Back in April I decided to treat myself to a weekend in Edinburgh after having submitted my dissertation project for my Masters. A friend came with me and we stayed with another friend who lives in Edinburgh and ever so generously put us up for 2 nights. Now this meant we only had 2 and ½ days to explore the capital of Scotland, and having never been there before we went overboard with the planning and tried to fit as much in as possible!
When we first arrived in the afternoon we were a bit disorientated as to which direction to go, but with Edinburgh castle as our first stop, and already prebooked for £10, we decided to just walk toward that until we found what seemed to be a main road or civilisation. The castle itself was this huge cylindrical shape that sat on the top of a mound allowing you to see the entire of Edinburgh and apparently the coast if not for the cloud. We joined the back of a small tour group and enjoyed the explanations for all the buildings and armaments that surrounded the walls. We were then left to explore the crown jewels, the chapel and the dungeons by ourselves, all of which was fascinating in their own right.
Coming out of the castle we ended up walking down market, entering all the quaint little souvenirs shops selling absolute toot that is shockingly irresistible. I debated buying something tartan, but it turned out the Scottish have the utmost respect for their tartan as nothing, not even a scarf, was less than £20. Passing the houses of parliament and national art gallery and gardens, we were impressed with the historical beauty of the buildings although there were only a few.
The second day of our trip was devoted solely to Edinburgh Zoo, so we could see the infamous pandas that had been on display for only a few months. It rained a little but we were lucky and saw the majority of the species in the zoo, but it was the pandas that received the focus of our attention. You have to book in advance in order to queue with a hundred other people, ultimately to be allocated 10 minutes to explore the Panda’s Cheng-du exhibit, only a few minutes of which you actually get to view the pandas themselves. We were incredibly lucky when we got there to have both pandas posing for us quite charismatically, with one sitting facing us and the other rolling about on his back sticking his tongue out at us. They really were an incredible site and I can only hope that them being there will really make a difference to the conservation of such a wonderful species.
The final day of exploring was devoted to Queen Lizzy herself. We walked along Market street again all the way down to Holyrood House, the Queen’s official Scottish residence. We paid approximately £10 to enter and tour the house and grounds. The walk around the house itself was long but interesting, as you cannot believe how many rooms a palace can have. In fact each room had its own mini room, “ante chamber”, which you would enter before entering the main room, so you can imagine that by the time we got to the gardens we were pretty exhausted. We got to see the abbey ruins and the beautiful gardens, and even Arthur’s seat in the distance (a big hill covered in climbers).
We then had a well deserved lunch break before visiting The Real Mary King’s Close, which was a spooky tour under the streets of Edinburgh (£11). It was pretty mind boggling to discover that a lot of Edinburgh’s historical streets were in fact built on top of the original streets of Edinburgh, consisting of closes no more than 2m apart and sloping steeply down into the railway lines where originally there was a river. The houses were 7 storeys high in places with single rooms forming a single home for a whole family. The history of the plague and success of local businesses stemming from these streets was really interesting, but I can honestly say after an hour of claustrophobic conditions and horror stories I couldn’t wait to see the sky again!
I really enjoyed Edinburgh and am really glad I went, but I can’t say I would really go back anytime soon. Being a lot smaller than I imagined, I honestly felt I had done everything there was to do.