Fairies and Graveyards - Edinburgh
Updated: Jun 6, 2019
This city actually blew me away with how beautiful it is. In May, it can be quite cold and foggy, so plan for rough weather if you go that time of the year. That said, it feels like you stepped back in time and in a different way than the rest of Europe. It’s almost like being in a Harry Potter novel. I loved it.
Hotel: We stayed at an Air BnB near the train station for ease of transportation. The location was perfect because it was walking distance to all of the tourist attractions including the Edinburgh Castle and it was surrounded by good food options. I’d definitely recommend that neighborhood. I’d also even recommend this Air BnB. While it was the basement of a townhouse, we had no issues with noise, the space was large and clean, and the hosts were super welcoming.
What we did:
Edinburgh Castle: We didn’t have tickets in advance, although I’d probably recommend buying them online if you can. Even on a May afternoon 2 hours before closing, the line to buy was long. The other thing to note is that there is a 30 min tour that you can wait for right inside the gates that will give you a good history of the castle and a better understanding of the layout and what there is to see. In addition, if you’re into the war history, the museums inside the castle close an hour before the castle itself does, so keep that in mind.
Holyrood House: Also bought tickets for this online in advance. When we got there, there was another long line to buy tickets, but we went up to the gift shop counter and the person went and printed ours for us. This is a cool tour to do – it’s where the queen lives when she’s in town and the house is very decadent. It’s also the ancestral home of Mary Queen of Scots and has a lot of interesting history. I’d definitely recommend going.
Free Walking Tour: On the second day, we did the Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour that left from the Royal Mile. Check online for their tour times. The tour was 3 hours and our guide’s name was Ryan. He was awesome. We saw almost the entire city and it was well worth the morning. Remember to tip on the free walking tour because the guides do it for free.
Edinburgh By Night Tour: During the free walking tour, the guide recommended that we take the myths and legends tour, which cost about 8 euro per person. Remember to always bring your student ID with you if you have one – you get discounts all over the place in Europe. Anyway, this tour took us around the New Town of the city, as opposed to the free tour which is the old town. While our guide was a bit odd, the tour was pretty interesting.
Calton Hill: if you don’t do the legends night tour from Sandemans, make sure you go up here on a clear day. You’ll get some incredible pictures of the city without having to make the hike up to Arthur’s Seat.
National Museum of Scotland: This museum has the randomest stuff – it’s all pretty cool and it’s huge and slightly interactive. The rooftop has a pretty incredible view of Edinburgh Castle, so definitely recommend going up there. Fair warning, the staircase is a bit old and taking the elevator is hard because it's normally taken by handi-capable guests. The museum in general is perfect if you need to kill some time or if it’s raining
Camera Obsura and World of Illusions: This is basically an amusing tourist trap. We went in at the last minute after our time at the castle because it’s right there on the royal mile. Could take it or leave it.
What we Missed:
The Highlands: I wish we had the time to take a tour out into the Scottish Highlands. There are plenty of tour buses that’ll take you. However, a local friend recommended either renting a car and driving out there or taking the train to the nearby city of Stirling right on the edges of the highlands.
Arthur’s Seat: this is a hike up a mountain to get some amazing views of the city. Personally I thought the view from Calton Hill was enough especially with our reduced timeframe
Royal Yacht Britannia: This is the queen’s yacht. I’m a nerd, so I wanted to see this but it’s pretty far outside walking distance in the city, so we didn’t have time.
Harry Potter walking tour: we heard these were highly overrated so we passed.
Where we ate:
Honestly, the restaurants on the Royal Mile and around it were super busy and not great. I’d recommend venturing out a bit to find food or checking trip advisor (remember Yelp is not popular in Europe).
Howies: This was recommended to us by our tour guide, and it was fantastic. It’s basically a steakhouse, so you’ll need a reservation and definitely check the prices before you go.