Edinburgh is a very cute city with lots of history and beautiful architecture. Being the nerd that I am, one of the first places I visited was the National Museum of Scotland. I spent almost an entire day at the museum learning about Scottish history. The museum building looks brand new and very modern. It was a great way to start our Edinburgh vacation. The museum also offers access to their rooftop with spectacular view of the city on one side and Edinburgh Castle on the other side. Luckily, it was a beautiful, sunny, and warm day when we visited and were able to take full advantage of the rooftop. For pictures of rooftop view, see my Instagram feed.
Once the museum closed at 5 pm, I walked over to St. Giles Cathedral on High Street, aka the Royal Mile, between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This church is about 900 years old and is one of the religious focal points of Edinburgh. It is also known as High Kirk of Edinburgh and is considered the mother church of Presbyterianism. I continued walking around High Street/Royal Mile for the rest of the evening. It’s a very cute street with lots of small shops, cafes, bistros, bars, street performers, and tourists from all over the world walking around. There is also a statue of Adam Smith, the father of free market economic theory.
The next day, after dropping off family at the Waverley train station, it was time to explore Calton Hill. Initially I wanted to hike up Arthur’s Seat but since my time in Edinburgh was limited, I decided to visit Calton Hill instead and I’m very happy with that decision. Calton Hill was formed 340 million years ago by violent volcanic activity and then gouged by glaciers during the ice age. In 1724, the town of Edinburgh purchased Calton Hill and turned it into Britain’s first public park. Today, it’s a beautiful place with lots of monuments honoring Scottish heros. It can get a little windy so make sure and dress warm but the 360 degree view of the old and new Edinburgh is definitely worth it. It isn’t very strenuous to get to the top and depending on your mood, you can walk around or just sit on the grass, have a picnic and enjoy the view. Some of the monuments on Calton Hill include Dugald Stewart monument, Playfair Monument, City Observatory, Portuguese Cannon, Nelson Monument, and the Scottish National Monument.
Nelson Monument commemorates naval admiral Horatio Nelson who died leading his fleet to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. One of the most interesting things I learned on this trip is that monument’s telescope was topped with a mechanized time-ball drop synchronized with gun fired from Edinburgh Castle at 1 pm allowing ships in Leith Harbor. The time-ball drop is now a New Years Eve tradition and Nelson’s Monument is where it all started. The entry fee is only £5 per person and as you climb up the 143 steps to the top, you’ll notice “encouraging” signs (see pic). Top of Nelson’s Monument (30 meters high) offers even better view of not just the city of Edinburgh but also Calton Hill itself and is totally worth it.
By this time, I was starting to get tired and decided it was time to go back down and relax for a bit on the grass near the Scottish National Monument. It was modeled after the Parthenon in Athens to commemorate Scottish soldiers and sailors killed in Napoleonic Wars. Construction for this monument started in 1826 but due to lack of funding it was never completed. For a while it was considered Scotland’s “disgrace” but as time passed, that image has also passed and is no longer considered a disgrace. Calton Hill offered wonderful monuments and views. I’m definitely glad I chose this over climbing Arthur’s Seat.
The rest of the time I spent just randomly walking around Edinburgh. There were many beautiful churches and buildings everywhere. Since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, it is not surprising that his birthplace is a major tourist destination. I tried to go there but couldn’t find it easily and was too tired to actually make a serious attempt. Instead I settled for taking a picture at The Conan Doyle bar. By the end of the day, I was pretty tired and all I wanted was to eat sticky toffee pudding with a Bunnahabhain 18 before going to bed. One of the best things about Scotland is how cheap all the single malt scotches are, no matter where you go!
Overall, Edinburgh was a very cute city with lots of history but since I’m from NYC, I would have preferred to spend less time in a city (any city) and more time in Isle of Skye or Islay. When I lived in a small town in central Pennsylvania, I loved spending time in cities wherever I went. Since I’ve been living in the best city in the world for the past 5 years and counting, I feel like cities don’t interest or excite me as much anymore. I would much rather prefer to explore the country side and appreciate all that nature has to offer.
Note: for more photos, please visit my Instagram page: Rupal’s Travel Diaries