When planning a trip to Scotland, Edinburgh should be on your list of stops! Chris and I visited Edinburgh many times while living in England and every time we found something new to explore!
If you like history, castles, shopping, markets, art, architecture and even some hiking nearby, Edinburgh is the city for you! Now I know this basically sounds like every European city, but there was something about Edinburgh that continued to bring us back. Maybe it’s our Viking roots or my husband’s red beard that draws us closer to this place, but there’s something mysterious and intriguing about Edinburgh…. maybe it’s the fog?
What to do?
The Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is probably the most famous site to see in this city. Standing tall atop a cliff, the castle overlooks the city below. We don’t normally take tours of castles, but this time we decided to walk throughout its halls and courtyards. We went in the summer, so there were a lot of tourists, but it was still fascinating to explore the history that Edinburgh castle had to offer. I remember a moment while sitting in a courtyard overlooking the western part of the city and bagpipes started playing somewhere from around the castle grounds. It was such a memorable moment as this was my first time in Scotland and it really set the mood.
Royal Edinburgh Tattoo
After you’ve finished up at the castle, start walking down the royal mile (Edinburgh’s high street). When we were there in August, there was a lot going on! We got to see the royal tattoo up towards the castle entrance. And no, this was not Prince William getting a tramp stamp, rather a tattoo is what the Scottish call a military drill with music. Essentially you have a bunch of guys in kilts in a parade square with bagpipes… it’s pretty cool and very Scottish, so don’t miss it!
As you continue down the Royal Mile, you might run into a smorgasbord of local artists selling their pieces out in the street. We were there in August for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, therefore this may not be the case year round. Mixed into the artists, you’ll notice dancers, singers, magicians and those weird mimes that paint themselves all gold/silver. Of course, this is a very popular street, so you’ll notice a bunch of boutique stores selling local art, trinkets and other Scottish Paraphernalia. If you want to find really unique art that is probably less tourist focused, wander down some of the back streets and find local galleries.
Deacon Brody’s Tavern
As you wander down the Royal Mile, you’ll probably get thirsty and want to stop for a pint of beer. Deacon Brody’s is a great place to stop! The bar is usually always packed (first sign that it’s going to be good!) and the atmosphere is filled with the rich culture of Scotland. Make sure to ask the waiters or bartenders about the history of the bar — it’s a cool story!
Once you’ve walked the Royal Mile, you should head towards Holyrood Park. There you’ll find a hiking trail that takes you to Arthur’s Seat. Even if you’re not a big fan of walking uphill (I mean when I put it that way it doesn't really sound all that great), but this view will be well worth the hike! At the top, you’ll get a panoramic view of Edinburgh including the Edinburgh Castle, you’ll have worked off some of what you ate at Deacon Brody’s Tavern and you’ll get the sense of what type of a person it took to establish settlements in this region of the UK. The Scots are some hardy people!
Once you’ve climbed back down from Arthur’s Seat, it’s time to explore the other side of the Royal Mile. Walk through the old cobbled streets, down passed the Scottish National Gallery, cross over the train tracks and you’ll see another classic Edinburgh skyline. The Scott Monument looks like something out of villain’s gothic city, but it’s a really cool monument to a Scottish writer named Sir Walter Scott. Want to walk some more, but this time up 287 stairs? This monument allows you to walk to the top for some more beautiful shots of the city! We were there when they had a big Ferris Wheel (probably for the Edinburgh Art Festival) but that was a cool way to see the city if you didn’t want to do the stair climber.
Headed back into lower Edinburgh, we found there to be a bustling market in the historical Grassmarket Square. There are lots of little stalls, restaurants, and vendors selling everything from baked goods to antiques. We actually picked up some really cute home decor from some of the market’s antique sellers. Grassmarket Square is a great way to end your day.
Where to Stay?
There’s only one place we trust when visiting Edinburgh, and that’s the Norton house hotel and Spa. Approximately 14 miles outside the city center, which I know sounds like a lot but it's totally worth the taxi drive! We just got an average room, which still boasted super comfy beds, TV’s in the bathtub, big bathrooms and Scottish highland decor. The hotel restaurant cooks up some scrumptious Scottish dishes. I was even bold enough to try Haggis! The bar staff is incredibly friendly, and if they still make it, order a “long drive home” signature cocktail. I have no idea how to make it, but it was one of the best cocktails I think I’ve ever had… and I’ve had a lot lol! The grounds of the hotel are great for walks in the morning and perfect for evenings out on the patio. When we go back to Edinburgh, we will always go back to Norton House!
We hope you enjoyed the suggestions! And If you visit, comment below and let us know if you feel the same way about Edinburgh as we do! We always love to know your thoughts! Also if we missed anything, comment below so we can go next time!