The Royal seat of many King Roberts, the inspiration for the book series about a certain boy wizard, and the home of the Stone of Destiny, Edinburgh, you have my heart.
Famed for its long and complicated history, Edinburgh is a beautiful cultural city to visit, filled with amazing architecture and an abundance of things to see and do. We only had one full day in the city so we had to pack in as much as humanly possible. I’m pretty sure I walked at least 40,000 steps. Whoops!
Anyway, Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and the former home of past Scottish Kings and Queens. From the top of the castle hill all the way down the Royal Mile to the Holyrood Palace and beyond, Edinburgh has so much to see.
Our first stop for the morning was Edinburgh Castle. After eventually working out the local bus system we got off at the top of the hill and headed up to the castle. It was breathtaking checking out the castle as the sun came up. Situated atop an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle is a distinct feature in Edinburgh’s skyline and one of the most popular stopping spots. The area has acted as a base for Scottish royalty since the 11th century and was then used by the military from the 17th century. Today it exists largely as a museum complex.
Once inside we took a tour of the area, learning about how commonly the castle was attacked and besieged, before becoming a military barracks and garrison. It is an immersive experience to wander through the castle area, entering through a fortified gateway, portcullis and all, before making your way up and through the area. The view of the surrounding city is incredible and it is easy to see why the location of the site was selected, with its sheer cliff surrounds and eagle-eye views.
After the walking tour we had free time to explore. There are a great number of things to see in the castle complex and you really need a full day to see everything. That being said, with a bit of research and prioritisation you can see the highlights in a few hours.
With a bit of free time up my sleeve I headed straight for St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, existing since the 12th century. Afterwards, I ventured to the Royal Apartments, able to walk through the rooms where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son King James VI and I. I also checked out the Royal Jewels and the Stone of Destiny (aka Stone of Scone), a much beloved item used in Royal coronations that was only given back to the Scots by the English in 1996.
After the castle it was time to head down the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile, despite the name, is actually 107 yards longer than a mile. It was historically used as a route by Royals going between Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh castle, hence the name.
Walking down the Royal Mile is a great option for easy geography and also for all its offerings. Activities such as the Scottish Whisky Experience and The Real Mary King’s Close align this route, making it easy to plan activity stopping spots.
We side-stepped off the Royal Mile for a little bit at this point to go searching for Greyfriars Kirkyard. Before getting there we first stopped at Greyfriars Bobby on the way. The pub is named after the famous Skye Terrier, who in the 19th century, guarded his owners grave before passing himself. Today there is now a statue sitting on the street corner in commemoration, very well patted by tourists and locals, hence the shiny nose.
After this, we made it to Greyfriars Kirkyard. This hauntingly beautiful cemetery is what inspired J.K Rowling, both for the names of various characters such as Tom Riddle and Sirius Black, and for the cemetery scenes in the fourth novel: Goblet of Fire.
While at the cemetery we had a bit of a hard time finding Tom Riddle’s grave but were eventually pointed towards it by a lovely local named Wallace who also pointed out other graves of HP influence. Unfortunately, grave robbing has been rife in the cemetery and many of the gravestones that inspired the series such as Diggory and Black, have in fact been stolen.
Walking back to the Royal Mile we also stopped at Victoria Street. This beautiful historical street is a highly photographed location in the city, with its colourful, curved shopfronts. Shockingly, it is another Harry Potter inspo site, as the street looks quite like Diagon Alley and is buzzing with activity and lovely unique stores.
Before too long we were back on the Royal Mile in front of St Giles Cathedral. Founded in 1124, St Giles Cathedral is a central figure along the mile and highly welcoming of visitors. It is a captivating structure and as a bonus point, makes for a great meeting point if you get lost.
After completing the Royal Mile we wandered around to the modern area of Edinburgh, where the Walter Scott Monument is located. The Gothic monument is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, the Scottish author. From this point you are also close to the Princes Street Gardens, a public park area that acts as a good place to unwind and take in views of the castle at a distance.
After a full day of exploring we somehow mustered the energy to attend a wonderful dinner, where we tried Haggis (it’s honestly not bad) and listened to a fantastic bagpipes performance before heading out to Frankenstein, a three floor themed bar complete with green colour schemes and dry ice. It was an incredibly fun night, themed drinks and all.
Edinburgh is a city with so much to offer for every age and all occasions. With its blending of modern and historic, Edinburgh provides the opportunity to explore its history in a hands-on immersive manner before letting you unwind in one of its many pubs and restaurants. I couldn’t recommend it more!