When I used to think of Scotland, I thought of scotch, Mel Gibson’s heroic portrayal of William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, bagpipes, and kilts. If you’ve never been to these lush green lands before, this could also be your impression.
After you arrive in Edinburgh, your mind opens up, as J.K Rowling’s must have when she spent her days at The Elephant House Tea & Coffee Shop, writing Harry Potter. Let’s take a look at a few of Edinburgh, Scotland’s points of interest and how you, too, can travel there in style.
As Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, its history is dense with monarchs, massacres, and power struggles with England. Today, it’s a center of education, particularly in the fields of medicine, science, and engineering. But it’s also the home of the largest art festival in the world: the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which takes place every August for three weeks. If you plan your trip around the festival, expect to experience a raucous lineup of all things art, music, comedy and — of course — whiskey.
So, it’s the first full day of your trip. What to do in Edinburgh? I recommend you start the day with a trip to Edinburgh Castle ― a fortress built into the dormant volcanic cliff face in the heart of the city known as Castle Rock. Castle Rock was a royal palace from the 12th century until 1603, when the union of the crowns occurred. James IV ascended to the English throne (His mother was Mary Queen of Scots).
After absorbing as much history as you can during your tour of the castle, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy one of the world’s most “royal” dining experiences at The Witchery — I cannot recommend this establishment enough.
Okay, so I insist on trying the local cuisine everywhere I travel. The national dish of Scotland is Haggis, a type of pudding composed of the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep, minced and mixed with oatmeal and boiled. I felt I would be remiss in my touring of Edinburgh, Scotland’s points of interest if I skipped out on The Devil’s Advocate — an appropriately named restaurant given their specialty.
At The Devil’s Advocate, Haggis is served as fried little balls, which reveal themselves to be dark black once they’re cut open. Needless to say, after my first bite, I quickly order a single malt to wash it down… Check out my blog to read more about a meal that “haunts me” to this day.
If you’re deadset on taking in the best of Edinburgh, Scotland’s points of interest, you have no choice but to set aside an afternoon for a Scotch tasting and tour of the Scotch Whisky Heritage Center. I fondly refer to this as “buzz learning,” but, hey, learning is learning, right? Even if scotch is not your drink of choice, it’s interesting to learn its origins and gain an appreciation for why this is one of Scotland’s most famous — and important — exports.
You can cobble together your own walking tour to explore Edinburgh, Scotland’s points of interest. For example, Portobello (Porty) Beach is located five miles from city center and is great for a picnic. From there, walk the Royal Mile for a wee bit of shopping, pubs, cafes, and restaurants. Stop off for a cocktail at Bramble, one of Scotland’s best mixology bars. Once you’re appropriately “loose”, you can marvel at St. Giles Cathedral, the official Church of Scotland.
For great views, hike to the summit of Arthur’s Seat, which sits atop an inactive volcano and has arguably the best view of the city. Calton Hill in New Town provides you a panoramic view, as well.
If you’re tired of walking, you can always hop on a double-decker bus for a driving tour. It’s an informative hour spent traveling around the city and allows you — and your feet — some well-earned down time, while you figure out what’s left to do in Edinburgh, and how you can give back to the city.
Following lunch, my girlfriend and I went shopping. I started to feel queasy, but I shrugged it off, as we had a Ghost Tour to attend.
We met near the castle for the City of the Dead tour of the prison, graveyard, and black Mausoleum ― the lair of the world famous Mackenzie Poltergeist. According to my tour guide, this angry ghost is the best documented supernatural case of all time. The ghost attacks people, causing them physical and mental distress. My guide tells our group that the attacks usually make people sick and or faint.
Within 30 seconds of stating the tour, I became so weary and ill that I uncontrollably projectile vomited all over the Mackenzie gravestone. The tour guide started screaming hysterically. The people around me started running and shrieking. My girlfriend is rubbing my back sweetly, saying, “Honey, you are scaring everyone. Honey, are you almost done? Lara, seriously, you scared everyone away!”
I weakly hold myself up on a gravestone, suddenly noticing that my girlfriend and I are the only ones in the graveyard. “What happened to everyone?” I feebly asked, still clutching Mackenzie’s headstone. “Well, everyone thought you were possessed, and when the tour guide started screaming and running, the rest of the group did too. I feel bad, I think we should call her and tell her you have food poisoning.”
“I’m not so sure,” I reply. “Maybe we keep her in suspense.”