People have told me Edinburgh is a site to see, and I quote one of the prettiest, if not the prettiest capital city of any country in the world. So, I just had to go take a look, in a 4-day solo-trip :)
Day 0 - Monday
As a broke student, I’m taking the night bus, which was the cheapest way to get there from London. It’s better than a flight because a bus double as accommodation during the night and gives me an extra day of traveling and looking around.
Day 1 - Tuesday for Old Town
Morning 06:30 - Checkin and get settled in, and leave bag there 07:30 - 9:30 - Explore the Old Town, find some cafes and have some morning coffee at (The Witches Well) 10:00 - 12:00 - Edinburgh Walking Tours (Starting from 154 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1QS, UK) 12:00 - 13:00 - Cold Town House
Evening 13:00 - 14:30 - St Giles Cathedral/Greyfriars Kirkyard 14:30 - 15:30 - Writers Museum, Victoria Street 16:00 - 16:30 - Edinburgh Castle booked! Eat Haggis at The World’s End Before Sunset - Climb Calton Hill Get some dinner and chill
Day 2 - Wednesday
Morning Brunch/Breakfast at Edinburgh Larder Cafe Holyrood Park/Palace Arthurs Seat Walk over to Leith Waterfront and stop at Edinburgh’s best fish and chips at the King’s Wark
Afternoon/Evening Dean’s Village Explore New Town as well, just take a quick walk around Princes Street
Day 3 - Thursday
Here I am visiting the Scottish Highlands, Glen Coe and the Loch Ness in a paid tour, so I don’t need to plan this out.
Day 4 - Friday
Shopping and stuff, more chill day Armchair Books (best) Mr. Woods Fossils
Coffee spots in general: Bambi coffee Lowdown coffee The Milkman
Food spots in general: Café Portrait
Log #1 [08:50 AM, 23 May 2023]
So I’ve just arrived and unloaded my bag at Castle Rock. That hostel was really incredible btw, the lounges were fancy and the people were so polite and kind. At least from the brief interactions I had with them. I maybe spent around 15 minutes there, before setting out to walk around Old Town, Edinburgh.
And it is pretty. Like really pretty. And it is very walkable. I managed to check out St Giles, Greyfriars Kirkyard, and the University of Edinburgh. And then I walked over to perhaps pickup some coffee from The Milkman. Unfortunately, it was kinda full, so I had to go over to the other cafe on my list, which was the Union Brew Lab.
That’s where I’m writing this part of the log from. Super wonderful experience so far. Except the fact that I’m a bit sick, but otherwise even the bus ride was perfectly amicable. I can’t tell if I’m tired because of the fact that I’m ill, or because I’m just sleep deprived. We’ll see with some coffee.
After this coffee, I guess I’ll be heading over to the walking tour that is starting in an hour or so.
Log #2 [19:24, 23 May 2023]
Somehow, I’ve managed to keep the sickness at bay and keep it from getting worse. Although, hitting 24000 steps and just the tiredness from being sick and not sleeping enough is getting to be.
The free walking tours of cities is a godsend, for understanding more about a city and gaining a richer appreciation for it. My guide was absolutely hilarious. We visited all of the local spots in the Old Town, The Royal Mile , Parliament House, St Giles’ Cathedral and all the other majestic buildings.
A few interesting things learnt. 1) The formation of Edinburgh is a crag and tail formation, caused by glaciers moving around hard volcanic rock during the past ice age. 2) This means that Edinburgh Castle sits well fortified at the top, and the Royal Mile snakes down the tail, connected the castle to the Holyrood Palace. 3) The Mercat Cross or Market Cross is where the old Markets used to be, and next to it was the (now demolished) tax office and tax evasion prison. But still at that spot, there is the Heart of Midlothian, where it is tradition to spit for good, bad or any reason really. 4) Down the side of the steep slope are closes. Not streets but closes which are magical narrow pathways that can transport you from one part of town to a completely different area.
We also walked down to Victoria street, which was the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, and to Greyfrairs Kirkyard where we heard a beautifully tragic story about a dog named Bobby. After the walking tour, I went over and ate a deep fried mars bar (suspiciously delicious) and had a burger and chips at the Coldtown House’s beautiful rooftop. After that, I took a stroll over to the inside of St Giles’ Cathedral and over to Writers’ Museum which itself is in a close. After some time looking around, I decided to walk all the way down to the Holyrood Palace and take a peak at Arthur’s Seat before trekking back up to my hostel.
A short break in the hostel’s lounge room, and I head out again to Edinburgh Castle, this time to take a look inside. It’s basically a small town in there! Together with the rich history, and incredible viewpoints, I also got to look at the beautiful royal palace and crown jewels.
At this point, I was so tired that I just needed food and a bed. So I popped over to Haggis Box, for my fix of the national delicacy, and got it to go. Which brings me to where I am, in my bed, and ready to sleep at 8 PM on a Tuesday night. (also the haggis was really good, esp with the whisky sauce)
Probably going to watch a movie, and then catch an early night. I’ll need the strength for tomorrow’s hike up to Arthur’s Seat. Ciao!
Log #3 [08:22, 24 May 2023]
That was a long sleep, literally knocked out from 8 PM to 6:30 AM. Now, I’m feeling a lot better, and active, and I’ve dragged myself over to The Milkman which is a surreal and quaint specialty cafe nestled in the road connecting the Old Town to the Waverely Place Train Station. The window seat is very vibey 🌈.
This is to fuel me up for the long hike up to Arthur’s Seat, the top of an extinct volcano. After that, I’ll be walking over to the Leith Waterfront, for some Fish and Chips at the King’s Wark. It’s an hour’s hike to Arthur’s Seat, and an hour from then to the King’s Wark. So it should be a fun morning hike, ending at around 11 AM. Nothing more to add at the moment, see y’all after the hike.
Log #4 [22:52, 24 May 2023]
Even though on the net I did less than yesterday, boy does today feel long. Picking up from where I left off, the summit to Arthur’s Peak was just at the right amount of challenging that it remained really fun. And the views from there were absolutely stunning, plus the adrenaline from successfully making it all the way up. I had to put down basecamp, catch my breathe and drink some water at about two points on my way up. So fair to say, I’m not super fit but I’m not terribly unfit either.
After that, was the way back down. I took a small rest pit at Parliament House, just to use the washroom and look around. Fairly uneventful. And then I walked down to the Leith Waterfront, which is an hours walk away from the base of Arthur’s Seat. The walk itself winds through some regular old neighborhoods, and is just a leisurely stroll without much sights to see. Getting to the waterfront itself is amazing though.
The very idea that you can be at the top of an extinct volcano, and an hour later be by the sea is just crazy.
I got to Kings’ Wark early, so I headed over for a light snack at the nearby Toast cafe. And when I finally did get to the try the fish n chips, it was very much worth the talk. Highly recommend it :) Plus the exterior is giving Clarke Quay vibes (sorry to all the Non-Singaporeans).
After that, I was feeling full and wanted to take a bus down to Calton Hill for the Enlightenment era monuments. I, of course, was stupid and took the wrong bus first, but minor hiccups aside, I made it there in one piece. I spent more of my afternoon there, lying down in the grass and taking a couple of calls. It was peaceful, serene, and beautiful for my heart and my eyes.
To be honest, after that I didn’t know what else to do. I took a stroll down Princes St. in New Town, and quickly found myself bored. Princes St. is basically like any other high street, I could’ve mistaken it for Oxford St if not for the massive castle in the background.
Eventually, I circled back around to Victoria Street, near the Royal Mile. Decided to have some dinner there, at around 17:30 and found a cute and affordable Italian place to visit. Nothing special, spectacular or mind-blowing, just regular ole pasta though. Simple, and delicious. During the dinner, I realized, I literally didn’t know what else to do. So, I booked a ticket to a screening of Guardians of the Galaxy nearby. I guess thats a good sign that I’ve seen everything importance.
Movie was good though. Just got back to my accommodation to type this out. Now I’m probably heading to bed. good night.
Log #5 [08:14, 26 May 2023]
I didn’t have any energy to do a log at all yesterday. It was a long day trip, and a lot of time spent on a bus. By the time we rolled back into Edinburgh, it was just past 9 at night, and I just barely had the energy to crawl to Mcdonalds, grab dinner, and then get to bed.
Interestingly enough, the trip I went on, is the longest day trip in Europe. Bold of me. I started the day at 07:00, getting ready and going to check in at the tour bus area, just outside the Cafe Nero on the Royal Mile. The bus left at just past 08:00, winding through the streets of Edinburgh and heading up north. One of the first things that was explained was composition and architecture of the buildings here in Edinburgh. They are primarily made from sandstone, turned black by the coal fires that used to smog up the entire city. On the way out from Edinburgh, we saw two very expensive private schools, costing up to 30,000 pounds per year, apparently Edinburgh City has the highest concentration of private schools in any city in the UK.
Our bus driver and guide’s name was Dave. And Dave was wonderful. As we exited the city, he was merrily regaling us with stories of faeries, kelpies, the Loch Ness Monster, and all manner of pagan mythical spirits. The route we were taking was going to Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, through Perth but first we had to cross over some three beautiful bridges across the Firth of Fourth, which connects into the North Sea.
Past Perth and the small town of Dunkeld, our first rest stop was at the town of Pitlochry. It’s a small highland town, where we spent about 15 minutes, I got some whisky ice cream and stretched my legs. The scenery onwards from Pitlochry was starting to be very stunning, which the hills (or mountains??) of Scotland making their appearance. We stopped in a couple of spots along the way to Inverness, which made for some stunning photos. Some terms to learn are Lochs => Lakes, Glenns => Steepish Valleys, Straths => Shallowish Valleys
Dave told us a bunch of interesting stories about Blair Atholl, the Jacobites and the persecution of the Catholics post the appointment of a protestant King.
In what was a bit of a pity, we didn’t end up stopping at Inverness, but rather drove through down to the Loch Ness, stopping at a rest stop called the Clansman Harbour. There we got some lunch and the folk who forked up 28 pounds for a lake cruise went off into the Loch. They also got to visit Castle Urquhart, a ruin of a castle destroyed by its owners under a scorched earth policy. Couldn’t be me.
I spent lunchtime, reading by the Loch, and just taking in the sights. And we picked up the rest further down the road near Castle Urquhart. It’s interesting the stories of the various Clans in Scotland, and the power struggles that ensured from such a political landscape. That also explains the pretty frequent castle sightings in Scotland, the lords all required fortified residences for the frequency skirmishes that arose between clans.
Loch Ness is big, and there was no monster. But it lies along the Great Glen, which the remainder of the trip was spent hugging the roads along. These are some of the prettiest routes in the highlands, with the towering hills, and a pristine natural environment. The hills themselves are coated with Heather, Dave told us that they turn the hills purple at around the end of June.
Our next couple of stops were the so-called fort towns, Fort Augustus and Fort Williams. This is where I learnt about the Caledonian Canal system, which connected the Lochs and enabled boat traffic through the highlands. It was beautiful engineering, we saw some of the lock systems close up. This was also the dozy part of the afternoon, and I could feel myself getting a bit claustrophobic at this point. Also inspired by the history of clans, I played some Polytopia to the pass the time.
The best part of the drive was definitely through Glen Coe. I mean just look at it. To wrap it all up, we met some hairy coos, and they were adorable. 10/10
And that was mostly it. An incredible day, with beautiful sights, and great stories. I think I do prefer walking around to bus tours, just because I feel like I’m doing more when I’m on my feet, but there was no other way to see these many things in this short an amount of time. It was a whirlwind tour, and a great time.
Today, I’m taking a bit of a chill day. Probably going to do some shopping, and I think I’ll visit the Scottish National Gallery and a couple of other museums. We’ll keep it light, I’ve already checkout out of the hostel, and I have until about 9pm to kill.
Cheers, to a good last day.
Log #5 [13:42, 28 May 2023]
This is something of a delayed log. I find myself back in London now, in fact I’ve been in London for more than a day at this point. But, I had to circle around the wrap up what I started. For the most part, the last day was exactly what I said I would be doing. I started off by taking a nice walk through the Scottish National Gallery, and taking a look at the art collections. Sometimes, especially when I have a calmer and peaceful mind, it’s a lot easier for me to spend time to appreciate art.
It was definitely one of those days, I managed to spend almost 2 hours walking around in there, and it was beautiful. One of my favourite pieces was the [portrait of Margarita Macdonald, by the Scottish painter Raeburn](Scottish painter Raeburn: portrait of Margarita Macdonald.).
I also had a bit of time to head over to the Scottish Museum, and take a quick walk around. Didn’t spend too much time there however, I was started to get hungry at around 13:00. Nothing to mention of note here, other than the fact that they had a Makerbot on display in a booth, which made me feel very old. Early 21st Century, those were the tools of my childhood!
After that, I went over to the Edinburgh Larder, a local and very well rated cafe, where I dared to try Cullen skink, a Scottish traditional soup made out of smoked fish. Funnily, the waiter seemed almost shocked when I ordered it, I suppose he wasn’t expecting a tourist to take the leap. It was delicious though, I enjoyed it, maybe not something I would actively seek out, but still very good nonetheless.
To be honest, I didn’t feel like doing much after that. I wrapped up some souvenir shopping, visiting Armchair Books for some second hands books and the Makers Market. Then, I spent the evening reading some of my own books while taking in the scenery.
The trip back was bittersweet. On the one hand, I felt like I’d spent enough time in Edinburgh, I was excited to get back to London and get back to some work. On the other, I felt sad, or maybe even some sort of hesitant to return home. I bumped into a friend I’d made the previous day on my Scottish Highlands tour, who was on an earlier coach home, and we had a nice conversation about what we enjoyed on our trip. It’s interesting how there are some people who just blip in and out of your life, brought together and then apart by pure happenstance.
A day after coming back to London, and reality resumes. The glenns, castles, stories and cobbled paths linger in my thoughts but are starting to feel more like vivid memories and less like reality. It feels good to be home though, adventures have way of clearing the mind and putting me in a new headspace. And Edinburgh was one of the most mythical adventures yet.