A Weekend Guide to Edinburgh

After moving back to the UK earlier this year, one of the things I’d said I’d like to do was see more of the country I’m from.

Edinburgh has always been high on my list of places to go so I asked my sister to join me and we decided to get a train direct from London into Edinburgh central. We stayed at the Ibis on the Royal Mile which is very centrally located, but I found Edinburgh easy enough to get around that any hotels/apartments out of town wouldn’t be that much of a hassle to commute from.

Below is a breakdown of what we got up to which includes:

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Arthur’s Seat
  • Greyfriar’s Kirkyard
  • Ghost Walks
  • St Giles Cathedral
  • Writer’s Museum

As we went up on a weeknight after work, we didn’t get there until the evening, so all we could fit in was a meal before bed. We decided to go to David Bann which is a vegetarian restaurant. It was delicious. I started with thai fritters of marinated tofu and broccoli followed by aubergine, chick pea and cashew koftas. The prices are good too, ranging from £7.25-12.75 for a main meal.

Our first, full day in Edinburgh was supposed to be the best weather so we chose this day to do the trek up to Arthur’s Peak. At the bottom of the Royal Mile, the main historical road in Edinburgh, is Holyrood Palace. This is where the royal family used to stay if they’re ever in town and costs to look around. We looked at it through the gates then made our way behind it to Holyrood park which is the site of an ancient volcano. At the bottom of the hills was a beautiful lake overlooked by the remains of a chapel where monks looked after the diseased.

Walking up to the top of the hill, Arthur’s Seat, isn’t too hard and can be easily managed so long as the weather’s not too bad. We had light rain during our traverse up and it made the stone pathways slippery to use, especially coming down! From the top however, you can see all around you. There’s a monument pointing to all directions with information as to what’s on the horizon and on a good day you can see snow capped mountains in the far distance beyond the city.

 

After all that climbing we needed a warming drink of cocoa. We went back up the Royal Mile and defrosted ourselves in Mimi’s Bakehouse. They do lovely cakes and a classic cocoa with cream and marshmallows.

Further up the Mile is St Giles Cathedral. If you’d like to take any pictures in the cathedral you pay some money to receive a pass. Walking around the place you can see why you’d want to! They have gorgeous stained glass windows and old statues of famous figures. It was a beautiful place, and well worth stopping by.

If you’re interested in authors and books, you’ll want to check out the Writer’s Museum situated in a beautiful old building in a back street off of the Royal Mile. Here they had belongings and books of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. This place runs on donations alone and I fear it’s running low on funds so if you do go there please donate! The house is broken down into separate areas for each author. I found the basement most interesting as it was all about Robert Louis Stevenson’s life which was so ‘recent’ that photos exist. This is the man who wrote Treasure Island before travelling abroad. He was very interesting to learn about and see pictures of the Samoan island he ‘retired’ to.

Edinburgh Castle will always be on your list when visiting Edinburgh. I seriously believe you could spend a whole day here, the place is huge.

img_3948

Edinburgh Castle

We rented an audio guide for a few pounds which was really helpful giving out info about each numbered plaque. My favourite part of the castle was right at the top; St Margaret’s Chapel. This tiny building was built around 1130 and has a couple tiny windows. This place is so cute and you can still get married in it. Beautiful.

 

Something I suggest all visitors do is stay out after dark and go on a ghost tour. There are a few out there but we went with a Free Ghost Tour after seeing such great reviews about it. We had Artemis, the brilliant girl who has a talent of telling stories. We walked down side streets and around central roads hearing gruesome tales of grave-robbing, cannibalism, and witch hunts.

Scotts Monument

 

My final suggestion is Greyfriars Kirkyard.  Here is where J.K.Rowling found a few of her Harry Potter names but it’s not only good to go for that, there are some very gothic graves and a good bit of history to the place. One area was even used as a prison at one point when the city couldn’t cope.There’s even the tale of Bobby the dog who stayed by his owner’s grave for years after his passing until Bobby himself died.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Edinburgh and would suggest everyone take the time to visit. There are times of the year more special than others such as the Fringe Festival and Tattoo, both in held in August. Be warned though that travelling during these times will lead to extreme prices and also get booked up very quickly!

Area wise I really enjoyed walking around the Old Town for it’s ‘Closes’ and cobbled streets, but also enjoyed the New Town for it’s pubs and restaurants. I really suggest you take a good look around all the areas you can during your trip, and remember…

img_3932

Advertisements

Fun things to do when you’re poor and travelling

I’m now based in one area for the next two months. All my money is tied up in future ventures, and because of where I am nearly all of my earnings are going on rent.

In this predicament it’s easy to feel like I can’t go out and do anything touristy, so I’m now going to try coming up with a list of free things to see and do, to help me cope with the next two months but also help anyone else out there in the same situation.

Let’s start simple – walking. Walking is free and healthy and so a great way to pass the time if you find the right routes to take. I’ve already mentioned my walk around Shelly beach to North Head in Manly, and there’s another walk to Spit Head which I plan on going on fairly soon. Other than that, one short and rather cheap bus journey can get me into the heart of Sydney city where I can venture as far as my legs will carry me. I may even try the Bondi to Coogee walk.

Free entry to Sydney sights:

  • The Rocks
  • Botanical Gardens & other parks
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Luna Park (rides are $10 though!)
  • Australian National Maritime Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Art & Art Gallery of NSW
  • Bondi beach
  • Markets & shopping centres (window shopping)

Every city will have the same situation of offering free entry into certain museums or sights. I used to love spending my lunch times in London walking around the British History Museum. Chilling out for an hour of culture during my hectic day made the afternoon of work so much more manageable.

After giving all of the above a go I’ve also found Free Events in and around Sydney. Centennial Park hold free events during the summer months and there’s always a book launch or guided tour I could jump in on.

The larger cities of the world usually have a Time Out guide which will keep you updated on what’s going on that week. A simple web search usually brings up everything free for that week – but look a little deeper – you could find some cheeky free launches or gigs that aren’t being shouted about. These will likely be the best experiences to try and get to.

Other than touristy things to do, there’s always the classic ways to fill my time for free – reading, watching TV, sleeping – I enjoy all these things very much!

If you have any other suggestions or ideas of things to do while I’m poor in Sydney, let me know!