The city of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, was the next stop on our UK tour following our trip to London. Why go here you might ask? Domestic flights in the UK are somewhat affordable so it was a no-brainer for us to visit this famous city known for its beautiful landscapes and historic castles. The trip was only a 1-hour flight, but If you don't want to fly there's also a fast train service that will take you there in about 4.5 hours.
Edinburgh is referred to as the birthplace of Harry Potter since it was the home of JK Rowling when she wrote the majority of the books. In fact, the author penned some of the books at The Elephant House, the cafe pictured below, where you can go for a meal or a cup of coffee. It makes sense that Rowling was so inspired by the city, when we first arrived I was in awe at how old the buildings looked with the medieval architecture and cobblestone roads.
The weather in Edinburgh is very unpredictable, it could be windy and raining one minute and sunny and warm in the next. I carried a rain jacket and umbrella in my backpack so I could take it out when needed, which ended up being almost the entire time. We were lucky that the rain held off when we visited the city's vantage points: Arthur's Seat and Calton Hill.
Our Air BnB was conveniently located right in the city’s center off of the Royal Mile on Blackfriars Street. Even though it was a hassle to walk up the four flight of stairs with our luggage or drop off our shopping goods, I loved our little flat! It felt cozy and had a large living space with window seats overlooking Arthur’s Seat. I could easily picture myself living here in Edinburgh in a small charming flat like this one.
Arthur’s Seat is a dormant volcano and the highest peak in the group of small hills in Edinburgh. It was a strenuous uphill hike but the view was definitely worth it! The top provides incredible panoramic views of the city skyline from all angles. We took a more challenging route up the hill and the easier main trail down, completing our hike near the entrance to Holyrood Palace.
Located in the center of of the city, Calton Hill is a short uphill walk with a great viewpoint of the city. Although a lot smaller than Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill is still worth a visit to admire the monuments. My favorite monument, reminiscent of roman architecture, is the National Monument of Scotland, the 12-column landmark overlooking the city of Edinburgh.
Perched on volcanic rock above the city, the castle is one of the most famous spectacles to see in Edinburgh. With a long history of conflict between the English and the Scots, the structure has been through its fair share of destruction, renovations, and additions. Today it houses the Scottish Crown Jewels and serves as an active military base. I would recommend touring the castle in the morning since it quickly becomes overcrowded with many other tourists.
Princes Street Gardens
Dividing the old town from the new, Princes Street Gardens is the best-known park in Edinburgh. Interestingly, the park was a man-made lake in medieval times used as a barrier and dumping ground for sewage and trash. Drained over time and made into gardens, Princes Street is now a scenic park that provides an excellent viewpoint of the castle along with many other famous buildings. After your stroll, Princes Street that runs alongside the park has numerous shops with bigger brands like Primark, H&M, and Topshop if your in need of some retail therapy.
For a 5 pound donation to the local falconry center, I was able to hold Guinevere the owl. I’m obsessed with owls so this was a must-do for me while in Edinburgh. Holding the owl gave me an adrenaline rush! My heart was beating so fast as this huge bird stood on my arm. I was encouraged to go cheek-to-cheek with the owl so I hesitantly pressed my cheek up to Guinevere. I felt her fluffy face against mine and was so glad that I took advantage of the opportunity. If I didn’t look like I was beaming with happiness I sure felt like it!
The Royal Mile is the main stretch in the Old Town part of Edinburgh between the Edinburgh Castle and the Holyrood Palace. The road has many restaurants, pubs, and shops begging to be explored. You won’t have any difficulty finding Scottish gifts and souvenirs to bring home with you here as many stores along the mile sell lamb wool scarves and hats, cashmere sweaters, and Celtic jewelry.
Victoria Street is one of the city’s prettiest streets with its curved cobblestone road and vibrant rainbow-colored buildings. The street is known as Edinburgh’s own Diagon Alley, serving as inspiration for part of JK Rowling’s wizarding world. I visited a sweet little cafe on this street called La Barantine for a picturesque cappuccino and a pastry.
To get the true Scottish experience I should have tried haggis, but I wasn't able to muster up the courage. When comparing the food to London, the Scots do it better! Their pubs offer the best meat pies like steak and ale or chicken and leek with a golden flaky puff pastry and mashed potatoes on the side. My husband and I ate quite a few treats during our visit. We sampled fruit scones with clotted cream and jam, layered cakes, and coffees galore!
When asked if we would return to Edinburgh by our Uber driver, I replied that I would love to come back to Scotland but instead venture out to the northern part and see the Isle of Skye. It was tricky fitting two separate locations into our 8-day UK trip but the city of Edinburgh was well worth the detour!