Arriving on the train from London at Edinburgh’s Waverly Station, our first impression was not a good one. Edinburgh was just coming off a 12-day trash collector strike and had only two days to recover before we arrived, but the streets were still strewn with residual trash left behind. Once we got past the trash though, we saw what a charming place Edinburgh really is!
After we checked into our hotel, Courtyard by Marriott, we headed to the trail behind the hotel leading up to Carlon Hill, perched high above Edinburgh and offering a spectacular view of the city and beyond, even to the coastline. Our perspective shifted quickly to Edinburgh being one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever seen, and we can’t wait to go back. Just goes to show you that you need to explore a city before judging it. If you like to walk and find secret staircases and passageways, then Edinburgh is your city! Everywhere you look there is an alternative path to the main streets. Of course, this causes Google Maps to lead you astray sometimes and confuse you. On the way to walk to Scottish Parliament for our tour, we ended up having to take a steep stone staircase, Jacob’s Ladder, which I found reference to as being historic but boy was it spooky going into a short tunnel after we navigated the staircase without incident.
After just visiting the UK Parliament in London, we decided to follow that up with a free Scottish Parliament tour. What a contrast between the historic UK building and this modern structure. We were allowed in to see where the Parliament sits when they are in session, which was the following day. We wanted to go back and see them debate but alas Thom hurt his back and we ended up having to skip it. One interesting fact was that the Parliament has beehives onsite that they care for and sell their honey in the gift shop. They also sell hard liquor, which is a featured product in many museum/government gift shops in the UK. I imagine the politicians that endure a bad day just grab a bottle of the hard stuff on their way out. Cheers!
Before Thom was laid up with back pain, we managed to get all over town and see the key sites. A highlight was finding Greyfriars Bobby, a statue of the best and most loyal dog in the world. Legend has it that this Skye Terrier in the 19th century would sit by his owner’s gravesite every day for fourteen years until he passed as well. After patting Bobby on the head, we entered Greyfriar’s graveyard, where JK Rowling prowled around looking for inspiration for her Harry Potter books. It is dripping with atmosphere so I can see why. We found Thomas Riddle’s grave and also William McGonagall-sound familiar? As we heard the owls hooting, we could only imagine JK finding her muse among the spooky gravestones. My husband loves tramping around old graveyards. His favorite is Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris filled with atmosphere and famous dead people like Jim Morrison, Frederic Chopin, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde.
Edinburgh Castle looms large over the city, up a steep street and worth the climb. It is immaculately preserved from the stone walls to the many canons that defended the good people of Edinburgh from invaders. The lovely 80-year-old working in the gift shop and giving out whiskey samples only enhanced the visit for me. I bought a wee dram of Stag’s Breath Liqueur, a fine whisky and fermented comb honey liqueur. Yum! Also, the gift store rocked as they carried multiple rubber character duckies that we collect for our grandkids from all over the world. So, history, whiskey, ducks. Well done! As one sign I saw in Edinburgh declared “Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whiskey”. Make sure to leave time on your visit to Edinburgh to enjoy the plentiful pubs, cafes and shops that line the colorful winding streets. Do a whiskey tasting! You never know when you will stumble upon bagpipes being played. While known for its moody weather, it was sunny and beautiful when we visited in late September so we got to roam around in comfort and enjoy all that Edinburgh had to offer. Can’t wait to go back!