Two Days in Edinburgh, Scotland
Getting to Edinburgh
A few weeks ago, I found a fare on EasyJet deal to Edinburgh from London for just £11 ($15). Of course, that meant just cabin luggage, but if it's only two days, you don't need more than that. If you use skyscanner (the best way to get really inexpensive plane fares), you can fly from the States, Europe, or other places (especially off-season). Edinburgh has close on 4,500 historical buildings, so you are probably not going to fit them all in. Best to stick with the major tourist attractions.
You can also bus there for about £15 ($20) from London or take the train which is generally about £150 and is the worst deal of the lot.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
It really depends what sort of traveller you are. I’m a cabin luggage kind of person who wants a place to sleep, to meet with other travellers, and to pay as little as possible. So I use hostels. I stayed at Castlerock Hostel which was a five minute walk from the Royal Mile and just behind Edinburgh Castle. If you have no pennies to spare for accommodation, then couchsurf. You would put your profile up on the Couchsurf site and then email people to ask if they can put you up. Accommodation is free but, of course, you are a guest and would be expected to be a nice person and talk to them about your travels. They are, after all, interested in meeting people from other countries. Lastly, there are the conventional hotels which range from £25 per night up. I paid £13 per night at Castlerock and it was a great hostel.
The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile lies within the Old City and starts at Holyrood Palace and ends at Edinburgh Castle. Along the way, you have churches, museums, outdoor coffee bars, hotels in ancient buildings, dozens and dozens of stores selling cashmere and kilts, and wonderful architecture. The Royal Mile is on a hill so that you’ll either be walking uphill or downhill. Depending on where you start, it can be very steep. This is particularly so when you go to see Edinburgh Castle.
What I found quite amazing was the number of free tourist attractions in the Old City. Firstly, I visited two museums which were free plus I went on two tourist walks which were free. All you have to do for the walks is present yourself at the tourist stall, give your name and an email address, and they give you a ticket. There is also a haunted walk which is quite exciting.
To be honest, if you have only two days, you are going to have to choose. You might like to include Holyrood Palace which is at the bottom of the Royal Mile. The Queen stays here when she is in residence in Edinburgh. There is a fee of £11 but it is well worth the fee. I'm going to say that I didn't go this time around but did the last time I was in Edinburgh.
I do have an anecdote about that time. I was doing the normal tourist thing and the streets were rather packed. I asked a bobby why there were so many people. He told me that Prince Charles was on a walkabout. I turned to stare straight into the face of Prince Charles. He opened his mouth to talk to me and I did the only thing a young women in abject terror does when meeting a real life prince - I turned and fled.
Shopping in Edinburgh
There is, of course, tourist shopping in Edinburgh and just plain love of shopping in Edinburgh. For the tourist, the Royal Mile is predominantly whiskey, kilts, and cashmere, and down the hill and over the (various) bridges, you will find Princes Street with everything from Topshop, through Primark, and John Lewis. If you're looking for somewhere to catch a snack, most of the sidewalk cafes are in the Royal Mile, and, yes, there is a Starbucks.
Interestingly the tram that runs through the city has free wifi, and you are online most places. There is no charge for this. I also have to confess that as I had been living and working in Scotland, I had a free pass as a senior, and so any bus travel I did, whether in the city or between the cities was free.
Views form Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street Gardens
If you walk towards the shopping area (Princes Street) from the Royal Mile, you will find that the one side of the street has all the stores while the other side of the street opens to a garden that spans the space between Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle/The Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is situated on a hill and Princes Street is situated in a valley of sorts, so that the Gardens stretch from the street through to the bottom of the hill. Ir’s a really lovely walk with amazing views.
Edinburgh is quite definitely divided into the Old City and the New. One is above the other. I took the photos below from the New City looking up to the Old.
Other attractions on Princes Street
I've kept the major attractions in Edinburgh to the two major thoroughfares - The Royal Mile and Princes Street - the Old and the New. The Scottish National Gallery is on Princes Street and is quite massive. It is also quite imposing. Depending on your tastes in art, you might find it a great way to spend a few hours, or not. There are some enormous pieces inside which quite fascinated me but I am not into this kind of art. Instead I found the architecture quite fascinating.
There was also a giant Gothic Monument of some sort and, of course, simply because Edinburgh is an old city, there are still large numbers of centuries old architecture in this area.
Would you like to go to Edinburgh in Scotland
Something I've never seen before!
Short break in Edinburgh, Scotland
All in all, my two days were fully taken up with visits to Edinburgh Castle, several free museums, two free tourist walks, exploring both the Old Town and the New Town, plus enjoying several meals in quaint places. I visited the Grassmarket as well. This is a few hundred steps down from the Royal Mile on the opposite side. I have to tell you that the umpteen thousand steps I climbed from there to Edinburgh Castle is not something I am going to attempt again!
That said, I had a great two days in Edinburgh. Hope you do, too.
© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger