The Passport Diaries: Edinburgh

Welcome to the first post in a series of posts which will document my travels – well, the few travels I actually embark upon considering my lack of money for regular travelling. Now, this first post in the series is a long time coming considering I holidayed in May and it’s now September. I’d like to blame my Masters dissertation and the fact that I moved my entire life across countries this summer for the delay in this post, but I’m here now and I’m talking all about Edinburgh.

I went to Edinburgh post-exams and pre-dissertation as a much needed getaway for a few days after a hectic academic year. It was only for a few days but I instantly fell in love with the city and exhausted my camera. Like Dublin, Edinburgh is famous for its lack of sunshine and surplus of grey skies and rain but, for the four days I was there, I was luckily met with the sun shining on a regular basis – or else, all the walking I had to do around the city might have been much more clumsy and I might have fallen down a hill or two.

I had booked a twin room at the Edinburgh Central Princes Street Travelodge, just across from  Waverley Mall and Station, the Airlink bus stop from the airport and Princes Street Gardens. Our twin room ended up being a family room with one double bed and two single beds which we ended up joining together. The room was incredibly spacious, clean and, as it was a corner room, it had two giant windows – one overlooking the side street and the elegant Balmoral hotel (with Calton Hill seen in the near distance) and the other overlooking Princes Street and the Gardens (with Edinburgh Castle standing high in the distance). During the day, we could hear the kilt-clad buskers on the street playing bagpipes and the general rush of Princes street, which just emphasised the atmosphere of Edinburgh. I don’t mind noise so it wouldn’t have bothered me if the area around the Travelodge had been noisy but it was fairly calm and quiet after 10pm. If you’re staying in Edinburgh, I’d definitely recommend this Travelodge, but you might not be so lucky with the views we had! The entrance is down a slightly dodgy looking side-street but it’s not too far down the street, it’s pretty cheap for central city accommodation (depending on when you book), there’s always people around and the staff were lovely. Our room was the perfect place to stay for a few days, fully immersed in the city.

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img_1816My main piece of advice to someone visiting  Edinburgh would be: bring comfortable walking shoes. I mean it. We probably spent 80% of our day walking around the city – since everything is so close by, there was no need for any public transport. Our airlink bus dropped us straight on Princes Street, and after that we walked everywhere. I don’t think I could tell you how many times I walked up and down the cobbled paths of the Royal Mile. Edinburgh is also really hilly so there’s a lot of stairs, uphill walking and uneven-surface walking so bring your most comfortable trainers.

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Edinburgh is such a friendly, little city, with so much to do. For the first day we were there, we had to wait a few hours in between our early flight and the hotel check-in time. Luckily, the weather was great and it meant we got to explore some of the shops on Princes Street as well as the beautiful Princes Street Gardens. I didn’t book a whole lot of things to do in Edinburgh, as my budget was low and I really just wanted to relax in a new city by wandering around at my own pace, and not running around underground tube stations in London like I was doing a non-stop obstacle course. Just walking around the witchy streets of Edinburgh and exploring the museums and buildings around the Royal Mile is fun. St Giles’ Cathedral is one of the buildings which caught my attention due to its dark architecture expanding above the Royal Mile. We wandered down to the National Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery one of the days, which had plenty of interesting things to see inside. We also explored the insides of The Writers’ Museum and the Museum of Childhood along the Royal Mile, which were quiet but fun places to spend some time in between booked outings.

There’s plenty to eat and drink, with plenty of quaint pubs and restaurants, including The Elephant House, the café which is famous as being the place where JK Rowling wrote the early Harry Potter books. There’s also the usual variety of fast-food chains and express supermarkets, which often offer cheaper food options, if you’re trying to save a little money.

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I love castles so obviously, I had to go see Edinburgh Castle while there. Inside the castle, there’s mostly just walking space and a few buildings which explore the history of Scotland, such as the National War Museum. You can buy audio tours while there but we opted to wander around ourselves. I was mostly captivated by the stunning views of Edinburgh that the castle offers.

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Calton Hill was merely a 10 minute walk from our hotel so we went there a couple of times. It’s another place which offers beautiful views of Edinburgh and it’s a lovely place to just go walk around, look at the monuments, have a chat with friends or sit around with a good book. As we were blessed with such sunny weather while there, we were able to just relax there and snap away with our cameras.

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Because of my fascination with palaces, it was no surprise that I’d booked a trip to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. We went on an audio tour of the castle, included with our ticket and got to explore some royal history before the Palace closed for a while during the summer. I adore fashion so I was excited about seeing the ‘Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from the Queen’s Wardrobe’ exhibition, which was also included within our ticket. I wasn’t able to photograph the rooms inside the Palace but I probably could have spent all day taking pictures of the Palace’s architecture and its surrounding, vibrant gardens.

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One of the weirder things I’ve ever done is hang around a graveyard, I’ll admit, but Greyfriars Kirkyard was too interesting a place to not spend time wandering around – and I also felt better about it after seeing some people just chilling with books on the grass there. I’d been told by a friend that this graveyard houses the grave which inspired the character of Tom Riddle/Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, and being the fan that I am, I set out to find it. It took quite a while, as it’s hidden along one of the walls, but we got to see some of the old, interesting, monumental headstones while on our hunt for it.

Edinburgh is a witchy, enchanting little city which definitely had me under a spell almost instantaneously. It’s kind of a city for everyone – for the shopaholic who wants to buy, for the history lover who wants to explore the gems around the city, for the writer who wants to think and write, and for the busy student who just wants to get away for a while. It’s equal amounts busy and peaceful, and while it’s a city, it often felt like an ancient village, especially while walking around the Royal Mile. Unfortunately this time, I didn’t walk up to Arthur’s Seat or do any of the various underground vault tours, but I’ll definitely be going  back to Edinburgh again, and it’ll be first on my list.

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Below is a slideshow of the pictures featured in this blog post. All pictures are taken by me, please don’t post elsewhere without credit.

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