You might not think of Scotland as a verifiable dream destination. Chances are when you do think of it, which is likely to be rare, you conjure up images of Braveheart (actually made by Americans and shot in Ireland), tartan, kilts, and rain. And we can’t forget caber tossing, which essentially means carrying a very large stick and throwing it into the air as hard as you can while wearing a kilt. But there’s more to Scotland than that. It can be considered a dream destination in and of itself, largely thanks to its magnificent, majestic capital city of Edinburgh.
Actually, never mind the rather tame description of ‘a dream destination’; Edinburgh looks as if it came straight out of a Disney movie. Granted it might be the city where the villain resides, as this ancient town retains lashings of gothic elegance; but at least it’s got a serious style. Looking great in swirling mist or stone-splitting sunshine (it gets plenty of the first, less of the latter), Edinburgh should be a must-see for any serious traveler. If you’re not convinced and want to check out the good time’s other adventurers have had in the Scottish capital, log on to BUCKiTDREAM and start getting inspired! While you’re at it, why not make a few plans in your ever-handy BUCKiTDREAM planner, so that when you hit Scotland, you’re ready to take full advantage.
To get you going, here’s a quick rundown of the best things to do in Edinburgh!
Breach the Castle Walls Edinburgh Castle dominates the city skyline almost anywhere you look, perched high atop sheer cliffs, sitting remarkably high for a structure situated right in the nucleus of the city. As well as the grand exterior, there are numerous historic displays and exhibits to be discovered inside.
Get Up Close With the Royal Mile Leading all the way from the Castle to the gates of Holyrood Palace, the Royal Mile is a fascinating stretch of cobbled, pedestrianized road and narrow closes, the latter being a Scottish term for the numerous alleyways that snake off the Mile. There’s plenty to explore here; you could spend an entire day just poking and nosing around.
Get Thoroughly Spooked On a Ghost Tour Edinburgh’s a spooky old place, and the savvy entrepreneurs of Scotland have wasted no time commercializing that particular aspect. The result is a selection of fascinating, chilling and sometimes downright terrifying nightly ghost tours.
Risk Cardiac Arrest With a Deep Fried Mars Bar A Scottish specialty, you haven’t really lived until you’ve shamelessly devoured a deep fried Mars bar in all its filthy, heart-stopping glory. If you’re made of stern stuff, attempt the double. Beyond that, the triple is legendary; the quadruple is but a myth.
Pay Your Respects To the World’s Most Loyal Dog Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye terrier who became wildly famous in Edinburgh for spending fourteen years beside his owner’s grave, until he died himself on 14th January 1872. There’s a life-size statue of the noble mutt outside Greyfriars graveyard.
Get Seriously Obscure in the Camera Obscura Museum A weird and wacky museum located on the Royal Mile, the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions contains some mind-bending, sensory-assaulting delights for all the family.
Drop In On the Queen at Holyrood Palace Her Majesty’s stately residence when she’s visiting Edinburgh (if the Royal Standard flag is up, she’s at home), Holyrood Palace is open to visitors. In a typically ghoulish Edinburghian twist, there are some bloodstains to be seen too, courtesy of one David Rizzio; he was brutally murdered there in 1566 by the jealous husband of Mary, Queen of Scots.
People Watch in Grassmarket A historic marketplace and general hangout area since times of old, Grassmarket is the number one spot to relax and take in Edinburgh’s imperial atmosphere (but no longer the place to catch a public hanging).
High End J.K. Rowling finished off the last few chapters of the final Harry Potter book surrounded by the five-star trappings of the Balmoral Hotel, a gorgeous slice of Victorian-slash-traditional Scottish luxury, smack bang in the center of the city.
Medium The Royal Scots Club provides a cozy den of comfort and quiet in the city, combining a great location with awesome value for money. As a bonus, it’s packed with fascinating WWI memorabilia.
Budget As with most European capitals, hostels are the way to go here; you get to meet and link up with fellow travelers, and can usually operate out of city center base while saving most of your funds for day trips and activities.
The fabled battered Mars Bar has already been mentioned, but when it comes to sweet things, Scotland doesn’t stop there. Fudge is one of the most endearing and enduring treats that Edinburgh offers up, so why not stop into The Fudge House, located down the lower end of the Royal Mile, and taste-test a few different styles for yourself? We’re sure you’ll be surprised at a number of flavors they can pack into the same basic recipe.
The other famous Scottish delicacy is of course haggis, but no one really knows what it is. Well, here is the definitive answer. It’s a pudding made of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, mixed with onion, oatmeal, and various spices. Edinburgh is, of course, full of the stuff; one of the best places to eat it is The Last Drop, situated in Grassmarket. It’s the bar/restaurant situated nearest the old gallows spot; legend has it that the condemned enjoyed their final drink in The Last Drop before making the long, lonely walk across the square. It is said to be haunted. Naturally.
Whisky – Spelled the True Scottish Way, With No ‘e’ If there’s one country that could give the Irish a run for their money when it comes to drink culture, it’d be the Scots. Their whiskey, more commonly known as Scotch, is akin to the nectar of the gods; you shouldn’t leave the city, let alone the country, without sampling it.
There are so many great bars to do this in, it’d be seriously unfair to single out just a couple of bars. Bars like The Black Cat, an intimate and sophisticated dive bar that certainly looks and feels the part, and the more modern Whiski Rooms, which serves over three hundred brands of whiskey to discerning punters, providing them with stunning views of the city to boot.
Tips and Culture
The time of year you might want to visit Edinburgh very much depends on what you want to get out of it. For three weeks in August, the city’s population expands dramatically, as festival season rules the roost. Many natives actually vacate during this time, leaving their land to the (much valued) visitors. If you want to experience one of the most prominent festival cities in the world in full swing, then head there during August (but be warned to book very far in advance).
If you prefer a more quiet time and would much rather explore the city at your own pace, any other time during the late spring/early summer is a great time to visit. You can’t always count on the weather, but you can be sure of long, stretching days, as the city’s northern location keeps the daylight going well into traditional nighttime.
Christmas and New Year can also be a beautiful time to visit; the festive season suits Edinburgh’s gothic atmosphere remarkably well. Whatever the date, something to bear in mind is Edinburgh’s hilly, craggy topography; you’ll need a keen pair of shoes and more than a hefty dose of energy to tackle it. Flat and gradual it is not.
Combining a refreshing and memorable hike with stunning, superb 360-degree panoramas of Edinburgh’s gothic skyline, the dormant volcano of Arthur’s Seat is the city’s absolute ‘must see’. Featuring numerous entry points, dramatic but relatively easy-going terrain, and culminating in the ancient stone chair of its namesake, Arthur’s Seat is one of the city’s finest attractions, and it’s absolutely free, to boot.
Edinburgh might not have been on your list of top travel destinations before reading this, but hopefully, now you’ve got a flavor for one of Europe’s most breathtaking and historical capitals. It’s one of the best-kept secrets on the British Isles, and well worth visiting either on a tour of the U.K. or as a stand-alone trip. With a bit of luck, you’ve amassed a number of things to do in your BUCKiTDREAM planner, and are looking forward to kicking off your own Scottish adventure!