When we arrived in Edinburgh by train, the first thing we noticed when we peeked out the window while waiting to disembark was a Canadian flag. I could only see the hands holding up the flag, and assumed there were other Canadians on the train being met by a friendly Scot. But then Ken exclaimed, “It’s Aileen,” and I took another look. Sure enough, the only person we know in Scotland, and who we weren’t supposed to meet up with for another week and in another city, had taken the train from Glasgow to Edinburgh just to meet us when we arrived in Scotland.
After hugs all round, we cabbed to our accommodation, and then walked back into town. With Aileen playing tour guide, we were able to quickly get our bearings and even see a few sites.
After a pub dinner on Rose Street, we walked back to the Waverley Train Station and said our goodbyes to Aileen, who hopped a train back to Glasgow. We walked back to our B&B, eagerly looking ahead to the one full day we had allocated for exploring this beautiful city.
The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is a historic group of roads running from the Edinburgh Castle at one end, down the hill to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the Queen’s official residence in Scotland) at the other. This was our focus for the day. We took the bus into South Bridge and then walked up the hill to the castle.
The Edinburgh Castle sits on an extinct volcano and offers stunning views of the city in addition to the history and architecture of the buildings and the displays some of them house.
When we left the castle we took a bit of a zigzaggy trip with the intention of getting to Holyroodhouse at the other end of The Royal Mile.
We did reach the palace, but couldn’t get in to catch more than a glimpse of it without paying. Feeling a bit worn out, we decided not to visit the palace. We opted, instead, to check out the relatively new (2004) Scottish Parliament, a fascinating bit of modern architecture, especially sitting among buildings that are many hundreds of years its senior. Anyone can enter the parliament for free. With a debate just beginning, we were issued tickets that allowed us to pop in and witness the goings on (or, in our case, to further examine the interior of the building–no photographs while in session, though).
Once we’d had enough of the politicians, we hopped a bus right outside of the building and rode up to Princes Street, where we wandered for another hour to check out Princes and Rose Streets. We stopped for a coffee and a bit of a rest before catching another bus at dusk for the trip back to our B&B.
Museum of Scotland
The next day was a working day for me, but we had a few hours in the morning we could use for more sightseeing. We decided to check out the most-visited attraction in Scotland, its eponymous museum. From the outside, the museum appears a bit staid, except for a modern addition. But inside, it is anything but. Entrance is free, and there truly is something here for everyone–it’s like a science center and a museum combined. It’s the kind of place you could spend a couple of hours multiple times and still not see everything. (A special exhibit apparently did have an entrance fee, but we didn’t run across it.)
While I went to work, Ken headed to Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that is part of a flat-topped hill in the city. Various access routes have been set up making it fairly accessible for most. Ken took a more strenuous route up, though it only took about 30 minutes right to the peak. He says the 360° views were definitely worth the effort.
- Accommodation: We stayed at the Gil Dun Guest House, a very pleasant and quiet guest house in an area where there seemed to be several. Breakfast included cold cereals, baked goods, fruit and juice followed by a few choices for a cooked breakfast. Highly recommend the Scottish smoked salmon with scrambled eggs. From our B&B, we could walk into town if we wished, but with so much walking around town, we also appreciated the nearby bus stops. £4 for an all-day pass or £1.60 per trip. About 15 minutes by bus to anywhere we went. The Royal Commonwealth Pool is only a few minutes walk away if you have time to work out or go for a swim.
- Edinburgh Castle: Entrance fee is £17/adult, £13.60 concession.
- Dining: We walked to the Salisbury Arms for dinner one night on the suggestion of our B&B’s proprietor, and happened upon Rigatoni’s the next night. Dinner at both places was good, but Ken says he had the best Spaghetti Bolognese ever at Rigatoni’s.