The Explorer’s Guide to Edinburgh

The City of Edinburgh is one of the top places to visit in the North Atlantic for the cultural traveller. Edinburgh is the Capital of Scotland, seat of the Scottish parliament and a city of residence for the British Monarch.

Exploring history is one of the primary draws of Edinburgh but there are also a few outdoor activities to do as well. There are many alluring pubs, restaurants and nightlife opportunities in Edinburgh but the city can run a bit on the expensive side for the average explorer/backpacker.

It is a city with a reputation of excellence across the board in the arts and sciences. Home to the University of Edinburgh which is one of the top educational institutions in the world, Edinburgh is a city for the inquisitive, the curious and the wanderer. Edinburgh’s old town is one of the most fun places in Europe to explore and take in medieval archetecture.

Be prepared because this is a city that has an energy that pulls one in the minute they arrive.

Background/Essentials

Location:Great Britain; The United Kingdom
Population:482,005 (2020 est)
People:92% White British (1 in 7 born in England)
Largest Minority Group:Chinese Nationals
Currency:Pound Sterling
Basics
Religion:%
Non-Affiliation/Atheist60%
Church of Scotland/Roman Catholicism33%
Islam3%
Buddhist/Hinduism/Judaism4%
Tron Kirk Clock Town on The Royal Mile

The Capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh was given its name by the Anglo Saxon occupiers in the tenth century but was originally called Dun Eidean, by its Gaelic founders. Residing in the historic county of Midlothian, with its medieval paved streets still intact and the Royal Castle standing high on a perch of volcanic rock overlooking the city, it is not hard to see why Edinburgh’s old town was designated a UNESCO world heritage site.

Even with its rich history and being home to the National Museum of Scotland, The University of Edinburgh, The Scottish National Art Gallery and the Scottish Parialiment, next to London, Edinburgh is the second largest financial services centre in the UK.

Though many presume Glasgow to be the business city of Scotland, within the last fifty years, Edinburgh has transformed into a banking and Insurance hub within Britain. White collar workers now comfortably outnumber blue collar workers. Edinburgh is also only second to London in its popularity as a tourist destination.

Something to consider when arriving in Edinburgh, is purchasing the CityPass which is valid for up to three days and includes free entry to 17 of the city’s top attractions.

If exploring in August, keep in mind that the Edinburgh Festival is held in this month annually and attracts thousands from home and abroad.

Walk/run the Royal Mile

Heading East on the Royal Mile

One cannot visit Edinburgh and not walk the Royal Mile in Old Town, it just isn’t possible. Beginning at the northwest end stands Edinburgh Castle and the other, is Holyrood Palace and Arthurs Seat. Lacing up a pair of running shoes and taking a swift jog down the Royal Mile is probably the best way to experience the vibrance of old town and Edinburgh itself. It is through doing this that it becomes clear, why Old Town is an UNESCO World Heritage site.

Arguably all the top places to explore in Edinburgh reside on the Royal Mile and they include the Scotch Whiskey Distillery, The Writers Museum, St Giles Cathedral; which is to be sure, an impressive 14th century piece of architecture. The chapel is dedicated to Santi Giles, a prominent medieval saint of Cripples and Lepers, he is also the patron saint of the entire city of Edinburgh too. At the end of the Royal mile is Arthurs Seat, the Scottish Parliament building and Holyrood Palace which was constructed in the 1670’s. Interesting to look out for at Holyrood is whether or not the flag is at Full Staff. If it is, The Queen of England herself or another Royal family member is in residence 🙂

University of Edinburgh

Founded in 1583, The University of Edinburgh is a world renowned intellectual centre and sixth oldest university in the UK. It is home to over 42000 undergraduates and postgrads and attracts students from across the world, including the United States and China. Contains three colleges of 21 schools; College of Arts, Humanities and Social sciences, College of Medicine and Veterinary medicine. And College of Science & Engineering.  19 Nobel Prize winners are alumni and it ranked 20th in the 2020 QZ world university Rankings. It also ranked in the top of the UK’s sporting universities.

The University boasts the oldest student newspaper and oldest purpose built student union in the world. Possessing excellent facilities, including the third largest academic library in Europe. Whether you are an aspiring student or not, walking the grounds of this historic learning centre will not be a waste of time.

National Museum of Scotland

The Grand Gallery

One of the greatest museums on the planet and one of the top places to visit in the entire UK, The National Museum of Scotland is located on Chambers street, near the University of Edinburgh. The museum consists of five levels of galleries in the categories of; World Culture, Scottish History and Archaeology, Science and Technology, The Natural World and The Art, Design and Fashion Gallery. It is best to plan a whole day around coming here because one can easily spend a few hours exploring the various galleries and the thousands upon thousands of artifacts that it holds.

The Scottish History and Archeology Gallery is probably the best place in the world to learn about the early peoples of Scotland, including the Picts, Vikings and Celts. The Gallery follows a timeline of Scottish history all the way up to the present day and includes relics from the Dark Ages and World War II.

Arthurs seat

A short but spectacular hike and one my personally favorite things to do in Edinburgh. Located at the end of the Royal Mile in Holyrood Park, the hill is the remains of an extinct volcano that erupted 350 million years ago. Unsurprisingly, there is speculation that Arthurs seat had a connection to King Arthur and may have been the mythical location of Camelot. The trek begins near Holyrood Palace, There are are couple different trails that can be taken once on the hill but they are easily found. The views from the top of Arthurs seat offer a panoramic view of the entire city and nearby Portobello beach

Calton Hill

Next to Arthurs seat, Calton Hill is another spectacular little walk that takes one up a couple flights of steep stairs, up to the National monument that resembles and was inspired by the Pantheon of Athens. Built in 1816, its purpose was to honor the lives lost during the Napoleionic wars. Also at the top is the city Observatory and Old Observatory House, both gives credence to Edinburgh’s history of excellence in Astronomy.

Also of interest on the hill is Nelson’s Monument, in honor of the British admiral who led his fleet to victory at Trafalgar in 1805. The monument has a famous timeball mechanism by which ships used to set their chronometres.

The views from Calton

Edinburgh castle

Costing 25 euros for a tour and resting on a rocky hill of an ancient volcano that exploded nearly 340 million years ago, Edinburgh Castle is quite touristy but nevertheless is worth a wander through. The side of Castle Rock, where the Castle rest upon, is characterized by its sharp cliffs that were cut by glaciers. Thus, the glaciers and volcano, give the castle a claim to fame for its Natural History as well, and not just it’s medieval.

Evidence suggest humans have been living on the Castle rock since 850 BC. It is easy to see how this location was ideal to defend the city from attackers. The castle has faced sieges 23 times, making it the most embattled fortress in Europe. Perhaps the most notable instances was Longshanks siege of 1296 when Edward I plundered the castle and moved all its its treasures to London.

St Margarets Chapel is the oldest building within the complex and was built around 1130, in honor of Queen Margaret who lived in the 11th century.

Scottish National Gallery

A must see venue for modern and contemporary art. It possess a wide range of superb masterpeices including works by Picasso and Warhol, as well as famous scottisha rtists. Entry is free.

the writers museum

This museum is for literature fanatics and primarily celebrates the lives of Scottish writers, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. The museum is home to portraits, rare books and the personal objects of these famous writers. Not a bad way to spend an hour while walking down the Royal Mile.

Portobello beach

Portobello beach is 3 miles from Edinburgh city and is a charming seaside suburb with two miles of sand. The town itself is characterized by its Georgian and Victorain archetecture but is also similar to Galway’s Salthill promenade in vibes. This is a great place

Where to stay; Hostels/hotels

High Street Hostel– The best budget place to stay in Edinburgh by far, High Street Hostel is located right on the Royal Mile, inside a 470 year old building formally known as Morton House. The namesake, the Earl of Morton, was beheaded in 1581, as consequence of his involvement in the murder of Mary Queen of Scot’s husband. This hostel has a real backpackers vibe and one is bound to feel at home with adventurers from around the world. The Staff are also generally very friendly and excited to help you make the most of your stay.

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