Updated: Oct 1, 2020
Even though I’ve lived in the UK my entire life, I had never been to Scotland. It had been a place I’d wanted to visit for quite some time, and with Covid 19 impacting most other destinations outside of the UK, I felt it was finally time to explore the northern parts of the the country.
My first stop was Edinburgh, which was a simple and direct train journey from where I live, and I don't know why I'd never taken the trip previously.
I can say with some confidence that Edinburgh is a truly beautiful city, and it's definitely one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever visited in the UK. It’s easy to get around on foot, as the centre itself is quite small. But despite this, there is still plenty to see and do, and Edinburgh is definitely a location I would encourage people to visit for a weekend break.
One of the most iconic sights in Edinburgh is of course Edinburgh castle. As you wander through the city you’ll often see this fortress dominating the skyline overhead. I didn’t actually enter the castle, as frankly I’ve seen so many on my travels, I tire of them now. But don’t let my personal opinions sway you though, as I believe there is quite a lot to see inside. From afar this building is what really adds to the beauty of the city, and in my opinion, the castle is what makes Edinburgh such a magical city to explore.
St Giles’ Cathedral
Another iconic sight in the city of Edinburgh is St Giles’ Cathedral which is located in the centre of the Old Town. There’s no entrance fee, but you are encouraged to donate to the upkeep of the church. I’m sure it happens everywhere in the centre of Edinburgh, but every time I passed by the cathedral I would hear the sound of bagpipes, and see a piper not too far away. For me this added to the atmosphere and made me really feel like I was in Scotland.
Said to be the best viewpoint in the city, you’ll get some beautiful pictures here with the castle in the distance. Unfortunately you may need to find someone to take the photo for you if you want to be in it. I tried to set up my camera to remote via my phone, but it was hard to position the camera for a good spot.
You’ll find the Vennel Viewpoint south of the Grass Market, up the “Miss Jean Brodie Steps”.
Located in Princes Street Gardens, which is well worth a visit just for the gardens themselves, you’ll find the Scott Monument towering high above. It’s dedicated to the writer and poet Sir Walter Scott and is actually one of the largest monuments dedicated to a writer anywhere in the world.
It is actually possible to climb to the top of the monument for some nice views of the city, although bear in mind that it can be a tough climb and gets quite enclosed nearer to the top. So if you're claustrophobic, you may want to avoid the climb.
My personal favourite place I visited in Edinburgh was the extinct volcano, Arthur’s Seat. There are various ways up, some of which are more challenging and tougher than others, but it’s certainly a fun climb when taking the harder routes. When I visited it was actually very busy, but depending on the day you visit it can be much quieter, which I would suggest. From the top you’ll have vast views of much of Edinburgh which I don’t think can be matched elsewhere in the city.
Whilst in the area, you can also hike up the Crags which is a slightly easier hike, and make sure you don’t miss the ruins of Saint Anthony’s Chapel and Saint Margaret’s Loch.
Holyroodhouse was only a quick passing visit for myself, taking a quick snap through the gates as I walked by.
If you actually want to go inside and take a look, tickets are about £10. From my understanding, it is quite impressive if you enjoy visiting palaces and large houses, but the only thing that seemed appealing to me was the ruins of Holyrood Abbey which are also located on the site.
Running through the heart of the old city from the castle to Holyroodhouse is the Royal Mile. A touristy area with plenty of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. It’s well worth a stroll along here to really get a feel for the city. There’s also plenty of historic and beautiful architecture along here, including of course St Giles’ Cathedral.
The inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books. You'll find various quirky and fun shops along here, many of which are now Harry Potter or magic style shops. The colourful shop fronts and slight curve to the street make it a great photo op, but it will be bustling with people unless you visit very early.
One of the best viewpoints of the city and an easy hike, being located just north of Edinburgh Waverley station.
The hill itself features some stunning architecture, including the unfinished National Monument, Nelson Monument, Dugald Stewart Monument, Old Observatory House and an art gallery.
It’s a good place to go at sunrise or sunset, although sunset is better if you want to see the sun behind popular landmarks in the city.
The most famous dog in Edinburgh, if not all of Scotland. Greyfriars Bobby is famed for guarding his owner’s grave after his death. However, in actual fact it’s said that the grave he guarded for 14 years was not in fact his owners, but a different grave.
Not only is there a statue built to commemorate him, but there’s also a pub which honors his name.
The name Greyfriars is actually the graveyard where his owner was buried. There are many grave stones here connected to the Harry Potter universe, many of which were the inspiration for character names featured in the beloved books.
Starting from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and along the Water of Leaf, all the way to the docks, you’ll find six iron statues of a man. Known as “6 Times”, the man in question is Anthony Gormley, the artist of these sculptures.
It’s quite a long walk, but if you have the time it’s also quite beautiful. Sometimes the statues will be dressed up in different clothing, but this is usually due to local practical jokers trying to be funny.
A short walk from the centre you’ll find this charming village area. It no longer feels as though you’re in a city, and it’s a great place to escape the more crowded areas.
Situated on the Water of Leaf, there are some beautiful hikes you can take to and from the village. The walk along the Water of Leaf is certainly one I’d recommend, and not far from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, where you can begin the walk and hunt of the “6 times” statues mentioned above.