We’re in Edinburgh! Man, we sure covered a lot of the U.K in just one day. We left Northern Wales this morning, spent part of the afternoon in London and then hopped on a train for the 4 & 1/2 hour train ride to Edinburgh..whew! We were very happy to finally be here.
We grabbed our luggage, hopped off the train and walked through the train station. I couldn’t wait to get outside and see the city.
As we opened the train station doors and walked outside we were nearly speechless at the sight of the medieval-looking city that greeted us. With its stunning spires, elegant steeples and voluptuous turrets dotting its skyline, the city of Edinburgh was certainly a spectacular sight to behold.
It’s easy to see why this city has captivated the hearts of so many. I felt like we’d hopped into a time machine (by way of a DeLorean, of course) and went back in time a few centuries, or so.
It was surreal.
I was in love with this spectacular city already, and we haven’t even seen the castle yet!
If you caught my first post of this trip you’ll know this visit to Scotland wasn’t actually planned. We were in the U.K visiting my friend’s Aunt in Llandudno in Northern Wales (post on that trip soon!) and after several fun-filled days there, we had a couple of days left before flying back home. So we decided on the spur-of-the-moment (classic road trip-style) to go to Scotland.
Neither of us have been there before and since we both have some Scottish in our blood we thought it was imperative to visit the birthplace of our ancestors. We chose Edinburgh specifically because Al’s mom went to University there, so he was keen to see her college town.
Plus it is Edinburgh, after all. Not only is this city now a World Heritage site, it’s chock full of fascinating history, medieval stone buildings, the famous Royal Mile (even though it is a wee bit touristy) and one of the biggest draws to the city: Edinburgh Castle. This last one was reason enough to visit Edinburgh, we thought.
We decided the first order of business here was to find a hotel room. Since our trip was rather spontaneous, we hadn’t booked anything yet.
We chose the The Old Waverly Hotel as it was in the perfect location– right across from the train station! It also wasn’t too insanely expensive and we loved that it was the first hotel in Edinburgh (built in 1848). But what really sold it to us is that it’s, apparently, haunted! Sounded perfect (ha ha).
The rooms were quite small, not too surprisingly (as many European hotels room are) but it was very clean and we liked the atmosphere and the elegant decorations throughout the hotel.
We also loved that this Monument was right outside the hotel doors:
This incredible Victorian Gothic monument, built for writer Sir Walter Scott, is the largest monument to a writer in the world.
You can also climb it to get a great view of the city, but we didn’t have a lot of time here (we’re leaving tomorrow) so we opted out of this one. But even just standing near this 200 ft, spire-like Gothic statue towering above us was absolutely incredible.
Also across the street is the Royal Scot Grey’s bronze statue which depicts a Royal Scots Dragoon Guard in uniform, complete with a bearskin hat, sword and rifle.
We checked in, put our luggage in our room and then dropped the room key off at the front desk. Oh yes, we actually got a real ‘key’ for our door that we were asked to leave at reception upon leaving hotel. Talk about time travel. They’re at least a century behind right here in this hotel (ha ha!). It made our stay here all that much more authentic, though.
We made our way to Old Town (just a few minutes away) and as we approached the area we realized we must have gotten back into our time machine once again, to a couple of centuries earlier. We were now standing in Edinburgh’s oldest neighbourhood which dates back to medieval times.
The streets here are cobbled (many of them, but not all) which made for slightly tricky walking because we were too busy looking up at all the spectacular buildings to watch where we were going.
The Royal Mile is a long thoroughfare (about a mile in distance, not too surprisingly) composed of ancient streets that stretch from the Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official home of the Kings & Queens of Scotland.
The name of the street comes from its tradition as a processional route for the Royalty for the last 5 centuries. The Royal Mile is basically the historic spine of this Medieval city.
There used to be a giant wall around Edinburgh’s Old Town. It was built in 1560 when the Scots were worried about an invasion from the English. The wall remained hemmed around the city for roughly 200 years.
Both the Old Town and New town (the main downtown area of Edinburgh where you’ll find the train station) are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Royal Mile is definitely a bit more touristy these days with its many souvenir and tartan-wear stores along the street, but there are also great little shops, pubs, restaurants and historic buildings (like churches) too.
Al used to be a huge Warhammer Gaming fan back in the day, so he was excited to see this store. He wasn’t too happy that it was closed, though.
In case you’re wondering, we did not go to the ‘Elephant House’ the tea room where J.K Rowling used to hang out in while writing Harry Potter. We didn’t actually see it and we forgot to check for it on our journey along the Mile. Oops.
This place was cool though. It’s probably no J.K Rowling hang-out I’m sure, but a baked potato shop? Now that’s something you don’t see every day.
I loved that I was suddenly the ‘Hottest Tattie in Town’, for the few seconds I was standing under this awning, anyway (ha ha!).
We stopped for a coffee so we could get our caffeine fix (we were up insanely early today to catch the early morning train to London, and neither of us are morning people). We were starting to get a bit tired so the coffee gave us a bit of energy to do some more sightseeing on the Mile.
How is this for a medieval church? St. Giles Cathedral, built in 1120, is dedicated to St. Giles, the patron saint of Edinburgh. I just loved the steeple, the beautiful intricate design and the stained glass windows. Truly stunning…
So many wonderful buildings and places to check out here, and too little time unfortunately. One day in Edinburgh is certainly not long enough at all. I think we’d need a few days, at the very least.
After a couple of hours of walking and sightseeing we were getting fairly hungry so we decided it was time to grab some dinner. And, since we are in Scotland it would probably be sacrilege to be here and not go into a pub, have a pint— and maybe a wee drab of whiskey?
We decided on the Mitre Bar which is a cozy local pub with delicious food, friendly service and a delicious pint of Guinness! (Shh! Don’t tell my Irish ancestors I had my first Guinness here in the U.K in Scotland instead of Ireland–I’d probably be hung if they found that out, thanks!)
Al looked a bit worried to drink it as well. But since he doesn’t have any Irish ancestors (just Welsh and Scottish) I’m not quite sure what he was scared of. It was rather amusing to watch him, though.
After a few sips, Al was a very happy camper. Must be a really fantastic pint of Guinness as he doesn’t look this excited drinking it back home….well, most of the time.
After a refreshing pint or two, a delicious Scottish meal, and a long day of train travel and sightseeing, we were pretty exhausted. The sun was starting to set (it was almost 10pm and– like Al’s hometown of Whitehorse, Yukon–the sun sets here in Scotland fairly late at this time of year too) so we took a couple of photos of the Mile at sunset and then started making our way back to the hotel to get some rest.
Tomorrow we’re off to Edinburgh Castle! Stay tuned for Part 3 of our marvelous Highland Adventure 😀