*** Harry Potter background score playing ***
Centuries-old castle walls studded with noble family crest.
Stained glass windows illustrating deeds of the past, through which are barely visible dimly lit rooms within. All you can hear are the hushed tones of the inhabitants.
Foggy mornings, chilly whispers and creaky wooden door..
Welcome to the land of Scotch, bagpipes and more!
I bet that set the mood a little..
Honestly, I could’t explain the difference between Scottish and Australian accents even if I tried to, so you just have to trust me when I say you will not understand Scottish accent unless you’ve lived there for a period of time. No offense to either accents, that is if accents are capable of taking offense.
What to expect?
Apart from the accent that’ll make your head tilt and leave you with a bemused expression on your face, the Scots are actually quite warm and welcoming people. Technically you’ll be in Europe where there’s no scarcity of museums and cathedrals, expect the same here. Every step of the way you’ll encounter scotch and whiskey distilleries, pubs and liquor stores. They take pride in their brews and rightly so.
GBP (Pound) and pence is the national currency of the UK. Being a popular tourist destination, Edinburgh has all the facilities, from banks and ATMs to currency exchange and money transfers.
When to go?
Edinburgh is almost always under a sheet of cloud. Winters start from October and last till March and during this time the weather dips to a negative digit. That also means the sun is bleak and days are short. However, summers in Edinburgh are quite pleasant even though its not exactly hot. April & May still see nippy air but June – September is balmy. If you encounter no rains on any given day, count it as your lucky day here.
How to get there?
You could fly directly to Edinburgh but you may not want to miss out an opportunity of seeing the countryside that leads up to the city.
Where to stay?
I’m a huge fan of the Bed n Breakfast concept. Besides, the BnBs in Scotland are truly gorgeous, some even have historic significance. If you’re not into BnBs, a lot of chain hotels and specialty stay options offer great accommodations. I would highly recommend spending atleast a night on the Royal Mile – the stretch between Edinburgh Castle and Scottish Parliament.
How to get around?
I found that walking in the city was the best way to explore it. Trams are the most convenient way of getting around the city and to the airport if walking is not an option. Local taxis and buses take your further around.
What to eat?
We nibbled on shortbread bought from a local bakery all day long. For lunch & dinner, we ate at Nando’s. Sound’s crazy but we had just fallen in love with Nando’s and we weren’t ready to give up an opportunity of feasting there. And so instead of picking a traditional Scottish pub, we hogged on Nando’s chicken. I can proudly say we tried all of their lip-smackingly delicious sauces and loved every bit.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT miss out on trying Aberdeen Butteries, a sinfully delicious butter-laden baked good found in the local bakeries. You won’t find it anywhere else!
Top 5 things to do in Edinburgh
- Edinburgh Castle :
A must-see for first-timers, the Edinburgh Castle is of monumental significance to the city and its history.The castle not only houses chronicles from Scottish war periods but also exhibits memoirs and trophies form their victories. My favorite part was seeing the cells of war prisoners. The way everything is preserved and showcased, it instantly teleports you to the bygone era.
Online tickets to the castle cost £17, while tickets at the site cost £18.50. The queues turn serpentine and long as the day grows. We reached the doors about 5 minutes before they opened it up. Highly recommend getting a map and audio guides to really understand every important point on the castle.
2. Scotch / Whiskey Distilleries Or Tea Rooms :
Glen = Valley! If you read up Scotch names, they’re probably named after different valleys in the land. Glen Livet, Glen Morangie, Glen Keith etc. There’s no street in the city without a Scotch tasting experience or a whiskey pub or a liquor store. I recommend visiting The Scotch Whiski Experience atleast once even if you’re not a scotch person.
For non drinkers, you’ll find a lot of tea rooms serving your cup of joe. If you want to make it real fancy, head to The Colonnades at the Signet Library.
3. Haunted Pub Crawl :
Edinburgh is famous for its witchcraft and gothic style pubs, tea rooms, restaurants and even hotels. I found some pretty thrilling options on this front. First up, Frankenstein at George IV Bridge that has a monster themed menu. Second, The Banshee Labyrinth on Niddry Street will give you all kinds of goosebumps inducing haunted experience. Next, The Last Drop at Grassmarket next to an old execution site. As rumor has it, if you’re alone at night at any of these joints, you may hear a blood-curdling scream from the cellar areas underground. Just Kidding! Or am I?
4. Harry Potter Fans must see:
Edinburgh is the birth place of The Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling started penning down the plot at The Elephant House cafe on George IV Bridge. Walls of the restrooms here are scribbled to no end by HP fans with comments, compliments, dialogues and wishes. It’s definitely an interesting place to visit but you have to pay £1 per person to use the restrooms.
The cemetery behind the cafe, Greyfriars Kirkyard has tomstones engraved with names that Rowling borrowed for her movie – McGonagall, Thomas Riddell.
Greyfriars Bobby, a loyal dog, who was buried here and has a statue outside, also inspired the character Dobby in HP series.
5. Wander the narrow alleys, shop for pashmina :
Sneaking into narrow alleys, taking pictures of bagpipers playing on streets, appreciating every single antique shop signs hanging by their doors turned out to be an extremely fun activity for us. I went crazy trying out the softest pashmina scarves and caps ever. If you plan to carry along any souvenirs, let it be a bottle of fine scotch, a pashmina scarf and loads of memories.