Quick Trips in Edinburgh
Sometimes I have work to do in Edinburgh, which is only a 50-minute train ride away from Glasgow. After working in the morning, I often have a few hours to enjoy the city, so I wanted to share some of the quick things I've come to enjoy in the lovely city of Edinburgh.
All of these things can be done very cheaply (mostly free), and on foot from Edinburgh Waverley Station in the centre of town! I'll keep updating my list as I spend more fun afternoons in the Scottish capital!
Holyrood Park and Arthurs Seat
Rolling green hills without even leaving the city? Yes, please! Holyrood Park is a quick walk from the bottom of the Royal Mile, but once you get around the corner, you forget you're even in the city. You can opt for the steep climb up to Arthur's Seat, but my favourite path is the thin trail running atop the Salisbury Craigs. That way you get to take in views of the city and the sea at the same time as the rolling hills of Arthur's Seat.
On the 20-minute walk to the trailhead from Waverley Station, you'll pass a number of fun sights, including the bottom bit of the Royal Mile, the Scottish Parliament Building, and Holyrood House, the official Royal Residence of Edinburgh. From there, plan for 1-2.5 hours of walking around the park, round trip, depending on how quick you go and which paths you do. I did it in hiking sandals, but if it was damper I would imagine it would get quite muddy!
It may seem a bit macabre, but central Edinburgh is packed with cemeteries, and aside from being wonderfully picturesque, they often can give insights into the social history of the city. I try to visit cemeteries everywhere I travel!
Most famous is Greyfriars Kirkyard, just South of Grassmarket, where there's the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, the dog who sat everyday by his owners grave. These photos are from the cemetery of the Parish Church of St. Cuthbert at the far West end of Princes Street Gardens, which has beautiful views up to Edinburgh Castle above, and is a peaceful respite right in the centre of the city. But anywhere you go in Edinburgh, you're bound to stumble across a cemetery, so check it out!
Edinburgh is one of the only places where I'll pay ￡3 for a cappuccino without complaining. The ambience is so lovely though that it's worth it. Union Brew Lab just South of the Royal Mile has the most adorable individual seating nooks, while Wellington Coffee in the New Town has adorable outdoor seating. Rose Street is packed with cute options, as well as South Clerk Street.
Harry Potter Mania
I do love Harry Potter, and Edinburgh is full of it. As the city where J.K. Rowling wrote most of the novels, there are tons of Potter-related sites to visit. You can also take a number of Harry Potter walking tours. This is me outside the Elephant House Cafe, where she apparently began writing the novels. Inside was remarkably touristy, but I had to get my photo taken!
There are also tons of Harry Potter shops everywhere, both official and unofficial. And in spite of the hype, it does feel quite magical on a cold day to step into a warm shop lined with wizardry supplies to a soundtrack of John Williams. And some of them are quite inventive!
But if you want to buy anything Harry Potter-related, head to Primark. It may lack ambience, but you'll pay 1/4 of the price!
Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street Gardens, the natural dip between the Old Town and the New Town, used to house a lake that was filled with the city's sewage. But now it's all drained out and is a delightful place to lounge or stroll (in nice weather), with views up to beautiful buildings on both sides, and a lovely fountain in the middle. It's right next to the train station as well, so a lovely place to spend an hour before heading back to Glasgow.
The Scottish National Gallery
One of the best things about Scotland is that most public museums are free! Edinburgh does have a good number of private museums and historical sites, many of which are extortionately expensive, but you can still fill your afternoon with free wanderings. The Scottish National Gallery is right in the centre of town and is compact enough that an hour around the circuit will let you take in most of it. My favourite is Monarch of the Glen, depicting a picturesque stag set amidst the rugged Highlands.
Takeaway and People Watching
Edinburgh definitely has some great dining options, but my favourite is to get some quick takeaway and find somewhere picturesque to eat it. The terrace overlooking Victoria Street is lovely in the morning before the cafes open and put out their tables, or the pavement area outside the entrance to Edinburgh Castle (only in the evening once the castle is closed). Princes Street Gardens is lovely, but really anywhere you sit, you'll be sure to find excellent people-watching material to turn your eating experience into a cultural experience.
The Royal Mile
Sure, it may be touristy, and you may not be able to escape the endless lengths of tartan shops, but it does feel quite nice to walk up (or preferably down) the Royal Mile, taking in the sounds of a fully-kilted bagpiper and the beautiful old buildings. Make sure to explore the hidden lanes off to the side for a chance at something a bit quieter. The curving lanes down to the sides (especially Cockburn Street) have some adorably quirky craft shops and hip cafes.
If You're Staying Over
St. Christopher's Inn is directly across the road from Waverley Station and has beds that cost less than a sandwich. It's not the most posh, and I can see how if you were stuck with a bunch of loud party people it might not be ideal, but I had the loveliest bed directly next to a window with a view out over the rising sun and the New Town rising over Waverley Station, and it was pretty great. And free cheese toasties for breakfast!