A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel north (from Oxford) to Edinburgh in Scotland with my dad for the weekend. We spent the entire weekend wandering around the stunning city exploring historic castles, palaces and cathedrals. There’s so much beauty to see in Edinburgh that I thought I would share my trip and give you some suggestions if you ever find yourself in Edinburgh for the weekend.
My favorite bit of Edinburgh that I explored was the whole of Old Town. Although New Town, just north of Edinburgh Waverly (the city’s main railway station) and Princes Street Gardens, is charming and filled with many shops and restaurants, Old Town is where the history is! On the highest point of High Street, you’ll find Edinburgh Castle. The stunning castle (which gives real Game of Thrones vibes) overlooks the entire city; a perfect place to get a good look at Edinburgh. Tickets are sold to do a tour of Edinburgh Castle, where many buildings have been turned into miniature museums and exhibits that house artifacts from World War I and World War II. While walking through the castle grounds, you will come across the Royal Palace where Mary Queen of Scots briefly lived and gave birth to her son, the King of Scotland and England, James VI and I.
One of the highlights of my time in Edinburgh was touring the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which can be found on the opposite end of Edinburgh Castle. Getting to the palace is just a walk downhill from the castle where you pass by many charming independently owned shops such as souvenir stores, taverns and Christmas stores that put you in the festive spirit. The palace was built in the 17th century and was the home of Scottish monarchs before joining with England. The Palace of Holyroodhouse is still used to this day for the members of the Royal Family when they are staying in Edinburgh. As a fan of the Royal Family, I loved touring the palace. They provide complimentary audio guides that contain information of the rooms that you’re touring, as well as audio recordings from a few members of the Royal Family including the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex. You can purchase tickets to tour the palace and see where the royals (and other important political and religious figures) stay when they are being entertained in Edinburgh.
Additionally, if you’re a fan of ghosts, it is said that Agnes Sampson, commonly known as Bald Agnes and killed in 1592, roams the palace to this very day.
If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter books or movies, there are many spots throughout Edinburgh that are important to seek out as a lover of witchcraft and wizardry. Author of the series J.K. Rowling wrote the Potter books over coffee in Elephant House. It’s an adorable reader-friendly café and if you’re looking to spark some inspiration for a novel of your own, many writers like to spend their days in hopes of gaining the same success as Rowling. Personally, I would’ve loved to take out my laptop and write in the café but there was much more of Edinburgh that I needed to see.
Rowling is also known to have found the inspiration behind some of the character names by walking through Greyfriars Kirkyard, a cemetery. Just before the cemetery, you’ll come across Greyfriars Bobby Fountain. Bobby, who was a Skye Terrier dog, received a statue after spending 14 years guarding the grave of his former owner until he died in the late 19th century. The fountain was originally built as a drinking fountain, with the top part for humans and the lower part for dogs. People visit the statue and touch Bobby’s nose for good luck. Near the fountain is Greyfriars Bobby bar, where Bobby was welcomed when he was alive. This is a great place to grab a pint or some traditional pub food in the heart of Edinburgh.
There are also many other things to see on your way between the places that I’ve listed above. For instance, St. Giles’ Cathedral can be found in Old Town. It is a stunning cathedral to have a wander through for free. They only ask you to make a small donation to keep the cathedral up and running, and to help maintain its beauty. The Royal Scots Greys Monument can be found along Princes Street and there are nearly dozens of pubs, bars and taverns to explore throughout the city.
I absolutely loved my time in Edinburgh. It has quickly become one of my favorite cities that I’ve explored in Europe. If you’re planning a trip, I hope that you find the places I’ve mentioned as magical as I have.
All photos courtesy of Alexa Burban.