It didn’t take me much of a time to fall under the spell of Scotland’s Capital. Actually, it was about 5min. The moment I stepped foot in the street of its old town, I was blown away.
Away where? Well far away to the World of fairy and magic. To the place where dreams are born and everything is possible. To the land of Harry Potter and all its wonders. There is no surprise in there, I directly understood how J.K. Rowling came out with this outstanding Novel. The source of her inspiration was Edinburgh itself. The city is a fairytale, it is the Neverland of the UK.
I will hopelessly search for the right words in this article. But believe me no matter what I say, I wont be able to describe the beauty of what I saw. Well maybe just a little bit. I envy writers and artists in exactly those specific moments. But, I will try my best to give you the Most of that UK Capital that took me by surprise.
So buckle up and let me fly you to that land of dreams and Magic. And in that occasion, remember that there is always a place for your dreams😍
Now before telling you all about Edinburgh, let me precise something important. Scotland is actually much more than its Capital. While its main city Edinburgh stands out of the ordinary and is the most unique European city, its Nature and especially the Highlands are simply breathtaking. This being said, I wouldn’t recommend just a trip to Edinburgh. If you want the full experience, you should see the whole country.
Hey don’t Worry! You might have guessed it by now, I will be telling you all about the Highlands in another article😊 But for Now,
Let’s travel together to Edinburgh and explore its Must Experiences!🤩
- Meet Edinburgh Castle
- Walk down the Royal Mile
- Check out Harry Potter Sites
- Hike up Arthur’s Seat
- Catch Stunning Views from Calton Hill
- Enjoy the Whiskey Museum
1- Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle, the Iconic masterpiece of the city its most recognizable landmark and its pride. Scotland’s fortress has overlooked the Capital since the 13th Century atop a volcanic peak. That’s right Edinburgh’s phenomenal castle is sitting on the remaining black basalt of an extinct volcano giving away a spectacular scenery. Aside than being an impressive structure that offers some of the greatest views over the city, the castle housed a lot of historical events. Also many famous people lived there including The Queen Mary of Scots.
The highlight of my stay in the Capital and the most impressive Castle I have ever seen. I remember spending quite some time on top of that Hill. I was happy to wander in the Castle area, exploring this majestic architecture and enjoying the view from top. Edinburgh Castle was a full experience for me, it included many landmarks, great sweeping views over the city and taught me a lot about Scotland’s history.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is obviously the most important part of the Castle. It housed the Stuart Monarchs and most importantly Mary Queen of Scots. Go ahead and wander around the place. Make sure to check out the Laich Hall which in my opinion was the most impressive restored room. With its lovely fireplace the room wont fail to catch your sight.
Tip: Check the gold letters MAH installed at the entrance of the Royal apartments. Those are in fact the initials of Queen Mary and her husband.
The Scottish Jewels & the National Museum
The castle includes many other chambers that protect within their walls a lot of items related to the Scottish heritage. What am I referring to? Well jewels😍 and not any jewels, the Scottish crown jewels known as the honor & pride of Scotland. You will also see a collection of historical artifacts that includes clothes and armory.
Edinburgh castle also houses the National war museum of Scotland. This one founded in 1933 displays a large number of important paintings. It also includes some special weapons related to the Scottish army.
Tip: The entry to the National War Museum is included in the castle admission the ticket.
The great Hall
My favorite interior part of the Castle was actually the Great Hall. I thought that it was something that stood out of the ordinary. This impressive Chamber restored with some great stained-glass, houses a big collection of arms & armors.
My other highlight of that visit was the oldest surviving structure of Edinburgh’s Castle. What is that? the oldest Chapel. Built back in the 12th Century St. Margaret’s Chapel is a beautiful Romanesque artwork that is still standing up on that hill since forever.
The one o’clock tribute
Now this is something special and unique! And if you want to witness it, you should head to Mill’s Mount Battery inside the curved wall section of the castle right before 1pm. But what for? Well to actually see the Gun fired as a tradition exactly at 1pm.
What does this tradition stands for? Well, back in time a ball used to drop at Nelson Monument, and at the exact time the “time Cannon” at the Castle was fired at exactly 1pm daily. That was done to serve as a timekeeping device for the ships in the harbor.
Tip: Make sure to get inside Mount Battery before 1pm in order to have a great viewing area.
And finally, The mighty Cannon! That is what Mons Meg is about. It represents the power of Scotland and sits right next to its Chapel. This powerful weapon can hold up to 110 pounds of gunpowder and throw cannonballs’ for about 2 miles away. It was a revolution in military technology and fired at the wedding of Mary Queen of Scots.
- The Castle is the most popular attraction in Edinburgh. It can get very crowded so make sure to go there early Morning.
- I would suggest that you purchase your ticket in advance in order to skip the ticket lines.
- In case you need to learn more about the Castle’s history you can either get an audio guide at the castle or book for a guided tour.
2- Walk down the Royal Mile
Now this is the most magical part of the whole trip. If you are looking to be transported in both time and space, to fly to another dimension, another world this walk is made for you. Well this walk is made for everyone! The stroll down Edinburgh’s old town will instantly take your breath away, put a smile on your face and send you far far away to that land of Wonders & dreams.
Trust me! That is what Edinburgh old Town is about. It is something new, different, Amazing….Well a town simply like no other. The busiest most iconic, amazing, stunning all the adjectives you want😅 street. The heart of Edinburgh, its signature, its uniqueness its pride.
So where does the name come from? The Royal Mile is this iconic street that connects the top of the Hill of Edinburgh Palace and the Holyrood Royal Palace. Oh and have I mentioned that the street is about a mile? Well here you have it the Royal Mile.
The walk surprises
Lots of surprises will come along your way giving you more that feeling of a fairy land. But Anna what are you talking about? Okay so what trying to say is that you will cross some street artists playing that awesome traditional Scottish music.
But not only this, finding yourself in front of an Owl staring at you in the middle of the street can be normal in there😅 Hey don’t be scared it will be with its owner! Oh and some unique busses that looks like they will transport you directly to Harry Potter’s land. Should I say more? No go ahead and witness all of that all by Yourself 😎
And even though you will find yourself there many times during your visit, you will be always as charmed and amazed as the first time.
Tip: You can chose to have your customized on walk or try one of those 2hrs guided tours walks.
But What makes the Royal Mile that special?
The overall description of the mile is simple, it is overlooked by some impressive unique tenements intersected by narrow cobbled streets and stairways. Creating another world dimension effect, a secret underground world. Have I said Underworld?😮 Oh yes I did! There is an other whole world hidden there. But well you will read about that in another article😉
Now what does it has to offer?
Well everything! From historical landmarks to some of the best eating and drinking spots of the city. The Royal Mile has it all.😊 The most impressive historical site being the outstanding St Giles Cathedral. Don’t hesitate to step inside and check out this masterpiece. Also for a total different kind of Architecture, make sure to visit the Ultra modern Scottish Parliament that is located down the Royal Mile around the Holyrood Palace and known for its cutting edge design.
Enjoy your stroll down the Royal Mile and don’t forget to check out its unique shops and galleries. It is also full of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.😊
Tip: The Royal Mile also houses The Whiskey Museum and The Camera Obscura & World of Illusions museum. Both so entertaining and definitely a must.
- Make sure to stroll down Victoria Street (from the Royal Mile down to Grassmarket). You will be surprised by some nice boutiques and delicious restaurants.
- Visit the Grassmarket area which is nearby Royal Mile. Make sure to go there at night to enjoy this vibrant area buzzing with its lively pubs and bars.
- If you are looking for that fancy ultimate dining experience by the castle, check out the Witchery by the Castle. You will get to enjoy some of those best Scottish meals.
- I would suggest that you actually stay in that part of the City. Pick a hotel closely by the Royal Mile or even there and you wont regret it😍
3- Check out Harry Potter Sites
This can be an activity by itself a reason to visit Scotland’s Capital. The city is all about Harry Potter😍 after all the inspiration of that Novel came from Edinburgh itself. And well if you ever visit it you will understand the reason why.
Now that you know it, you can’t possibly visit that impressive city without passing by those unique spots. So what am I talking about?
Now the most famous place and best known of The Harry Potter locations is the Elephant house. This is where most of the Novels were written. You can check out the place from the outside and if you wish to go inside you will have to order something to eat or drink.
Nicolson’s Cafe on the other hand is known to be the place where J.K. Rowling wrote a big part of her first Novel. But the location has changed into a Bistro called Spoon.
News flash: If you are a real big fan of Harry Potter and you are not traveling on budget here is something that might interest you. There is a J.K. Rowling suite in the Balmoral Hotel that you can stay in. It was actually in that suite that Harry Potter’s author finished the last Book.
Now if you think that is all, well its not!😉 What about finding out about the real spots that inspired J.K Rowling?
The most famous spot being the Greyfriars Kirkyard which is an old cemetery that contains the real Grave of Tom Riddle. Also another famous spot is the George Heriot’s School that actually was the inspiration of the iconic Hogwarts wizard school. And finally, walk down Victoria street and allow yourself to be taken directly to Diagon Alley. This one being the imaginary street in the Harry Potter Novels from where you can get all the needed items on the Hogwarts supply list.
- If you are really interested in visiting all the Harry Potter sites and learn the full story behind it; check out the guided tours. The tours can take up to 2 hours and some of them are free of charge😊 Here is your link: https://freeharrypottertour.com/
- If you are a big fan and you are up to it, you can escape the city for the day and head to the Scottish Highlands by jumping on board the Hogwarts Express. Check out online the guided tour tickets for that unforgettable journey on the Jacobite Steam Train.
4– Hike up Arthur’s Seat
This was one of my favorite experiences in Edinburgh. It actually allowed me to have some mesmerizing views over the city after burning some calories. Hiking up to Arthur’s Seat is a pleasant activity and an easy hike that can be performed by all of us. The best part of it is its location right in the middle of the new area of the City.
My suggested itinerary
Arthur’s seat is located in the Holyrood Park and in fact forms the highest peak of the Park. The best way to go there is simply to walk down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and in about 20min you are there. Plan to go there in the Morning as its the perfect time to do some exercise. Once you get to the Park you will notice that its actually a Royal Park and adjacent to the Holyroodhouse Palace.
This palace is the queen’s official Residence. So you can start your itinerary by visiting the Castle head afterwards to the Royal Park and visit the 15th Century, St Anthony’s Chapel and the Duddingston Loch which is rich in fresh water and birdlife and finally hike up that Hill.
It’s the park’s highest point, which is an ancient volcano. Yes you heard me right! The impressive mound of a Volcano that sits at around 251m above sea level. Its location offers an excellent view over the city. And it is also the site of a large and well preserved fort. Arthur’s Seat named after the legendary tales of King Arthur, is actually the largest part of the massive Volcano that once stood in the Capital. All four hills forts dates from around 2000 years ago. Those other parts being Castle Rock and Calton Hill.
Is it worth it? Arthur’s Seat can be one of the best places for views over Edinburgh. So yes the climb was totally worth it. Plus you will get to burn some of those calories gained by eating those Scottish specialties. If you are lucky enough to have a clear sky, you will actually be able to see for miles in all directions.
We weren’t actually planning on hiking up there but once we reached destination we couldn’t resist that. The view of that hill in the middle of the city catches you and drags you towards it. We were short on time so we made it a fast climb, it was a smooth one but it can be a bit steep at some places. We stopped a couple of times to catch our breath but in like 40min we were there at the top.😍 The views were breathtaking, although we didn’t have clear blue sky, I was taken away by the beautiful scenery all around me.
- It is not a hard climb but a bit of a steep walk to the top. So make sure to wear some comfortable shoes and take some water.
- It can be a bit cold up there, so make sure to have a light jacket or sweater on you.
- In case you have a car and you are looking for the shortest and easiest hike, park in the lot near Dunsapie Loch and take the nearby trail to the summit.
- Enjoy a delicious Scottish meal afterwards!😉
5- Catch Stunning Views from Calton Hill
If you want to get some stunning views over the city but don’t wish to hike up Arthur’s seat, Calton Hill is the best option for you. But that is not All! Calton Hill is in fact in impressive landmark on its own. So if you might think that by hiking up Arthur’s seat you have seen it all and no need to do more climbing, think twice😉 This hill does not only overlooks the Amazing Edinburgh, but also has some unique monuments that made it earn the title ” Athens of the North”.
How to get there?
Calton Hill is located at the bottom of Princess Street. So what I would suggest is to walk down that amazing street to reach the set of stairs that leads to the top. Make it on an afternoon, to catch some mesmerizing views of the city over sunset. The climb can be a bit steep but its Short!
What Landmarks am I talking about?
The moment you reach the top of the Hill, you will be fascinated by a different collection of monuments. The ones typically looking like they were some Greek treasures are the National Monument and the Stewart Monument. Is that all? Well definitely not!
The city Observatory
This one being the largest monument on that Hill was designed by William Playfair back in 1818. It was first built to house Thomas Short’s reflecting telescope. Who was one of the world’s leading telescope makers. This space that was long closed, was recently reopened in 2018 to serve as an art exhibition center for public.
There is no admission fee to the Observatory, so you can enjoy it for free. But you will find a nice restaurant with a rooftop viewing terrace there. I would suggest that you reserve in advance If you wish to dine at the Lookout Restaurant😊
The Nelson Monument is a commemorative tower that was built in the Vice Admiral Nelson. The admiral who led the British navy to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. If you wish to learn more about Calton hill’s history visit its small museum. You can also climb around 150 steps to the top of the monument viewing platform to get a great view over the city.
History: In 1853 a Time ball was installed at the top of the tower that would drop at 1 pm daily. Indicating the new embark of a ship on a long journey. This was then connected to a cannon in Edinburgh Castle so that the ball and a cannon could both alert ships of the time.
Tip: If you happen to visit Edinburgh in April, you will get the chance to enjoy the Beltane fire festival that takes place up on that hill.
6- Enjoy the Whiskey Museum
You can’t drink whiskey and don’t be curious to know about all its brands. You can’t talk about Scotland and forget about its Scotch. Well you can’t possibly visit the Capital without stopping by its Whiskey Museum. Whether you are a Fan or not, this one is a must. After all its part of the Scottish culture and heritage.
What about its location?
It’s right here on the famous Royal Mile, straight down the Edinburgh Castle. So yes its a central location and there is no way that you are not passing by it.😉
The Whiskey Tour
You will get the chance to learn about the history and making of scotch and also try some of those iconic whiskey. You will be also taught about the different whiskey regions in Scotland.
In fact the tour am talking about is the Silver tour which is the least expensive one. The tour begins with a fun barrel ride followed by the informative guided tour and after enjoying the tasting experience you will get the chance to take a look at the largest giant whiskey collection in the World.
Tip: There are more expensive tours and more informative ones. So if you are a real fan of Whiskey you may consider taking a more expensive tour where you get more samples and tasting instructions.
Visit the official website for more information about those tours. The Whiskey tour Categories are:
- The Platinum tour: 40 Pounds
- The Gold tour: 29.50 Pounds
- The Silver tour: 17 Pounds
So is it only about the Guided Tour?
The whiskey tour takes the biggest part of the show. However the experience doesn’t end here. You can also take masterclasses, some training sessions, tasting tales or simply enjoy some delicious food and great whisky at the Museum’s restaurant. Oh and have I mentioned the Souvenir Shop?
You will find everything, and might even stand there for a while lost without having any clue what to get😅 I personally spent about 30min in that shop. And it’s not only about Whiskey! You will also find some nice gadgets and candles.
- I would definitely suggest that you go there around lunch time to enjoy the full tour & Restaurant experience.
- Book ahead of time online for your Whisky tour package.
- If you are not a real big fan of Whisky, try the Hot chocolate with Whisky😋 This can be of a great option for you.
- There are many shops selling whisky all over the city. But again if you are a big fan, I would suggest that you take one of those Whisky walking tours.