If you’re not new to the blog, you might remember that I visited Edinburgh last year on a solo trip.
I loved it that much that I decided to go back and try to explore a bit more of Scotland.
The plan was to fly to Edinburgh and then head up to Inverness, Lochness and Skye but we didn’t have enough time so we spent two days in Edinburgh and then rented a car, stopping along the way to visit some castles and driving up to Aberdeen.
For our stay in Edinburgh we picked the Hampton by Hilton in the West End.
The location was good, 10 minutes from Edinburgh Castle and Haymarket (easy to get there with the bus number 100 from the airport – £15 return) and it was brand new. I have the suspect it just opened because when I booked it, the hotel had no reviews at all. So it was a bit risky, but it went well. The room was spacious, the breakfast was tasty (yummy waffles!) so overall, good choice.
On the first day we decided to start with a visit to Edinburgh Castle. Since our trip was mainly about castles, we decided to buy the Explorer Pass. The price is £31 for a 3 day pass (you can use it over 5 days) and it gives you access to a number of locations around Scotland. For us, it was very convenient seeing the number of castles we wanted to see. To give you an idea: Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle have a total price of £30 – we visited 3 more locations included in the pass for £31.
Edinburgh Castle is pretty impressive from below: Castle Rock, as it’s called, is overlooking the city and seems pretty insurmountable. The view from the top is remarkable too. The castle itself was ok, but I am only saying this because I had a crush on Stirling Castle. 🙂
After spending some time at the castle, we walked downtown, passing by Victoria Street, which seems to be the one that inspired Diagon Alley in Harry Potter – in fact there are couple of shops about the popular book saga. Also, worth a visit, is a cemetery close by called Greyfriars Kirkyard where there’s also Bobby’s grave. Bobby was a dog that visited his owner’s grave every day till it died. Aw.
After a quick lunch at Byron (quick yes, light don’t think so), I decided to head for the Real Mary King’s close tour (£15) because I really wanted to see Edinburgh’s underground. If you don’t like small and dark places and suffer from claustrophobia, I would suggest you skip it.
I couldn’t take any pictures of it, but it’s a bunch of narrows streets and there’s a guide giving you all the historic details. Go for it if you like history and are curious about how life was back in the days in Edinburgh. Also, if you’re into ghosts then you might like the location.
The sun was setting so we decided to find a good spot to see it and went up to Calton Hill – what a view!
We were too tired to walk too much for dinner, so we went to a Japanese restaurant next door called http://www.makimaki-restaurant.co.uk/ – the sushi was super fresh and I loved fact that anyone could write and leave some post it on the wall!
On day 2 we started with a visit at Grassmarket (15/20 min walk from our hotel) to head to the National Museum of Scotland (it’s free! It opens at 10, at least in November) where we had a great time, exploring the interactive collections and the section dedicated only to Scotland’s history.
It was a coldish day but we then decided to go to the Royal Botanic Gardens (easy bus ride from the city centre). I loved it, even if one of the glasshouse was closed when we visited.
It was a grey day and quite chilly but we went on exploring Leith, north of the city. This neighbourhood was independent till 1920, when it was then merged to Edinburgh. We wanted to see the Royal Yacht Britannia from the outside (Her Majesty’s Yacht in service till 1997) but we were a bit disappointed that a massive shopping mall was built basically in front of it and you can only access it from there. Also, the Ocean Terminal Shopping Mall was a bit sad, it reminded me of Brighton, in the way that maybe it was popular once but it’s a bit out of fashion now.
Anyway, we ended our second day in Edinburgh with a traditional pub dinner at Biddy Mulligans located at Grassmarket. We had a nice dinner and loved the live music. Better to book a table if you want to dine on a Friday evening.
Day 2, 3 and 4 are about our road trip… stay tuned to find out more!