Edinburgh Castle

Located on the shores of the Firth of Forth in southeast Scotland, Edinburgh is Scotland’s majestic capital.  This picturesque city, built around the Royal Mile, has many amazing sights and a rich history, spanning many centuries.  Many will say that Edinburgh is the best city in Scotland and it’s hard to argue.  The city absolutely comes alive every August during the Edinburgh Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Things you MUST do/see:

Edinburgh Castle – Perched on Castle Rock at the top of the Royal Mile in the heart of the city, the Edinburgh Castle is the central structure that defines the downtown area.  The first castle structure was built in 1130 and the outer walls of this structure still stand today.  Since that time, the castle has been the sight of many battles and therefore the buildings have been rebuilt many times over the centuries.  There is a lot of history in Edinburgh Castle, as it was believed that whoever controlled the castle controlled Scotland.  It is currently home to the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny.  The castle is an absolute must see for any visitors to Edinburgh!

Hollyrood Palace – At the absolute opposite end of the Royal Mile is Hollyrood Palace.  The palace was originally built as an Augustinian monastery in the 12th century.  The palace is currently the vacation home to the British Royals for one week a year.  As a result, it is kept in great condition and the grounds are spectacular!  It is well worth a visit if you have a chance.

Prince’s Street – Prince’s street is kind of the dividing line between the old town and new town of Edinburgh.  It has many good shops all along it and you can get a great view up to the castle from the street level.  While you’re there ask a local for the story about why the park at the bottom of the hill is always so green!

Grassmarket – Located a short walk from the Royal Mile, the Grassmarket is a key shopping area. It is also part of Edinburgh’s historic old town and has many classic buildings to see.

Greyfriars Bobby – Greyfriars is just outside the Grassmarket area that is easily walkable from the top of the Royal Mile.  Greyfriars Bobby is a dog that was said to have been such a loyal companion for his owner that he spent 14 years by his owners’ grave after his passing!!!  There is a statue of Bobby just outside the Greyfriars Kirk where the owner is buried and the cemetery is open to see the grave that Bobby lived out his days beside.

National Museum of Scotland – The National Museum of Scotland contains a huge variety of artifacts from many generations of history.  The collection is too vast to describe in any detail in this post, but it has a little something for everyone.  We were particularly interested in the ancient Scottish relics and Dolly, the first cloned sheep!

Calton Hill – Located on the east end of Prince’s street, Calton Hill is a hill just outside the downtown Edinburgh area that provides great views to the city and is quite the sight  itself.  The hill is home to many monuments, including the National Monument, and Robert Burns Monument.  It is a slightly more difficult place to get to, but is worth going to if you get the chance.

Travels4Couples highly recommended EXPERIENCES:

See the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – Unfortunately, these performances only take place in August in Edinburgh, however, plan to travel this time because the trip is well worth it!  These performances are amazing!!!  The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo involves musical performances from some of the best military bands from around the world.  It takes place in the entrance to Edinburgh Castle and the show uses many great lighting effects on the walls of the Castle that make a spectacular display and backdrop to the show!  It is quite a performance and worth a visit in itself.

Experiencing the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe Festival – The Edinburgh Festival and Fringe Festival takes place over the same period as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  For much of August the town is alive with people, street shows, and performances in multiple locations around the city.  A large section of the Royal Mile is closed down to set up live street performances and many of the local coffee shops, pubs and restaurants have performances for their patrons to watch.  The Tattoo is the main event happening throughout August in Edinburgh, but the festival is a very close second.  Well worth checking out!

Walk the Royal Mile – The Royal Mile is one of the most historic roads in all of Britain.  It spans all the way from the Edinburgh Castle down to the Hollyrood Palace.  Along the way there are many important buildings to check out.  A small word of warning, the walk is not easy and does include an uphill climb for some part of it, but it is worth the effort.

Going on the Real Mary Kings Close Experience – As mentioned earlier, Edinburgh has been through many battles through the centuries.  As a result, it has been rebuilt on many occasions.  On one particular rebuild in the 17th century, the existing buildings were cut off and the other buildings were built right on top!  The Real Mary King’s Close Experience is located right on the Royal Mile and the tour takes visitors under the city of Edinburgh and down to the 17th century streets to get a taste of what life was like at that time.  There are other tours that are “ghost tours” that are designed to scare the guests (entertaining in their own way), but the Real Mary Kings Close is a tour that focuses on informing guests about life on Mary King’s Close.  It was a great experience!

Eat at the Elephant House – This one is strictly for those fans of the Harry Potter Series.  The Elephant House is one of author J.K. Rowling’s favourite hang outs.  It is said that she spent many days in this café working on her books!  The café is a good place to go for a meal; however, it can be quite busy so get there early.

Feed the Reindeer in Cairngorm National Park – This spot is quite a drive from Edinburgh (approximately 3 hours), but it is such a cool experience, it is definitely something to consider.  The reindeer herd is located in the Cairngorm National Park, so the drive in is quite nice as well.  The original herd was brought over from Scandinavia in 1954 and the herd has been looked after by the same family since that time.  A guide takes the guests up to the herd’s pasture and provides some grain to feed the reindeer.  There are only certain times that the tour goes each day, so it is important to look into this before planning a trip up there and make sure to get there on time.  It is such a unique experience and you get to spend a considerable amount of time amongst the reindeer!

Visit St. Andrews – St. Andrews is located about a 1 hour and 20 minute drive from Edinburgh.  It is most well-known for golf, as its old course is considered to be the first courses ever built.  Since Scotland is the birthplace of golf, it seems like a visit to the country’s most historic golf courses is a must.  This course has been featured as the host of multiple professional golfing major championships.  St. Andrews is a pilgrimage spot for golf fans from around the world!  If you would like to say you played golf at St. Andrews but don’t want to pay the expensive green fees that must be booked well in advance, they do have a couple of putting courses/greens that make a for a fun experience.

Travels4Couples #1 ROMANTIC thing to do in Edinburgh:

Climbing Arthur’s Seat – Arthur’s Seat is right on the outskirts of the old town of Edinburgh, in Hollyrood Park.  The remnants of a dormant volcano, it is the highest point in Edinburgh.  The hike up to the top (to what is called Arthur’s Seat) is not an easy walk; in fact it is quite a climb.  There is a nicely prepared rock trail up to the top, but it feels like working out on a stair climber for the better part of an hour!  However, the reward is well worth the journey.  The view from Arthur’s Seat is magnificent!!!  The long journey up is completely forgotten, as you gaze out over Edinburgh in all its glory.  As a little bit of added romance, why not pack a lunch to have up the hill if the weather is nice.  Hollyrood Park also contains the Salisbury Crags, which are basically hills closer to the old town than Arthur’s Seat.  There is a nice walk right along the ridge of the Crags that gives some great scenic views and is well worth a visit.  The climb up Arthur’s Seat and the walk along Salisbury Crags can all be done in half a day, so check it out!