Arriving in Edinburgh the first sight that is impossible to overlook is Edinburgh Castle high up on Castlehill. A majestic bastion standing proud of its city and with an immense story to tell going back to the Iron Age. Once up on its mighty ramparts, the views over the city and beyond to the Firth of Forth are really worth the walk up. Stay a while and tour the castle and grounds (including the crown jewels!).
In the vicinity of the castle (the Old Town) other attractions are waiting: The Scottish Whisky Experience is just outside the castle gates and offers a history of whisky in Scotland through the ages, a tasting and a shop filled with your favourite tipple. Anecdote: my grandmother was a whisky lover and, latterly, when she couldn’t eat much anymore, drank two glasses each evening and lived to be 92!
The Real Mary King’s Close. Suitably spooky and mysterious and with a ghost (?), just down the road from the castle. Mary King was a lady who rented out apartments to the poor. Enjoy the guided tour of the streets and tenement housing deep under the streets and buildings of the present Old Town and get a feeling for what it must have been like 150 years ago.
Continuing down the road from the castle the name changes to High Street and then to Canongate. At the end of Canongate Holyrood Palace looms ahead. Once the domicile of Mary Queen of Scots, the palace has a turbulent history including the conflicts between England and Scotland. There are many exhibitions and activities throughout the year.
Throughout Edinburgh there are many woollen and tweed shops where you can find some lovely garments. I’m currently saving up for a tweed jacket! There are many souvenir shops too, so plenty to browse. Other shops are to be found in the “new” part of Edinburgh down the hill from the castle in Princes Street. There you will find Princes Street Gardens and also the Scottish National Gallery which is well worth a visit. The gallery also has a very good cafe/restaurant: The Scottish Cafe and Restaurant. Interestingly, all Scottish museums are free so that you don’t feel obliged to scrutinize every corner of the building in order to get your money’s worth of culture!
Where to eat and drink in Edinburgh? You won’t go hungry or thirsty! I particularly like the pubs where, amongst other beverages, you can buy very small glasses of beer. They’re about one third of a pint and are useful if you would like to try the different types of beer on offer. If you remember the name of your favourite beer, you can drink a larger glass the next time. If you’re into craft beer, Edinburgh is no slouch: check out this website for the 10 best craft beer pubs in town. Pub food has moved on from its stodgy beginnings and Edinburgh offers more than the usual pie and chips. The menus are varied including a selection of vegetarian dishes. Restaurants in Edinburgh have to compete with each other and offer food to fit cosmopolitan tastes. However, if you want the traditional Scottish ‘haggis, tatties ’n neeps’, or ‘Arbroath smokies’, you’re sure to find that too!
Before leaving Edinburgh, I would like to include a tip about where to eat, which I received from our clan member Jack Hunter: The Sheep Heid Inn. Madame Pauline mentions this in a YouTube clip entitled: A Tale to Tell. It is Scotland’s oldest surviving pub established in 1360. Thank you, Jack!
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