Ah, Edinburgh. The omnipresent sound of bagpipes, that you can never escape, the besotting smell of whisky in the air, the checkered tartan… My feelings for this city (and Scotland generally) are so deep and infinite that expressing them clearly is always a challenge. This very first post about the city is only an introduction to it. It came as a surprise for me that quite a few people are not very aware of Edinburgh (luckily, it’s hidden in the shadow of London). So what is this place?
Here is what you might want to know and definitely should visit during your first stay in Edinburgh.
1. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, 4th largest city of the United Kingdom (after London, Birmingham and Glasgow).
It’s a very old city – first records of human habitation in Edinburgh dates back to c. 8500 BC
2. Whoa, there is a medieval castle right in the middle of the city! I keep admiring this view every time I find myself anywhere around. Edinburgh Castle is your first must-see. It’s kind of pricy though, especially if you are a student. Even my University of Edinburgh student card wasn’t in any way useful. But it is definitely worth a visit. You can look up the prices and opening hours here.
3. Whoa, there is an extinct volcano ALSO right in the middle of the city! Arthur’s Seat is the main peak of the group of hills in Edinburgh (yeah, we have quite a variety of places to hike). The hike to the top of the Arthur’s Seat itself is not that hard and provides amazing panoramic views of the city. Entrance is free. Works well also as a gym
4. The most famous street of Edinburgh – The Royal Mile – is a 1 mile and 107 yards long street with two royal buildings on the two ends – Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace – hence the name. Today it is the “tourist land”, but this does not in any way make it less charming or significant.
5. Holyrood Palace is the official residency of the HRM the Queen. Basically, it’s the Edinburgh version of the Buckingham Palace in London. This is not really a must-see, but it is nice to visit. Works as a venue for art exhibitions, too.
6. Little proud Scotland has its very own Parliament, also known as Holyrood. In 1998 Westminster devolved powers to Scotland, making it more independent. The new building of Holyrood was opened in 2004 and is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in architecture and design and history of Scotland and Scottish-English relations (fun topic). Friendly scots offer a variety of tours of the Parliament.
7. The University of Edinburgh – sorry, can’t miss the opportunity to show it off (just a bit). It was founded in 1583 and is located all around the city. Pictured is the Old College, University’s main administration building and Law School. You can enter the site free of charge to appreciate the architecture and visit the Talbot Rice gallery and Playfair Library.
8. One of the most famous monuments in Edinburgh and pictured on every single postcard is that of Greyfriars Bobby – Scottish version of Hachikō. Long story short, a Skye Terrier named Bobby is said to have spent supposedly 14 years at his owner’s grave at the Greyfriars kirkyard, which is located right across the road from the monument and is another tourist destination. It has the grave of William MacGonagall – Scottish worst poet.
9. Elephant’s House claims to be the birthplace of Harry Potter, as J.K. Rowling was often spotted there. The truth is that its not (I will tell more about this in the next post), but it still has nice food and prices and a very good Haggis, Neeps and Tatties.
10. Grassmarket was a traditional place of execution, but luckily that’s in the past and today it is just a nice square and market place. Pubs in Grassmarket are as old and have some creepy stories to tell, such as the story of Maggie Dickson. My other favourite spot to come and visit in Grassmarket is a vintage store Armstrong and sons.
And here is a bonus video of a light installation Keyframes:
As I said, this is only an introduction and there is more to come. I hope you enjoyed reading this post and are excited to read more about this stunning city in my next post!
P.S: photos of Holyrood Palace and the Parliament were taken from Google, as I was a bit busy revising recently or did not manage to get good shots of these venues.