Exploring Edinburgh

An inland interlude

Having walked very close to Edinburgh city centre on my last walk I was keen to explore the Scottish capital before moving on further north up the coast. It is a fantastic city, packed with history and with an awful lot to see, so I didn’t want to pass it by.

Most of these photos were taken in 2010 when I came to Edinburgh for a weekend visit to explore the sights but also a few taken at the start or end of coastal walks in the area. So here is a brief summary of my visit.

The first thing I wanted to see when I visited Edinburgh was the castle. In fact this was the first place I went on arriving at the station. The city is divided by the railway that runs through a valley through the city centre. To the north is the modern commercial heart, Princess Street, which is the main shopping centre whilst to the south of the railway is the Royal Mile with Edinburgh Castle at the top and Holyrood Palace at the bottom.

So it was a steep walk up the hill. Parts of the road are cobbled and it’s mostly lined with attractive stone buildings. At the top of the hill is the magnificent castle.

Edinburgh Castle

The castle is extraordinarily historic as there has been a castle here since at least the 12th Century. It is still in use as a working castle today (albeit, mostly in an administrative capacity) with parts still maintained by the British Army.

The view from the front is very imposing. The castle is located on a natural area of rock high above the city so you also get stunning views of Edinburgh below you.

View from Edinburgh Castle

View from Edinburgh Castle

View from Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Inside there is a wide cobbled road that heads up to the upper parts of the castle and various museums housed within the numerous buildings within the castle walls.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Sadly I missed the firing of the one-o-clock gun, but at least I got a photo of it.

Edinburgh Castle

I really enjoyed my visit to the castle and very highly recommended it.

Moving on I now headed down the Royal Mile passing the numerous shops and the (quite small) cathedral.

Edinburgh

Most of the shops on this side of the city are tourist oriented. If you want to buy some Shortbread biscuits, T-shirts, Whiskey or Tartan clothes, this is the place to come!

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

By the time I’d reached Edinburgh from home, visited the castle and wandered down the Royal Mile, it was already getting dark, as it was November, so there wasn’t much more to see on my first day.

On my second day I headed up to Calton Hill first, since it was near to my hotel. Once again I had lovely views of the city and over to the coast of the Firth of Forth in the distance, where I could just make out part of the Forth Bridge.

View from Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Calton Hill, Edinburgh

View from Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Next I headed for one of the other places I was most looking forward to visiting, Arthur’s Seat. This is the top of a former volcano that is now just south east of the city centre. To me this is one of the stand-out features of Edinburgh. I don’t think there is any other city in the UK where you have what is almost a mountain right in the centre.

Holyrood Park

Holyrood Park

It is a wonderful contrast to the bustling and noisy streets below that you can climb up to the top of this high hill (it is over 250 metres high) and feel like you are in the middle of the countryside.

Holyrood Park

Holyrood Park

The climb is steep in places but well worth it, as you watch the ever changing views of the city as you head ever higher. I was very pleasantly surprised by how rugged it is. It is not like a typical city park!

Holyrood Park

Holyrood Park

Sadly as I got to the top the rain that had been threatening began. I had at least got to enjoy the views before the rain set in, but at the top it was very windy exposed and cold (it was November) with the rain blowing in.

Arthur's Seat

So I didn’t linger and headed back down again via the small St Margaret’s Loch.

Holyrood Park

Now I headed out to the coast at Portobello. I covered that on my last walk so I won’t repeat it here. After that I headed back to the city centre to visit Holyrood Palace.

Edinburgh Castle

I was pleased to find that despite getting very muddy shoes (and trousers) climbing up and back down Arthur’s Seat in the rain and carrying a rucksack (since I was taking the train home later in the day) I was not refused entry to the palace. I hope the Queen did not mind me getting mud on her finest Axminster!

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

This too was very grand and packed with history. Photography was not permitted inside but it was very grand both inside and out. It is still used by the Royal Family on occasion. Outside too an unexpected bonus to me anyway was the ruins of Holyrood Abbey.

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Now once again dusk was falling so I spent the rest of my time exploring the Royal Mile and nearby streets as day turned to night and the lights illuminated the most famous buildings.

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Camera Obscura, Edinburgh

St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh

That was it for my weekend in Edinburgh. However on a later visit, when I had intended to do a coastal walk but put most of it off due to heavy rain and near gale-force winds I decided to visit the former Royal Yacht Britannia. Now moored in Leith Harbour a couple of miles from the city centre and access, rather bizarrely, from the top floors of a shopping centre!

Whatever your views on the Monarchy I feel that the Queen has done a wonderful job over her long lifetime. Yes it might be true that she has been born into a life of wealth and privilege but she has to pay a huge price for that. She has had to live her entire life in the public eye. Meeting leaders all around the world (some of whom I suspect she’d probably rather not have to be nice too) always having to be tactful. Making small talk with many thousands of people. And having very little time to do what she wants to do or enjoy the freedoms to live her life as most of us do. That’s why I did feel it a shame when the Yacht was decommissioned. I realised on visiting it, it was one of the few times the Queen (and other members of the Royal Family) could really get away from the public gaze and have some private time and it was very much a home for them, as they spent many weeks at a time on board.

The Royal Yacht Britannia

It was a fascinating boat. The top part, lived in by the Royal Family was luxurious, but perhaps not as much as you might imagine.

It had been little updated since being built and many of the features are now hugely dated. The telephones, radios and electric fires, especially so. Comfortable though, certainly.

The Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia

Below decks was, for me, the royal surprise. Here it was a Navy ship, crewed by the navy and life below deck mush have been a huge contrast to life above deck and it was very interesting to see how the crew lived down here.

The Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia

There is much more of interest to see in Edinburgh but I’m afraid that is all I had time to explore on my various visits. Edinburgh is certainly somewhere I’d very much like to come back to.

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3 Responses to Exploring Edinburgh

  1. November is a good time to enjoy Edinburgh – much quieter! But, as you seen to have done, you risk the dreich weather.

  2. Pingback: 269. Queensferry to North Queensferry | Round the Island

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