A Week in Edinburgh
I don’t honestly know why it has taken me so long to write about my week in Edinburgh. It was probably one of the coolest cities I’ve ever stayed in. But it was also a city I went to with almost zero planning. It did work out, but I have since decided I need a bit more balance between “no plan” and “super detailed plan.” You can check out the method that’s currently working for me in This Post.
I spent about 5 full days in Edinburgh and left at midnight on the 5th day by sleeper train. So here’s “What to do in Edinburgh” in a week 🙂
Day 1: Traveling
This day was, for the most part, spent on a train from London to Edinburgh. As always I have a terrible time adjusting to jetlag (on of the main reasons I don’t see the point of 5 days trips across the world…). This was my third day in the country and thankfully after a day of rest in my hotel in London and the relaxing train ride to Edinburgh, I felt well rested.
I didn’t do much more than wander about the Grassmarket and check into my hostel at Kick Ass Hostels (Check out my review). I got a fairly unremarkable dinner somewhere around this area. Per usual my focus is almost never on food (excepting, apparently, my upcoming trip to NYC where my ‘food to try list’ is getting quite long).
Day 2: Arthur’s Seat and Tea
Bright and early I set off for what had drawn me to Edinburgh in the first place. Arthur’s Seat. A dormant volcano that one can hike. True to form, my going was not smooth.
I tried to be smart. I purchased water before I set off so I wouldn’t dehydrate and find myself in the Paris situation all over again. And yet. And yet I got lost, not once. But twice. Looking at my Google Timeline is kindof hilarious – so many ineffectual zigs and zags. It was ok though, because even though I was lost (even Google Maps can’t save me) the scenery is so very lovely that the detours didn’t matter.
Eventually I struck upon a sortof-correct path (one of the much more difficult, if more wild and pretty options) and made my way to the top. I felt a real, real sense of accomplishment. I was surprised by how truly great it felt to stand on the highest point in the area and breath in the fresh breeze. Apparently I like hiking 🙂 I pursued this feeling again in Colorado Springs and it was absolutely wonderful. I took the “easy” route down and felt thankful that I had accidentally wound up on the more difficult path as I felt my way up was a lot more beautiful than the way down.
I headed back to the hostel for a light nap and then headed back out for a late lunch.
If you’re looking for a cheap afternoon tea (5GBP) that is still delicious, Eteaket has your back. I wouldn’t say that they have the greatest quality tea, and their scone had raisons in it, which I hate. It was one of those moments where I fully embraced my American-tourist hidden self, as I picked out all the raisons. Anywho. You really can’t beat it for the price. If you haven’t experienced the joys of clotted cream and jam with a side of tea, this is probably your best bet to experience it at a reasonable price.
For a more “traditional” High Tea, I headed to The Dome later in the week.
As for Eteaket, I also liked it because it got me to the other side of Edinburgh. If you’re just looking to buy tea, East India Company has a very nice outpost here. Staff was super lovely, offering tea samples and for me to sit down given how hot it was, even though I was clearly a tourist and they don’t actually serve anything. Cashier found it surprising and highly amusing to learn that I was American. If only he had seen me 20 minutes earlier, picking the raisons out of my scone. Highly recommend their milk oolong tea (although be aware it is not a traditional milk oolong but rather one with added milk, for my other tea nerds).
Walking beneath the castle
If you decide to forgo the tea, head into one of the grocery stores, grab some snacks, and picnic beneath the castle. You really can’t beat it for eclectic scenery. A castle perched on the top of a rocky cliff, the most cheerful graveyards I’ve ever seen, cool monuments, and lush surroundings. I spent a long time just walking about here.
Day 3: Touring the Highlands
I have written an entire post about my bus tour to the highlands. In a nutshell, it was definitely one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever seen. I frequently felt myself about to tear up. I now very much wish to revisit and head out on one of the long walking trails, stopping in the adorable towns on my way.
I returned and headed to my next sleeping place, Castle Rock Hostel, which I have also given a review 🙂
Day 4: Old Town and High Tea
This was a “nice” tea service, with a better setting. However, the price is also cheap (as far as Afternoon Tea goes) at only 19GBP. Everything was “ok.” I found their tea blend of Assam and Orange Pekoe to be delicious. I highly recommend getting a darker tea as they definitely don’t do any temperature lower that “just boiled.” My “first-try” of their green tea was incredibly burnt beyond recognition. This is exactly how people get the wrong impression of tea! They also don’t have a separate strainer, so your first two cups are your best bet, as you can’t fish the leaves out to stop them over-brewing. I had fun but the actual tea of the afternoon tea was wholly disappointing for the most part.
National Museum of Scotland
It’s free to go in, and well worth a look if you like museums. If you are ambivalent towards museums as I am, you might like some exhibits in it. It felt too random in its collection for me, personally. But the standout is the Millennium Clock. If you are at all interested in art, it reminds me something of a new Hieronymus Bosch piece. It is by far one of the eeriest pieces I have ever seen. Just staring at it gave me the heebie jeebies and I couldn’t stand to be around it and left before it chimed. But it was super cool all the same – there’s like zero lines and no cost to get in this place so you might as well stop by to see it.
The Royal Mile
I walked allllllll the way up and down this street. It’s nice, but definitely not what I would call a “super authentic” shopping district. Despite this, I did pick up some rather lovely sterling silver earrings for a very reasonable price so it’s not all bad. As a whole I found most UK “tourist” giftshops to be so much nicer than French/US equivalents. Most everything is of very good quality and actually interesting. If something seems a little pricy but you want it, check out the comparable shops along the way and they’ll likely have something very similar.
Day 5: Sleeper Train and Onwards to Oxford
As always, I spend my last day in almost any location wandering around and revisiting locations as well as shopping for souvenirs. I found some awesome wooden postcards for my family members 🙂
Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t bother to go into Edinburgh castle. Because I was only there for a little while, I didn’t want to waste a ton of time inside. Additionally, it was very expensive (which most attractions are in the UK….) at 18GBP. As I tend to get museum fatigue and need to be there early, I didn’t feel like spending 22USD for an hour. If I had been there longer than my 5 days I would have probably gone, but I didn’t feel like I’d missed out. Wandering around the multi-leveled city was more than enough for me on my last day. If you only have a week in Edinburgh, spend most of it outside, if you can.
I wish I had spent more time in Edinburgh. I was shocked by how much I enjoyed it. It’s not that there is honestly that much to do. It has about the same population as Wichita, Kansas, so that isn’t totally shocking. My point is that I just enjoyed being in Edinburgh. I loved wandering around. In this regard it reminded me of my shockingly enjoyable time in Blois, France. A week in Edinburgh is definitely worth it!
I will say, the entire place seems to wholly embrace the fact that Harry Potter was written in the city. I like Harry Potter as much as the next person, and I consume a fairly ludicrous level of fanfiction (Draco does have a secret heart of gold, no matter what JK says :P). However, I would say it feels kind of overboard. Entire shops, tours, and cafes are dedicated to the HP universe. However, this is a fairly nitpicky thing – besides, some of the best conversations I had in Edinburgh were with HP nerds in shops.