Edinburgh is one of our favorite cities in the world. After two stays in Edinburgh, my Traveling Partner and I decided we could comfortably live there long term. “Why?” you might ask. It’s the history, the culture, the desserts, and the people. Join me on a short journey through the “Athens of the North” as it’s often called.
Our first trip to Edinburgh was in 2014. We flew into London, took the train to York for a five day stay. The train ride from York to Edinburgh takes about two hours. Soon we were standing on the platform at Waverley Station trying to decide whether to exit left or right. This is a problem when given two or more choices in a strange city! We went right, it was the wrong way! So back down stairs (the elevator was out of order) to the exit on the left.
Our second trip was in 2016, we flew directly from Newark to Edinburgh, arriving in time for breakfast. We stayed at the same apartment as we did in 2014. We took the light rail into Edinburgh where it dropped us near Waverley Station.
We were on Princes Street that would take us to the apartment we rented. After about a quarter mile walk trailing our suitcases behind us, we arrived at our pleasant lodgings. We noted that the street sloped gently down toward the Firth of Forth, we would have to make the same trip up the street in five days when we would travel onward. After dropping our luggage, we set off to explore the area and buy a few groceries for our stay. While scouting around, we saw several interesting restaurants, many of them ethnic. The restaurant, La Favorita, in the photo below attracted our attention for their bright yellow delivery vehicles lined up on the street. On our first visit, we watched as these cars zoomed up, reloaded, sped away. It was constant. The food and service was excellent and became our favorite, one we would visit again and again.
Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and occupies the northern one-third of the island of Great Britain. Edinburgh is located in southeast Scotland and is the capital city. About 500,000 people live in the city proper with an additional 400,000 living in the surrounding suburbs. While the area has been inhabited since about 8500 BC, the city was founded in the 7th century so it’s history is long and extensive. Edinburgh is the most important economic powerhouse in Scotland. It is second to London in the banking and financial sector and is known for its higher education institutions. Technology is a growth industry as is tourism. Edinburgh was the center of the Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many advances in philosophy, agriculture, engineering, biology, chemistry, and other fields took place during this period. With this rich history and background, it makes Edinburgh a fascination place to visit.
There is barely a spot in the city where one can’t see the Edinburgh Castle perched on top of Castle Rock. It’s one of the city’s main tourist destinations with about 2.2 million visitors per year (pre-pandemic of course). Construction began in the 11th century and has been the site of many battles for the control of Scotland.
The approach to the Castle is from the wide esplanade where the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is held each year in late August. After purchasing entrance tickets, we joined a welcome tour. The guide provided a bit of history of the Castle and the important things to see during our visit.
We were particularly interested in the Scottish National War Memorial located within the Castle complex. It memorializes all those killed in World Wars I and II as well as those since then. It was a very solemn and beautiful tribute.
From the Castle we could see much of the city. This view looks toward the Firth of Forth, where the fresh water rivers meet the North Sea.
Note the Scott Monument in the center of the photo. I’ll take you there later in this post.
This statue of Field Marshall Douglas Haig, 1st Earl, used to stand on the esplanade but was moved to expand the seating for the Military Tattoo. Haig was one of the most senior officers in the British Army. He was in command during some of the bloodiest and important battles in World War I.
The Castle sits at the top of the Royal Mile, the main thoroughfare in the “Old Town” that ends at the Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s official residence when in Edinburgh. As visitors travel down the Royal Mile, there are shops, restaurants, pubs, and all sorts of attractions including buskers. Here are some scenes from the mile walk.
St. Giles’ Cathedral is located along the Royal Mile. This Church of Scotland parish began in the 14the century with the church itself undergoing many additions and renovations since then. For a small fee, one of the tour guides took us to the highest point in the steeple where we overlooked the Royal Mile. The view was wonderful even though the weather was damp and foggy. The second photo is of the memorial to those that died in World War I from this small part of Edinburgh. There were many memorials to those killed in World War I in various parts of the city.
The next two photos are from the Canongate Kirk, the church nearest the Holyrood Palace. Built in the late 1600’s, royalty attend church services when in Edinburgh.
This is a photo of the Holyrood Palace.
Near the Holyrood Palace is the Scottish Parliament Building. The British Parliament has granted the Scottish Parliament limited authority for self government. During our first trip to Scotland, the Scots were voting to break away from the United Kingdom and declare self rule. The vote failed with Edinburgh in favor of staying united and Glasgow, the other large city in Scotland voting in favor of separating. When we were there in 2016, the UK was voting on Brexit. Scots voted to stay in because of jobs and trade. As we know the country voted to exit. Anyway, here is view of the parliamentary chamber.
There was a group nearby the Parliament advocating for a yes vote, to leave the UK. Unfortunately, no one was around to answer my many questions.
The Palace is situated between two large hills, Calton Hill and Holyrood Park. The Park is large with many walking trails, gradual enough as not to get too winded.
Calton Hill has beautiful gardens, an observatory, and two monuments; National and Nelson. The first photo is of the observatory taken from the Nelson Monument. The Observatory is now a restaurant and art gallery. The second photo is the Nelson Monument that honors Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, the victor of the naval Battle of Trafalgar.
The National Monument of Scotland is modeled after the Parthenon in Athens. The Monument commemorates those who were killed in the Napoleonic Wars. If it looks unfinished to you, it is. Construction began in the 1820’s but they soon ran out of money. While this Monument honors the dead, you can imagine the various nicknames it has accumulated over the years.
The day of our visit was the Transit of Mercury when it passes in front of the sun. A group of amateur astronomers set up telescopes and offered passersby to view the transit.
Edinburgh is a city of museums. I can’t tell you exactly how many there are but there many. A few include the National Museum of Scotland, the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Childhood, the Museum of Edinburgh, I could go on. We didn’t visit them all but did take in a few. I enjoyed the National Gallery where this woman was “copying” the master.
Outside the Gallery, a local band was playing up a storm, image bagpipes and an electric guitar. An interesting sound.
Nearby is the Princes Street Gardens. It’s close to the train station and many businesses. At noon, the workers have their lunch sitting on the grass enjoying the sun. They are even practicing their socially distancing!
On the edge of the gardens is the monument to Sir Walter Scott, the Scottish writer, poet and playwright. The historical novel “Ivanhoe” was one his most well known works that introduced us to King Richard, Robin Hood, and Friar Tuck. This monument is one of the largest in the world to honor a writer.
Like a lot of Scots, we took afternoon tea, generally around 4 PM. My Traveling Partner loved the desserts, the cakes and tarts especially. I’m not much of a tea drinker but did enjoy the hot drink along with sharing the desserts.
Please pardon my poor quality photo below. I’m including this to point you to the best travel blogger in Scotland, Samantha Grant. Her blog, “Scotland with the Wee White Dug,” is well written and researched plus it’s humorous and full of great travel information on Scotland. Click here to check it out, I know you’ll enjoy it.
Here are a few parting shoots. Both photos were taken from the window of our apartment. The top is of the parking area of the mosque across the street. I liked the message. The second is through the window blinds as the sun sets over Edinburgh.
Thanks for riding along, I hope you enjoyed a little peek at one of the finest cities in the world, Edinburgh.
Until next week, happy virtual travels!