We flew out of Newcastle on the morning of the 27th and lugged our suitcases up a giant hill to find our hostel at the top of the royal mile, right next to the Edinburgh Castle.
Time/Location: August 27/28, 2014 – Edinburgh, Scotland (Day 2)
- Elephant House Cafe
- Royal Mile – St. Guile’s Church, Shopping, Parliament House
- National Gallery
- Edinburgh Castle
After a week of running around either really small towns or big cities, Edinburgh was an interesting change of pace. The area is a rather jarring mix of modern touches and history, but it was quite fun being able to walk between eras within a matter of blocks and sometimes even buildings. The city itself was surprisingly chill and felt happier than any of our previous stops.
Elephant House Cafe
While there wasn’t much to do here, we wanted to stop by this cute little cafe while wandering around, considering this was the ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter. As a side note, there seem to be many cafes with a similar feel to this one. After doing a little research, it seems like Edinburgh is actually quite a popular place for people to study, write, etc, especially with the large number of welcoming cafes and a good population of creative types and students.
There’s a lot to see around here, at least 50% of which is geared towards tourists (meaning souvenir type shops). This is where all the main attractions are located, from St. Guile’s Church to Edinburgh Castle (at the top of the mile) to Parliament House (at the end).
I highly recommend taking a few hours to stroll down this street and in/out of the buildings on both sides. Some of the shops are quite unique, you’ll find hidden museums, beautiful churches, and any number of other things. There are a handful of street performers to enjoy as you make your way down, and if you’re not sure what to do during your time in Edinburgh, there are plenty of advertisements for ghost tours, bar crawls, etc that are readily available to check out and book.
I made it a point to try to visit at least one museum per country (or state, within the UK), specifically to take advantage of the free entry and spend some time relaxing/admiring art. As with many other museums, the National Gallery had a good variety of art pieces.
As I was looking through the map, I was mostly excited for their Titian exhibit (funnily enough, I didn’t realize until later that it had only sounded familiar because I had recognized it from Head Over Heels). What I enjoyed the most, however, was their special collection of paintings by Scottish artists. Whether it’s due to the beauty of the landscape or the skill of the artist (probably both), these pieces really sung to me about the wonders of Scotland.
Quite a unique experience, and a little ridiculous if you think about the amount of work that was put into building this place back in the day. Part of the fun in walking through the castle is learning about Scotland’s history, but part of it is also getting a glimpse into their long standing military traditions and proud culture. As a plus, they have a special exhibit of the crown jewels, with an entire walkthrough of murals depicting a fantastic tale of how the crown jewels were saved back in the day.
One annoying thing is that Edinburgh Castle is of course, quite tourist friendly, and with that comes huge crowds that are not always the most friendly. People will take photos, try to touch things, and act the part of a rude tourist even when signs warn you not to touch exhibits or use flash. Come earlier in the day to avoid as much of this as possible (and also to take a picture in front of the castle without a million people behind you)
Overall, I was quite enamored by Edinburgh and this is a city I will definitely come back to. There is more wandering to be done, plus I’d love to take some time and venture out into the highlands as well.