The Scottish capital Edinburgh is one of the hidden gems of Europe often overshadowed by the United Kingdom’s largest city and capital, London. As my time in Europe is just about coming to an end, I am lucky enough to come up north and after spending the last three days exploring the Scottish Highlands with Haggis Adventures and there Isle of Skye tour Skye High it is now time to explore the capital Edinburgh.
While my visit was in the month of June, the best time to come and see Edinburgh is in August when the city comes alive with the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which includes one of the best comedy festivals in the world.
21 & 22 June, 2012 – Edinburgh
We had just finished our three day Skye High tour with Haggis Adventures last night and headed over to our hotel for the next two nights which would be the Crowne Plaza Edinburgh – Royal Terrace. After checking in we went for a walk around the area to find somewhere for dinner finding a small Italian restaurant around the corner. We were pretty tired after dinner and decided to just chill out in the hotel, however I decided I wanted to wait until it was dark and walk up the hill behind the hotel which gives a view of the entire city. Regent Gardens overlooks the city of Edinburgh and includes the National Monument of Scotland and The Nelson Monument.
Something I didn’t expect was that it didn’t get dark here until about 11pm, it was about 10:30 and I was sick of waiting so decided to go out then. I managed to get some nice shots of the city lit up at night, but it was still frustrating that it was so light at this time of the night. I spent a good thirty minutes up here and by that time it had gotten darker before heading back and calling it a night.
In the morning we got up and had breakfast within the hotel before we went out to explore the city. Everything was within easy walking distance so we spent the day on foot, our first stop along the way was Scottish favourite… Starbucks, they seem to be everywhere here. We headed straight for one of the main attractions of Edinburgh, The Royal Mile where we basically spent the whole day leisurely strolling the street and checking out the many tourist shops.
We made our way up to Edinburgh Castle, we didn’t go in today as we were meeting some friends we made on our Topdeck Mega European Tour tomorrow and we are going to look around the castle with them. We walked back down The Royal Mall towards the Scottish Parliament, along the way is a vintage toy museum, something I enjoy looking at as a collector of old school tin toys, we had a look around and I even bought a rocket car tin toy and a Batman tin sign to add to my growing collection of big boys toys.
We made our way down past parliament and past the Queens official Edinburgh residence before starting to make our way back to the hotel, along the way we checked out some of the side streets and come up with ideas of things we could see tomorrow.
As we are approaching the 2012 London Olympics there were some giant Olympic Rings on the slope below Edinburgh Castle which presented a few photo opportunities, a few too many silly shots emerged out of this.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped off at the Scott Monument, for a small entry fee you can scale the top of this towering monument to gain impressive views of the city. Some of the climbing is quite steep on narrow steps and passage ways, so not for those who might be claustrophobic. After taking in the views of the city we went to grab some dinner, as we were too tired to make a decision and the place we had dinner last night was really good, we decided to go and eat at that Italian restaurant again. We mainly wanted to eat the ice cream sunday with caramel fudge bits in it again, YUM!
We had a bit of trouble with our room so this morning we needed to pack again and upon return we had to unpacked our stuff again. The room they gave us last night wasn’t right only having the one bed which wasn’t really sufficient for the two of us travelling together, all the other rooms were full, so tonight we had our correct room assigned to us. Tonight we spent some time to organise what we wanted to see and do tomorrow before going to sleep, at this point of the trip we just wanted to take it easy and chill out, plus it was getting a bit sad that we would be heading home in two more nights.
23 June, 2012 – Edinburgh to London
This morning we were up early to have breakfast and to get ready for another day of exploring Edinburgh, this morning we are meeting some friends we made on our Topdeck tour so we can spend the day with them looking at the many attractions around the city. We also had to pack our belongings, tonight we are leaving Edinburgh and will be travelling back on the overnight train to London.
After leaving our luggage in the hotel’s holding room we waited outside our hotel for our friends to show up, when they arrived we headed straight to Edinburgh Castle. The line was pretty long but we didn’t have to wait very long to get inside, when you enter the castle you are also given an audio guide, as you walk around you punch in the number on the sign and it will then explain what you are looking at.
We spent a good hour or two walking around and checking out the many different rooms, prisons, caves and other nooks and crannies of the castle. It was also an interesting time as a stadium had been build outside the castle for the up coming Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It’s an extraordinary effort to have to construct this temporary stadium every year.
After we finished looking around the castle we when to a pub along The Royal Mile to have some lunch, here we decided that tonight we would go on one of the many advertised ghost tours of Edinburgh. Once lunch was done we decided we would go to the Edinburgh Dungeon. The Edinburgh Dungeon is where you can go to have stories told of infamous murders and other spooky dealings that have occurred within Edinburgh over the centuries with actors playing various roles. The most famous of these is in London with other cities including Amsterdam, Berlin, Blackpool, Hamburg and York also having their own version.
They are quite entertaining and they try to scare you as much as possible all in good fun, each one also has a ride at the end, in Edinburgh you sit in a chair and are lifted high up, it is then suddenly released and your photo is taken as you fall to get your shocked reaction.
Next we went to book our ghost tour, this one goes through tunnels under the city and goes for a couple of hours, this was perfect as it was the longest tour of them all and would kill time before our late night departure on the train back to London. The tour begins in the centre of the city, our guide tells us stories of how things were done in the past in the city from punishing people to famous murders and mysteries that took place. Two people were picked out of the crowd, those two people were from our group in the tour so it was quite amusing with the guide whipping them in the middle of the street to demonstrate how punishment was carried out.
We were then taken to the entrance of the caves that have been built under the city as a result of the city being continuously built higher and higher on top of the last foundations. Basically one layer of the city is abandoned and the new city was built on top of that. We are taken through the eery tunnels and told stories, the lights are turned off so we can see how dark it really is down there. At the end of the tour we are taken to one of the rooms within the tunnel system where we are offered a drink and have the opportunity to ask questions.
From here we then said goodbye to our friends and made our way back to the hotel to grab our belongings. We caught a taxi to Waverley Station and waited around for our overnight train to arrive. Tomorrow morning we will be back in London for our final night in Europe, sadly our two month trip will be coming to an end, but we will still have two full days to explore London and check out some more final sights before our departure back to Australia.