Stop #2 on our last trip to Europe was Edinburgh, Scotland. I had heard great things about Scotland, but had never visited myself, so I was very excited. Lucky for me the city did not disappoint, as Edinburgh was the highlight of my trip!
The journey from London to Scotland was very easy and relaxing via Virgin Trains. There are a few different ways to get around the UK & Europe – many people choose to rent a car and drive themselves or take a quick flight (which we did later in the trip). However, the train provides a unique experience in that you can sit back and enjoy the scenery along the way.
The whole ride from London to Edinburgh only took about five hours, and we were even able to enjoy a few drinks from the onboard bar.
The view you get when exiting the train station is just beautiful – you really feel like you’ve walked out into a different time period.
Where to Go
The Royal Mile
Edinburgh itself isn’t huge (although we didn’t get to explore the entire city). If you want to check out the main touristy spots, the Royal Mile is your best bet. Edinburgh Castle sits atop the far end of the Royal Mile, and there are a lot of little bars, restaurants, and shops lining both sides of the street. You’ll also see some more amazing architecture along the way.
We stopped at a famous bar called “The Wold’s End, where legend has it that if you move a photo of a murderer, the world will end (we didn’t test fate).
While the Royal Mile is the main area for tourists, I would highly suggest you also check out the Cowgate area. We stayed at a hostel here on our last night and had a great time. Within Cowage is the Grassmarket area, where there are a lot of little bars and restaurants, such as “The Smallest Bar in Scotland”. The main road is closed to traffic, and you’ll find some inviting outdoor dining areas when the weather is nice.
Pro tip: If you want to go out on the town for a night, you’ll be pretty disappointed to learn that most bars and restaurants in the touristy areas close around 11 or 12. However, if you venture just outside of the Cowgate area, you’ll find a plethora of bars and clubs frequented by locals that are open until 2 or 3 a.m. There’s even a pizza place (I think it’s called Pizza Paradise) open until 5 a.m. to help with your alcohol-induced hunger.
What to Do
Aside from drinking and eating, there are a couple of tourist attractions I’d highly suggest visiting while in Edinburgh. The first, and probably most popular, is Edinburgh Castle. There is a lot of really interesting history here and plenty of little side exhibits you can visit.
The Dog Cemetery was a particularly unique attraction that I appreciated given my love of animals.
But even if history isn’t your thing, I would still recommend you visit just for the awe-inspiring views you can see from the castle. I don’t know if you can get a better picture from anywhere else in the city.
Scotch Whisky Experience
The second tourist attraction I’d highly recommend is the Scotch Whisky Experience. Even if you don’t like scotch, it’s still worth a visit.
Side note: I wasn’t a big scotch fan before visiting Scotland, but this experience definitely helped me gain an appreciation and a taste for it.
You start the experience by taking a ride in a barrel and learning how scotch is made.
You’ll then learn about the different types of scotch and where they come from, as well as how each area actually influences its respective scotch taste. You’ll also get to see the world’s largest scotch collection, which is pretty impressive.
Lastly, if opt for the upgraded experience, you’ll get to sit at the bar and enjoy a sampling of all the difference types of scotch. And, if you’re like us, you’re welcome to sit at the bar and continue trying scotch for as long as you like.
What to Eat
When it comes to food, you’ll find your typical British fare here – lots of meat and potatoes, and honestly nothing to really write home about. The city is best known for its famed haggis dish. If you don’t know what haggis is, I suggest you try it before looking it up. If you do know what haggis is, and that’s not quite your cup of tea, we did find some places serving a mean vegetarian haggis.
Overall, Edinburgh was my favorite city of this trip to Europe and I can’t wait to go back!