Edinburgh (pronounced Edinburra) is a stunning city rich in history and is definitely a must see in Scotland. If you're short on time and have to choose only one major city to visit, put Edinburgh over Glasgow in your itinerary. It is absolutely beautiful with so much to see and do as we discuss below...
Our Itinerary includes 6 must see places in Edinburgh
1. Edinburgh Castle
This is the number one tourist attraction in Edinburgh, so you'll need to deal with the crowds getting in. But once inside, it things out with the exception of the Crown Jewels. It is worth the visit. The castle itself is located high above the city at the top of the Royal Mile. Built in 1103 on Castle Rock, it has been a royal residence and military base and has beautiful views over the city and multiple museums and sights to see including our favorites as discussed here. For one, it holds the Honours, that is the Scottish Crown Jewels. These are the Crown, Scepter and Sword of State used in the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543 and are displayed in the Ancient Crown room. Secondly, there's the Stone of Destiny used to coronate King Charles and many Kings and Queens throughout history. Finally, at one o'clock. there's the cannon fire announcing the time to the rest of the city. It is loud but spectacular. Bubbly Tip: The castle does fully book so you'll need to book in advance.
2. Sir Walter Scott Monument
You can't help but notice the Sir Walter Scott monument from many vantage points throughout Edinburgh. This tribute to the infamous Scotsman is centrally located along the Victoria Street parks near the train station and quite frequently has performing artists playing openly in the street nearby. Born in 1771 in Edinburgh, he was a writer best known for his series of novels called The Waverley Series. He was also know as a historian and a biographer and rediscovered the Scottish Crown Jewels.
3. Saint Giles Cathedral
This cathedral founded in 1124 is located on the Royal Mile is magnificent and is free. The knaves are stunning as seen in the photo below and can also be found in a royal blue. The history of St Giles Cathedral has spanned 900 years, from its early beginnings as a Romanesque church in 1124, to its current standing as a Presbyterian church.
4. The Closes of the Royal Mile
Today there remains over 84 'closes', 'wynds' and 'courts' which are the narrow streets that jut off the Royal Mile to a secret world behind. These are so much fun to explore individually to see why each close is so unique. Take the time to explore them and you'll find museums, restaurants, courtyards, pubs, vistas and more. One of our favorites takes you to the Writer's Museum which is a small court walk to Jolly Judge, an out of the way pub with character inside and outdoor seating to enjoy the courtyard.
5. Arthur's Seat
At the bottom of the Royal Mile near the Palace and Scottish Parliament Building in Holyrood Park you'll find the trail head to Arthur's Seat. This is a strenuous hike straight up an ancient volcano to the main peak of a group of hills with magnificent views. It will take you at least 45 minutes to climb to the top. If you prefer a shorter but still strenuous walk, you can branch off to the right of the trail head immediately in the park and still see beautiful views of Edinburgh without the time and effort involved in the full walk to Arthur's Seat.
This cute part of Edinburgh has a village vibe and is a 20 minute cobble stoned walk from city center. This affluent part of town is lined with Elegant Georgian and Victorian terraced house and offers excellent restaurants, drink establishments and is home to the Royal Botanic Garden along the Water of Leith. Come here to chill from the tourists and explore more of its features off the beaten path of Edinburgh.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
To keep everything within walking distance, Bubbly Tourist recommends staying in the Old Town, New Town or Holyrood areas. From these areas in Edinburgh, you'll be within 20 minutes walking distance to all the major sights listed above. We chose the ibis Styles Edinburgh St Andrew Square for it's proximity, pricing and excellent TripAdvisor reviews. It's a funky hotel with small but comfortable rooms, an excellent breakfast, a bar, and a great location right off St. Andrew Square which is very convenient for the tram stop to the city and airport.
By the Airport
The Hampton, Doubletree and Moxy hotels are all walking distance to the airport and rental cars. The issue for these hotels when we booked was of availability and pricing so we chose the Norton House Hotel because of its proximity to the airport (a ten minute cab ride), pricing, and most importantly because of the excellent TripAdvisor reviews. It's a beautiful hotel with an excellent breakfast and comfortable rooms.
In Search of Bubbly
In an ongoing segment by Bubbly Tourist, we always search for a location - if not the best location - to have some champagne wherever we go.
Located right on Market Street in the Market Street Hotel is the amazing champagne bar, Nor' Loft, that Bubbly Tourist highly recommends! Not only is the champagne list extensive, but it offers a relaxing but chic environment with phenomenal views of the city. We knew it was special when we stepped in the elevator to find a Mark Twain quote: "Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right". The bar's philosophy is right in line with Bubbly Tourist: "it's a way of life". You can also drink cocktails and whisky and share seasonal small plates and platters.
Day Trips from Edinburgh
On the way to Oban, Bubbly Tourist stopped in the town of Stirling which is about an hours drive from Edinburgh. Whether it's part of your full journey around Scotland or a day trip from Edinburgh, this is a castle full of history that gives credence to the quote "He who holds Stirling, holds Scotland".
At Stirling Castle, you'll learn about Scotland's amazing history and about the fighting amongst themselves and with the British. You'll also see the Royal Apartments and will learn about the crowning of Mary Queen of Scots and that she spent four years of her life here, effectively making it her childhood home. Stirling Castle gives you great 360° views of the surrounding countryside. It is geographically located where the lowlands meet the highlands. From the castle, one can see for miles and back in the day prepare for an encroaching troops. Stirling's key position as the lowest bridging point of the River Forth before it broadens towards the Firth of Forth made it a focal point for travel north or south. For this, Robert the Bruce quoted "He who holds Stirling holds Scotland". Bubbly Tip: Book in advance and get an excellent guided tour inside and out of the castle.
It's only a 1 hour drive southeast from Douneside to the coastal town of Stonehaven or a 2.5 hour drive from Edinburgh. Bubbly Tourist visited this must-see historic and ruined Dunnottar Castle prior to going to St. Andrews. It truly is spectacular given it's remote clifftop location by the sea. Allow yourself at least a couple of hours for the visit.
The Old Course, St. Andrews - the birthplace of golf
From Dunnottar Castle, head south and pay homage to the OG of golf where the game was first played 600 years ago and legends have since left their mark. From Edinburgh, it's a 1.5 hour drive. It's surprisingly easy to access but to golf is a different story. We drove right up to the golf shop and parked 10 meters from it and purchased golf attire and strolled through the hotel that borders the infamous golf course. To play, you'll need to submit a ballot on their website that is drawn two days ahead of play. For golfers, this is an absolute must-see and for golf fanatics this is a must-do.
Directions from Edinburgh Airport into the city
Edinburgh was our last stop on the Bubbly Tourist itinerary so we dropped off our car at the airport. Take the tram into the city from Edinburgh airport. It is convenient, cheap and a piece of cake. Simply walk out the front doors, turn left, and follow the signs to "trams" where you'll see a couple of kiosks. You'll need to buy your ticket at the kiosks before getting on the train. From the airport it's only 30 minutes to the center of Edinburgh. Bubbly Tip: you won't need a car in the city because of the convenient city transportation and the central proximity of all the tourist sights.
Best Scotland Itinerary Continued
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