You sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve. J.K.Rowling
Because of our change of plans we ended up with an extra day in Edinburgh! Our plan was to get on the hop on hop off bus and just do whatever we wanted for the day. A free day in an amazing city. We got dressed and headed downstairs for breakfast. We had slept great the night before – our room was comfortable and quiet. The dining room was spacious with clear glass tables set up for breakfast. We found the one with our room number on it. There are a bunch of college aged people working at this B&B in the summer and various haggard looking, but incredibly nice, youths brought out our coffee and breakfasts. They were prompt – we had picked a time to eat the night before – and the food was very good.
I really enjoyed watching the other people staying at the B&B come in for breakfast. There was one family with three little kids that spoke a language I couldn’t figure out. I loved seeing what they all go to eat. I’ve always been interested in what people eat and how they eat.
I also loved watching outside the window to see the people going past. Like I said before, this place was in a real neighborhood and it really was like we lived there. I got a scrambled egg with toast that I made into an egg sandwich and Chris got the Full Scottish breakfast. He shared a little of his with me. The jam was out of this world and I think I put it on everything. I really want to start making/canning my own jam and maybe some tomatoes. You can see the menu here! What would you get for breakfast?
After breakfast we got our backpack together and headed out onto the street.
I zoomed way in for the photo of this guy.
Once we got into the city center one of the first things we passed was the Scott Monument. Chris loved this monument very much. It is a Victorian Gothic monument to the author Sir Walter Scott. It is the largest monument to a writer in the world. (Can you see why we love Edinburgh?) We learned later that you can go to the top for a fantastic view of the city. We really wish we had known this at the time.
As we walked along I began to get very distracted by all the beautiful spots we were passing. We could have spent the whole day wondering through the parks.
A map of Edinburgh!!
You can see on the map where the Scott Monument is and also Waverley Station to the right – that is where the bus tour starting point is. We were able to purchase our ticket right there at the bus area and we got a seat up top.
The weather was perfect. Sunny with passing clouds- warm with a slight breeze. The air was crisp and clean. I really really enjoyed seeing Edinburgh like this and I would highly recommend you stay on the bus for the whole ride the first time around and then get off for the things you’d like to see. The guides are very knowledgeable and fun to listen to.
A bus route and some sights from the top deck.
We didn’t do this- we got off at one of the first stops – Holyrood Palace. This palace is located at the end of the Royal Mile and is where Scottish kings and queens have lived since the 1500’s. The apartments of Mary Queen of Scots are in this place and you can see them anytime a member of the royal family isn’t staying there. It is an actual official residence of the British monarch.
I’m really interested in Mary Queen of Scots so I had read about this palace before. I had no idea it was still a working home and a Duke and Duchess were visiting so we were not able to go inside. It was still a real treat to see the outside and I was able to take photos through the gates.
Some fellows taking a break.
These buildings are amazing, yeah? I would love to go inside the next time we visit.
We hopped back on the bus and rode up the Royal Mile. I took a photo of this sign to remember to check it out later.
There were so many things to see here. I tried to find a line between enjoying it fully and snapping some shots of things as we moved along.
I don’t know how this is possible but I hadn’t realized that J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter in Edinburgh! When we were in the highlands the Harry Potter movies were the closest thing I could come up with show someone what it looks like – And then once we got to Edinburgh it was like stepping into one of the books. A whole world that I thought was completely made up; turns out it was already there and her brilliant mind shifted it into a whole new level. The little side streets – called closes – looked just like a spot that someone might get lost in. The streets of Edinburgh with its tall stone buildings and rows of little shops and people shifting and moving everywhere looked just like Diagon Alley.
The seagulls flew very low overhead, low enough to make out their features, flying in the same pattern as the streets. You could see one turning its head this way and that and then turning down a road with such purpose. Very easily in my mind I could see that seagull morphing into an owl with a little letter in its beak. Later when we would go to get on the train to London the escalators through the stations went up and down in all different directions. I could almost see them move away from the wall and become the shifting stairs in Hogwarts. It was like this everywhere in Edinburgh. Over and over I kept telling Chris that we had found where Harry Potter lived.
Our next stop was Edinburgh Castle. When we got close to Edinburgh Castle we got off the bus. It is still a bit of a walk up to the castle from the bus stop. There were a lot of people headed that way and I held Chris’s hand very tightly- sometimes counting the cobblestones- and eventually we made it to the top and the entrance to the castle.
You can buy tickets to get in right there at a computer and it is very easy. Tickets are 16.50 pounds for each adult.
You will notice stadium seats going up around the castle in our photos – we just missed the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The Tattoo is basically a big festival type show with lots of music, dance and ceremony. It takes place each August. (The 2017 Tattoo begins on August 4th and tickets go on sale in December!!)
In the castle area there were many groups roaming the area together and in several spots employees were telling stories and histories of the castle. I was so surprised at how huge it was. I had imagined walked up to a large house – like the one in Downton Abbey- or even like Buckingham Palace. But this was different. The front gates were just the entrance into a whole little village in itself- an entire fortress. The cobblestone road wound up and around to the very top where the main castle area is. But all around that road were other smaller buildings- some of them with little signs telling what goes on there – many of them military buildings- Edinburgh Castle is one of the last remaining British castles with a military garrison. There are also two museums in the fortress – The National War Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National War Memorial.
You could listen to information on headsets but we decided to just wonder around. I’m sure there were lots of cool facts we missed but I liked to freely wander.
There was a large chapel and then the area where Mary Queen of Scots lived and the crown jewels were kept. There was a line to get in but it didn’t take long and there was so much to see around us while we were waiting. We weren’t able to see much of the inside – they have it roped off and you just follow everyone else in a line up the little stairs and into the tiny room where the Crown Jewels are located. There is a cool looking sceptre and a crown that were used for the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543.
After seeing the crown and sceptre we were able to walk into Mary’s private room and the birthing room where good ole James 1 was born. Remember him from the story the Isle of Mull guide told?
It is a very cool experience to touch what they touched. I think the neatest part of it for me was to look out the slit windows and know that this was the exact view Mary had-minus some buildings. I looked out at the breathtaking scenery and wondered if it had the same effect on her when she saw it. It was amazing to be in the room and know that this was the exact spot that she gave birth. Because of the high infant mortality rate and suspicions about royal baby swapping the birthing room was very protected- a tiny room off the side of her bedroom. I tried to imagine what it must have been like to give birth in a tiny room high up in a castle like that.
The Great Hall completed in 1511.
A window in St. Margaret’s Chapel. It was too crowded and small for me to go in there but Chris took a look.
After looking around the inside we walked up to the highest point where the canons are and got a fantastic view of Edinburgh. This is where you can see all the way out to the countryside and really appreciate what a beautiful place Edinburgh is. We both looked at each other with love in our eyes and knew we didn’t want to leave. We weren’t anywhere near done with Edinburgh. Even now I have visions of meeting after work at a little coffee café, Chris brushing the rain out of his hair and then walking home together.
We looked around a bit more at the architecture and headed back to get on the bus.
We had heard that the UK has great Chinese food. We decided to stop for lunch at a place we had passed the night before. I really wanted to try the deep fried shredded beef. I’ve seen so many UK You Tubers eat this and it always looked great.
This was on the fancy side with table cloths and waitresses who served your rice on your plate for you- again you have to order rice on the side. There weren’t very many other people having lunch while we were there but we did see some business looking people come in.
We split the fried beef and it was really delicious. We ate every bite.
After we ate we walked about a bit and got back on the bus and then off again at the National Museum of Scotland. There were many museums. Places like the Museum of Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery, Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Queens Gallery. We wanted to go to all of them!
We decided on the National Museum of Scotland. It was very nice with lots of cool things. I think Chris enjoyed it more than I did – On this trip I always had the feeling that we should be outside. I got impatient with being inside very quickly which was surprising because I love museums and honestly I’ve never been an outdoorsy person because of my allergies. We spent about an hour looking around at things and reading about some Scottish history.
I loved the gift shop. Some more books to add to my Christmas wish list!
By this time Chris had figured out how to add the Edinburgh bus app to his phone and was a pro at finding the correct bus to get us where we wanted to go. So we had a great time finding the city bus that would take us back to our B&B.
I am so grateful we had this extra day in Edinburgh. We fell so in love with this city. Edinburgh- at just under 460,000 people- is just a bit smaller than Nashville, TN in population. It is a seaside town – about a 15 minute drive to the ocean – or an hour walk. You can find history anywhere you look but it is also modern and cosmopolitan. It has a distinct Scottish culture. The transportation system is wonderful- safe, clean and reliable. You could easily live in Edinburgh without owning a car. There are large areas of parks and green space in the city center. It is just a great place to be.
By the time we got back to our guesthouse we really needed some time to totally veg out. I would recommend a day ‘off’ to anyone going on a long trip. This was day eight and we were both feeling it. So we decided to head back to the hotel around 5 pm and order in a pizza. They brought it right to our B&B and we ate our pizza in the breakfast room. Then we headed back up to our little room and relaxed for the rest of the night. We turned the TV on for the first time on our entire trip and watched some British game shows and the news. I was just becoming aware of the Brexit vote that was happening in the UK while we were there. We watched all about it on the news and talked some about what the vote meant. It was a great little time of rest and I’m so glad we did it.
In case you are interested here is a shot of the Telegraph paper that day.
We would be back on our original itinerary the next day – headed to Rosslyn Chapel!!!