My husband and I visited Scotland in January of this year. I won’t tell you that winter is the best time to visit. The days were short, dark, and cold, but we also didn’t deal with any crowds wherever we went. So grab your coats, hats, scarves, and gloves, and journey with me to Edinburgh!
We flew from Atlanta to London, and then took a short flight to Edinburgh from there. I’ve never been on planes that were so empty. It seemed like each person or couple had their own row, so that was a nice start to the trip! We decided to take a bus in to the city from the airport instead of calling an Uber, since the bus tickets were about $12 total. The bus was a clean and quiet enclosed double-decker, and within 45 minutes we were in the city at our stop. We stayed at the DoubleTree in the city center, and I would highly recommend this hotel since it’s so close to everything!
Since we were going to be celebrating our anniversary during our stay, we sprung for the “castle view” room, which I can say was totally worth it, and I would highly recommend finding a room wherever you stay that has a view of this magnificent building! I also made sure to let the hotel know we were celebrating, so the lovely chocolate dessert shown above was waiting for us when we arrived!
We had a short amount of time before dark, so we decided to hit the streets and explore some before we crashed that night! Our first stop was the Elephant House, made famous of course by J.K. Rowling who began writing the Harry Potter series here. The walk was less than ten minutes from our hotel, but by the time we got there we were so cold, so even though we hadn’t been planning on sitting down we decided to order tea and an elephant-shaped shortbread cookie. The coffee shop has small trinkets for sale and also displays artwork of Potter fans, not to mention the infamously graffitied bathroom walls!
After our cup of tea and “biscuit” we headed back down the hill towards our hotel, making sure to stop in a few tartan shops and taking a small detour through Greyfriars Kirk graveyard, the cemetery where Rowling gleaned several names for her books (most notably “Thomas Riddle”).
Day 2—We’re off to see the Castle!
It’s always hard on the first morning to get up early and start sightseeing, but it’s even harder when the temperatures are in the 30s! I will say that I expected the wind to be blowing from every direction and for the cold to be unbearable, but it wasn’t that bad. We brought every winter-weather accessory we could imagine, and we actually stayed pretty warm!
This is what I mean when I say we had no crowds. We walked straight up to the window and purchased our Castle tickets without any wait. The place was almost deserted, and we joined up with a short guided tour with no more than ten other people.
Parts of the castle that were built in 1130 are still standing to this day, and the rest of it that was destroyed during various wars was rebuilt back in 1578. We learned that after it was turned into a prison in 1757, there were several American prisoners that were held captive there! The bottom right picture above shows an early American flag etched into a prisoner’s door. History nerd or not, this is a place that everyone should try and visit!
After a quick lunch, we walked over to the National Museum of Scotland. There is no entrance fee and there are so many things to see, so I would recommend taking some time to walk around. I was most excited about seeing the stuffed “Dolly”, the first cloned mammal! I remembered reading about her in school so we went straight to her exhibit for a selfie 🙂
Our last stop of the day was Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. This is also where Mary, Queen of Scots lived and witnessed the murder of her private secretary at the hands of her husband and his friends. You can still see the markings on the floor from his death. Follow the link to read more about the palace and see pictures of the apartments on the inside, since they don’t allow guests to take photos. There is also a marvelous gift shop here in a separate building that you won’t want to miss!
After we were done touring Holyrood, we took an Uber back into the main part of town close to the Castle. We laughed at how empty the streets were. It was already pitch-black outside at 5pm, and it seemed like everyone had gone home! We took some pictures of the Castle lit up at night and then walked back to the hotel on the eerily deserted streets!