Written by Vidal Dcosta.
Considering that some of my favourite actors like David Tennant and Ewan McGregor hail from Scotland and the fact that I adore the Scottish accent, a visit to Scotland was always on my bucket list. And I did pay a visit to its gorgeous capital- Edinburgh (fun fact, the ‘G’ is silent and it’s actually pronounced ‘Edin-burrah’) with my family. We travelled by train, leaving from King’s Cross in London where we were vacationing for about a week or so. The journey by train alone is worth the trip there with its enticing views of lush green sprawling meadows upon which sheep and horses can be seen grazing as well as gorgeous towns situated along the riverfront. However, once you step foot on the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh, keep your jackets on to avoid freezing to death!
Now that we’ve kept our jackets on, let’s move along and check out Edinburgh, shall we? Here are the things you should do and places you must visit while there.
1. Visit Edinburgh Castle
This immensely majestic castle stands atop Castle Hill and looms over you wherever you may be in Edinburgh. There is obviously no escape from it and so it must be visited. A short stroll up a slanting cobblestone slope, one finds themselves standing at the doorway of the majestic Edinburgh Castle. While here, the National War Museum, which keeps a record of all the poor souls who lost their lives in various wars, is a must-visit to learn about the heart-breaking history and pay tribute to the troops.
The sprawling gardens here are a sight to behold, as well as the medieval canons which have been well-preserved for centuries. In fact, if you’re lucky, you might even hear the roar of the ‘Mons Meg’ or the ‘mother of all canons’ which is occasionally fired at one o’clock.
The castle also houses a mesmerising collection of Crown Jewels, many of which have been recovered over the years and beautifully preserved.
2. Take a Tour of the Royal Mile
Much like London, Edinburgh also has its share of hop on-hop off tour buses which make a tourist’s visit here easier. Just hop on such a bus and sit back as it takes you around the streets of Edinburgh, with a Scottish-accented tour guide with just the right amount of annunciation whose voice is just heaven and helpful if learning about the historical significance of Edinburgh and each of its monuments and buildings is what you wish for on this trip.
The bus weaves in and around the Royal Mile, which starts from Edinburgh Castle and continues along streets lined with world-famous pubs such as the ‘Greyfriars Bobby’ (dedicated to a dog who was ever-faithful to its dead master for 14 years and is now remembered by a cute statue in its likeness, whose nose has sadly lost its shine thanks to nosy tourists rubbing it for luck!) as well as the coffee shop where a struggling JK Rowling wrote parts of her ‘Harry Potter’ series.
Other monuments along the Royal Mile include the ‘Scott Monument’ dedicated to Sir Walter Scott which is a Victorian Gothic monument and the second-largest monument commemorating a writer and a treat especially if you’re into gorgeous architecture and literature buff.
3. Be Haunted by Edinburgh’s dark past
The hop on -hop off bus also passes by the ‘Witches Well’, the harrowing tale of which will definitely give you goosebumps, as it was a major location where the witch trials took place centuries ago. According to our tour guide, this location houses a well into which a woman accused of being a witch would be tossed during her trial. If she floated, she was human…but if she drowned, you could be sure that she was a witch! Just imagining how many innocent women must have lost their lives here sent a shiver up my spine.
Also, of spine-tingling historical importance is the building where infamous murderers Burke and Hare carried out the murders and skinning of their victims before selling the bodies to a nearby hospital for anatomical studies.
Also, chilling are the harrowing stories surrounding the paranormal incidents that take place at the ancient cemeteries here. For more on these, take the ‘Haunted Graveyard tour’ if you’re brave enough! This tour is as enlightening as it is chilling to the core but worth it.
4. Catch some sunshine on Leith
Immortalised in the song ‘Sunshine on Leith’ by ‘The Proclaimers’, Leith is a gorgeous riverside port town and its scenic beauty will leave you mesmerised. It boasts of towering lighthouses and a dock that houses the ‘Royal Yacht Britannia’ which has served as a luxurious floating venue for the Queen who has used it to welcome various heads of state and famous people from all over the globe for the past 40 years and it boasts of a spacious sun lounge, even more spacious Royal Apartments and bedrooms as well as a Royal Deck Tea Room. One can even book a tour to jump aboard this royal yacht and check all these out and even have a spot of tea and cakes.
5. Check out what’s on display at the National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland has a lot on display and is a must visit whether you’re a history buff or not. From science to fashion, there is a lot to take away from the artefacts on display here and most of the collection is sourced globally and well-preserved.
Visit ‘Dolly the sheep’ (remember her from the chapter on cloning from your biology textbooks?) or play around with the latest gadgets, be enthralled by the evolution of fashion over the years and more while here. Don’t forget to leave a donation as the museum thrives on donations to expand its collection.
6. Enjoy the Music of the Bagpipers
Some might call it noise, but I call it music to my ears. Every corner of Edinburgh has more bagpipers than one can count. It is a treat to hear them playing their tunes and feel free to even pick up a bagpipe for yourself from one of the many souvenir shops here. Although, playing it takes a lot of practice and a great set of lungs!
7. Take a bite of the food
Sure, a dish comprising sheep’s heart, liver and lungs cooked in a sheep’s stomach is not exactly flavourful to everyone’s taste buds, but when in Scotland, do as the Scots do and just give it a try. You might like it!
Most restaurants serve this dish along with the similar blood pudding and it is the national dish of Scotland and it actually tastes better than how I just made it sound. Of course, if you aren’t into haggis, fresh batter-fried fish and chips could be right up your alley.
8. Celebrate Christmas any month of the year!
If you pass by a shop with a giant nutcracker statue standing upright outside it, be sure to pop in as this is the ‘Nutcracker Christmas Shop’ which sells Christmassy items such as baubles, tinsel, decorative showpieces, snow globes, fairy lights, et al which can be used to decorate your home, your Christmas tree and even your nativity scene, come Christmas time.
And the most magical part about this festive store is that it stays open long before and after the holiday season, so you can pop in any time, day or hour to prepare early for Christmas.
9. Take a tour of a Brewery
Edinburgh, as well as other parts of Scotland, are home to many whiskey and scotch breweries and there are few near the Edinburgh castle which offer tours where you can learn the art of distilling the perfect whiskey as well as learn about the master crafters, the history behind the spirit and even the construction of the barrel in which the brew is stored.
Do not miss out on sampling the brew as well.
10. Go shopping for souvenirs and do not leave without trying and buying a kilt
Edinburgh is dotted with shops selling souvenirs such as keychains with clan names engraved on them, tiny coin purses with the national emblem (purple thistle) and national flag printed on them and even tartan print scarves and bags. The shops also sell CDs by local musicians so be sure to check those out as well.
There are also kilt shops where you can try and buy the traditional clothing- tartan print kilts which are available in many colours such as red, green and purple. One can also learn to wrap it traditionally, but there are also kilts which are ready to wear without much hassle. Pair it with a pin or brooch and maybe even a sporran which is a traditional pouch made of leather or fur which mainly functions as pockets since the kilt itself has no pockets. Also, it is fashionable.
So, those were just a few of the things and places to visit if you’re ever in Edinburgh. Make the most of your visit while there, make some memories and enjoy!
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Vidal D’costa is a self-published author on Amazon in the sci-fi and romance genres & amp; currently an English major. She lives & amp; loves to write about anything & everything. She’s into a lot of authors but could read Wilde, Poe, Dahl & Ruskin Bond till the end of time. She is also a movie buff who hopes to hit it big as a screenwriter someday.