinburgh:

  1. Edinburgh castle is a must! It is better (and easier and cheaper) to buy tickets in advance online, print them and take with you. The queue to the ticket office was enormous! We spent about 4 hours walking in the castle and exploring all museums and exhibitions it has.
  2. National Museum of Scotland is also a must, especially if the days are rainy and cold. It has a free entrance (and free Wi-Fi!), features an enormous collection of everything: animals, clothes, furniture, cars and motorbikes, Scottish history, technology and many more. There are many interactive things to play, touch and experiment with. We visited it four times, each time about three hours!
  3. Scottish National Gallery: the entrance to the main collection is free, and although it is not a huge collection, it exhibits many well-known artists. 
  4. Calton Hill: it seems like a long hike up, but it is not: there is a staircase leading up to the hill. From there I enjoyed a vivid sunset over Edinburgh. There are also some memorials that can be visited and generally enough space to wander a bit. You can see Edinburgh harbour from there! 
  5. Arthur’s seat: this is a hike to the top of the nearby “mountain” (actually more like a hill) where according to a legend once was the Arthur’s castle situated (legendary King Arthur!). There are no ruins but a lot of tourists hiking up and a lot of mosquitos enjoying tourists’ blood. I did not take pleasure in the way up, partly because we confused some paths and took a much longer route, but the view was stunning: 360 degree over the city, sea and surroundings. Don’t forget to put on boots with a strong sole and take an anti-mosquito spray!
  6. Edinburgh Gin distillery: we booked a tour with them in advance, and it was totally worth it! We learned about a history of gin in the UK, about production cycle and what types of gin are produced nowadays. We also tried out different gins and had a gin tonic with a classic tonic from Fever-Tree!
  7. Palace of Holyroodhouse: I was very excited for this once (it is an official residence of the Queen!), but in the end it was quite ordinary and plain: several rooms with little information about them, but a large portrait collection of members of the Royal family and noble English and Scottish people. The ruins of the Holyrood abbey are picturesque, but that’s it. But it seems that the real hit was a royal shop selling royal souvenirs: for example, a hand cream of a price of 7.5 pounds flabbergasted me quite a bit. Many tourists were buying incredible amounts of royal tea, royal towels and royal shower gels!

There are two more things in Edinburgh that I have not visited, but heard good things about them:

  • Zoo
  • Botanical Garden

If you visit them, let me know, what you think!

Edinburgh is truly a city for long leisurely walks, enjoying the architecture and atmosphere, providing of course that there is no rain involved.

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