Edinburgh is the starting point of my 2 weeks road trip in UK. Before the trip, I didn’t know much about this city, simply thought that this is the capital of Scotland, where my long international flight would land. Ignoring my friends’ compliments, in my opinion, big cities are all the same with skyscrapers, vast highways and terrible traffic jam. And of course, I had never thought that I fell in love with Edinburgh at first sight as such.
Edinburgh is truly different, though it is a big city, its modern breath exudes from its medieval appearance, bringing a tranquility of a countryside.
The unpainted houses, as close as two peas in a pod and their well-lined up chimneys stretch out on the hilly boulevards of the city. Contrary to the charm of the houses covered with trees on the quiet street of Circus Lanes. It is fascinating to wander in old town, curiously discover countless narrow closes and wynds (Scottish terms for alleyway) which burrow through old buildings and tipsy in the world of whisky.
Must-visit places in Edinburgh
We had 2 days in Edinburgh before starting our road trip. It was not much time, so we decided to skip some popular attractions (due to the tourist crowd), yet rather to follow our spontaneous improvisation at the time to explore more secret and less known (or just rarely mentioned) places.
1. Royal Mile and Old Town
The trip to Edinburgh would not be completed without rambling on Royal Mile street, the heart of Old Town. The street was full of surprises after every turn. The old buildings have spectacularly been transformed into modern shops and eateries. The decoration in shops is truly an art of color blending and arranging since it has to balance the modernity in the ancient appearance of the old town.
We curiously explored countless alleyways that from an outside look, we couldn’t know where they led us to. Sometimes they led us through an old building to another road, or directly to the basement of a residential area, or simply just a dead end.
The atmosphere of Royal Mile was vibrant thanks to lots of activities from street artists. The sound of the bagpipes from men in traditional Scottish kilt enhanced the lively vibe. We’ve been told that they even don’t wear underpants under their kilt, but didn’t dare to check (hehe).
Edinburgh is also known for whisky. You can easily find specialized stores which offer whisky tasting sections. We got into a liqueur shop on the street and tried out several kinds of well-known whiskies. It was an informative experience as there was a full description attached in each type tested.
The old quarter was even more sparkling during twilight. Yellow lights on old buildings standing out on a dark blue sky with layers of cloud created a impressively magnificent scenery.
2. Scott Monument
With 10 min walk from Royal Mile to Prince Street, we saw Scott Monument, a Victorian Gothic structure to commemorate Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. He was probably the most famous of living Scotsmen in early of the 19th century as the founder of the genre of the historical novel, involving tales of gallantry, romance and chivalry. The monument looks like a giant rocket, standing on a hilly green field.
The passage along the monument is a perfect place to wander where the scenery is fully green with trees and grassy slope, separated from noisy streets outside.
3. Edinburgh Waverley railway station
Not far from Scott Monument is Edinburgh Waverley railway station (also known simply as Waverley), considered as the principal station serving Edinburgh. It is the second busiest station in Scotland, after Glasgow Central. The stairway leading to the station looked mysterious with lots of Graffiti pictures on mossy walls.
We were lucky to witness a gorgeous sunset above the station, looking like the sky was on fire.
4. Circus lanes
On the next day, we took a bus to Circus lanes. It seems to come out of a fairy world, when the houses are surprisingly lovely. A lush green space with walls fully covered by vines, charmingly adorned with colorful flowers.
Every house on this street is meticulously cared for by the owners, from the arrangement of flower pots to the shapes of the vines. Seamless vines sometimes cling to the walls of the house, sometimes flutters by the window frame. The towering rose trees give a faint scents for the whole street.
5. Dean village
Dean village, not far from there brought us back in time, into a previous century. The scenery is truly poetic with a riverside castle and small houses decorated with colorful flower pots.
The walking way to the village is quaint and empty. The newly built golden houses are blended nicely with vintage stone mansions. The roofs in triangle shape with wooden splints bring the unique charm for the village.
Wandering along the river, enjoying fresh air in the nice scents of trees and flowers, admiring pretty houses was a pleasant feeling.
6. Calton Hill
End of the day, we climbed to the top of Calton hill, approx. at 103m above sea level, located in center of Edinburgh, Marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has the best panorama view of the city and is home of some iconic Scottish historical monuments.
From here, we can see the famous Balmoral Clock Tower and Scott monument. The Dugald Stewart Monument was built on Calton Hill in 19th century to commemorate the Scottish philosopher Dugald Stewart (1753–1828). It looks like a temple in Romance era.
One of the most striking monument on Calton Hill is the National Monument, inspired by the Parthenon in Athens. Intended to commemorate the Scottish servicemen who died in the Napoleonic Wars, it was never completed leaving just the twelve columns you see today.
Calton hill with its green grassland, windy atmosphere and great view of the city is also known as a hang-out place of local people.
In Edinburgh, there are many other interesting places, such as famous castles and large parks. With our 2 days, we spent most of our time wandering spontaneously, hanging out in the old town and indulging in the cafes. Maybe so, Edinburgh in my eyes is pretty and charming. If I have a chance, I will return to this city, even if only to sit in the old town, watching people passing by.
Traveled in Sep, 2017
Read my other articles about UK
2 weeks fascinating road trip in Scotland and England
Strolling through mythical Scotland
Stories of beautiful fairy-tale villages in England
The noble and enchanting charms of England
All essential tips for a road trip in UK