Planning a visit to the Scottish city of Edinburgh? Here are some recommendations on where to go*. To view all the photographs (with the captions in full) of each city, click on any image and navigate using the left and right keys.
1. At the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland is The Royal Mile, the main thoroughfare of the capital city.
2. As we do in most European cities, when we visit for the first time, we do the Free Walking Tour at the beginning to visit the main attractions and to get a sense of what to see and eat for the next few days. Our first stop for this tour – a very well-run one – was the City Chambers.
3. Across the City Chambers is Saint Giles’ Cathedral, the principal place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, named after its patron saint. It is not strictly a “cathedral”, however, because it was only the seat of a bishop hundreds of years ago.
4. In the shadow of this photograph is the Mercat Cross, standing next to Saint Giles’ Cathedral. Crosses like this are found across Scotland. In the past, important civic announcements were made at the site, and it used to take three days for these announcements to reach Edinburgh from London. Today – symbolically – important announcements such as royal weddings and the dissolution of parliament are still made, three days later, in an elaborate procession.
5. Perched upon Castle Rock is Edinburgh Castle, a historic fortress and royal residence. It is well-worth a visit, and we went around the castle with a guide. She traced its history from its inception in the 12th century, introduced the different buildings, and gave the complex important context.
6. The view of Edinburgh from the castle.
7. Make quick visits to some of the buildings in Edinburgh Castle, in particular to see The Great Hall, the Crown Jewels, and Saint Margaret’s Chapel. This is not the most extravagant or beautiful European castle, yet there is a great deal of history, so some knowledge of that is important.
8. Remnant of the Flodden Wall – or the Edinburgh town halls – built to protect the Scots from the English after a heavy defeat. This segment of the wall is right next to the Greyfriar’s Kirkyard cemetery, where British author J. K. Rowling supposedly got inspiration for the Harry Potter series.
9. We went on two day tours on two consecutive days. The first was to Loch Lomond, the Trossachs National Park, and Stirling Castle. Our first stop on the first day were the Kelpies – the largest horse-head sculptures in the world – and they represent the heritage of horses in Scotland’s history, and the historical concept of mythical water horses in the country.
10. Loch Lomond is one of the largest lochs in Scotland. Even after a brief walk, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding islands and mountains, and of the incredible shoreline.
11. A couple at Loch Lomond.
12. Another view of Loch Lomond, before we took a bus ride through The Trossachs National Park. Some time was spent in these areas, admiring the many lochs, mountains, and greenery.
13. A Highland cattle, grazing in the distance. We were travelling through the national park.
14. Like Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most historically significant fortress. There is a free guided tour within the castle, which gives a good introduction of the main buildings and sites, but do spend some time looking out and across the castle too, for views beyond.
15. Another view of Stirling Castle.
16. The second day tour on the second day was to Glencoe, Loch Ness, and The Highlands. One of the first few stops was to the Three Sisters of The Highlands, three steeply-sided ridges.
17. Thereafter, we went on a hunt for Nessie – the Loch Ness monster – by taking a one-hour cruise along Loch Ness. It was rainy, but even so we had good views of the loch and its different features.
18. A double rainbow – in fact, two of many we saw, towards the end of the day – on our way back to Edinburgh, after the day tour to The Highlands.
19. I trekked up Arthur’s Seat in the morning. It is not a difficult climb, and well worth the effort. I would suggest going up the shorter peak first, before making the way up to the peak from there.
20. As it is throughout the United Kingdom, most museums in Edinburgh had free admissions. The National Museum of Scotland is not a very big complex, so do check out (clockwise): Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell in 1996; the Lewis Chess Pieces, carved in the 12th century and found 700 years later; and the miniature coffins of Arthur’s Seat, with many different theories as to why they were buried at their location and who buried them.
21. A late lunch of mussels and a seafood chowder, just a street away from our Airbnb apartment.
22. A view of Edinburgh, at sunset.
* Not an advertisement, and also not sponsored (unfortunately).