Travel: Edinburgh, Scotland
Mysticism and magic weave through the very fabric of Edinburgh, Scotland. It swirls through the air, the places, the people – it’s palpable.
This bustling city of 500,000 is deeply steeped in culture and tradition. If you’ve heard anything about Edinburgh (“Ed-in-buh-ruh”), it’s likely been about bagpipes, haggis, tartan, plaid, kilts, Hogmanay and Gaelic customs. Oh yeah, and golf.
What I love most about Scotland is its people. Truly, you cannot help but fall in love with the proud, fun-loving nature of a Scot. In the same minute, a Scot may be humble, a tad boastful, witty, cynical. However, spend another bit, and hear a tremendous story spun, sip a drink, and see the fun-loving nature for which Scots are known. You’ll never know a better friend.
Simply put, Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular, have a long-standing tradition of defeating conquerors. As far back as 1100, whether other nations or disease, Edinburgh has successfully defended its people from the onslaught of invaders. Edinburgh’s numbers have only grown, never waned. Magic is alive and thriving in this part of the world.
* I make no claim to be a travel agent or expert on booking travel. My goal is to provide a general idea of what to expect when booking travel to and within Edinburgh and Leith, Scotland.
If planning to rent a vehicle, remember you’ll be driving “on the left”. If like I am, you’re a coward in these matters, rest assured public transport is clean, inexpensive, punctual and direct in Edinburgh and its surrounding suburbs. From Edinburgh Airport (EDI), it’s simplest and most direct to take the tram. The cost is approximately 7 GBP one-way/14 GBP return. If you plan to return for your flight out (and you trust yourself to guard your return ticket), simply purchase a return ticket straight away from a salesperson roaming the platforms near the terminus. This way you avoid having to fret over having proper change when you’re trying to get to the airport (and dump your GBPs).
I highly recommend taking the local buses. For 4 GBP per day (12 AM-11:59 PM daily), enjoy a Day Pass, with unlimited trips on all buses within Edinburgh proper. If you opt for single trips, the cost is 2.80 GBP per trip.
Although more expensive, a trip in a “Mini” or special taxi is worth the extra fare. Taxi cabs in the City of Edinburgh look like small, colorful mini buses. They seat up to 4-5 adults, facing one another. Fun!
Culane House is where we stayed during our three days in Edinburgh. What we loved most are the location and friendly, helpful staff. In close proximity to both Edinburgh proper as well as Leith, a nearby port town, it’s simple to travel between “home” and the sights we wished to see.
So many places, and each as tasty as the last! From Leith to Edinburgh, you’ll find all types of culinary delights. If you don’t pop into a pub for a pint or a glass, you’re missing out.
Here’s a quick list of some of the restaurants and pubs we visited in our three days in Edinburgh…
- World’s End – Scottish Pub and traditional Scottish Food – Must-see/do. Not negotiable.
- Theatre Royal Bar – Scottish Pub with good food and a fantastic atmosphere – if you like sports & ales, this is your spot
- Pancho Villas – Mexican food – tasty margaritas, and excellent nachos and antojitos
- Barburritos – Mexican food – Top-notch Mexican food at low prices – 3 locations
- Café Royal Circle Bar/The Café Buffet – Victorian décor with phenomenal seafood, cask ales and whiskies
- Wagamama – Asian fusion – appetisers, noodles, soups – great location
- The Witchery by the Castle – posh dining in a unique, eclectic setting – near Edinburgh Castle on The Royal Mile
It seems cliche, but when visiting Edinburgh, the traditional Scottish pubs and restaurants are a Must-see/do. And the Textile Museum/Tartan Weaving Mill near Edinburgh Castle. Oh, and the National Museum.
We honestly felt as though we could easily spend over a week exploring Edinburgh. There are an inordinate amount of nooks and crannies and tucked-away spots throughout the city and surrounds. You’ll find large, historical sights and tiny, intimate boutiques you won’t want to leave. Truly. Edinburgh is unique in this way – more so than most other cities I visit.
We were perfectly content viewing and snapping photos from the outside. It’s a bit of a hike to march up to the Castle, but the views from up top are tremendous and worthwhile. You can literally see “from sea to surrounds” from where the Castle stands. Furthermore, Edinburgh Castle is a great starting point to stroll The Royal Mile, a popular area for sightseeing, eating, drinking and shopping. Beware the tourist traps, unless you enjoy overpaying and being duped.
Tartan Weaving Mill
Pass right on through the entryways and kitschy tourist trap showrooms, and get to the heart of this 3-story historical icon.
Royal Mile Market
We happened upon this gem serendipitously. What a treat! If you love supporting local artisans and craftspeople, this is a Must-Do on your sightseeing/shopping itinerary. Open 10AM-6PM daily, the Royal Mile Market is housed within a gorgeous old church. This special market showcases one-off crafts, soaps, lotions, artwork, antiques, handcrafted goods, clothing and more. Items are sold from independently operated kiosks. The goods are created by Scottish artisans. It doesn’t get better than this, folks.
The National Museums Scotland
In my world of travel, museums and the arts come in second only to Food. Allow me to keep it simple: If you’ve visited The British Museum in London, the National Museums Scotland are a very near 2nd. Honestly, one of the BEST collections I’ve seen to date. Meticulously curated, housed in an architecturally resplendent building, with more exhibits to see and experience than I could fathom handling in 4+ hours, you simply cannot visit Edinburgh without (at least!) a cursory visit. If nothing else, visit to have fun, or class up your act, or because it’s FREE. Open 7 days per week 10AM-5PM.
I won’t attempt to list all the shops we visited whilst in Edinburgh, for it would be an impossible feat. However, since I had such a grand time shopping whilst in Scotland, you’ll find articles on Where to Shop in Edinburgh and Where to Shop in Leith/Portobello Beach here on Beloved Atmosphere. You’re welcome. 😉
I recommend popping into as many shops and storefronts as you possibly can on your visit. There is a small boutique, mom-and-pop shoppe or big box store for every palate in Edinburgh. Our favourites included the Royal Mile Market (a surprise find!), and shops/boutiques we discovered in the plethora of small off-the-beaten path alleys (“closes”) in the Old Town.
Helpful Resources for Travel in Edinburgh
Local Histories.org – a Timeline of Edinburgh History
Culane House Hotel – a lovely, affordable B&B accommodation with amenities & made-to-order breakfast included
See/Do – Sights
National Museums Scotland – The Scotish National Museum is a must-see! – Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, UK
Eat – Restaurants
Pancho Villas Restaurant – 240 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8AB, UK
World’s End Restaurant & Pub – 2-8 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1TB, UK