Edinburgh exudes rich history, so much so that the moment you step foot in the city you can see and feel it all around you. There are centuries-old buildings, churches, and palaces, and setting the historical tone, high above the city, is Edinburgh Castle dating back to the 12th century.
After our flight landed at Edinburgh Airport, we took the Airlink bus for about 30-minutes to the Waverley Bridge stop, which connects the Old Town to the New Town. Once we checked in and got settled into our room at Old Town Chambers, we made our way to the royal mile for our tour with Mercat Tours.
Our tour focused on the Royal Mile area where our exceptional guide was able to share her vast knowledge about the historical sites and hidden secrets that you wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for this tour. The street is lined with well preserved architecture each with its own unique story.
Included with the Royal Mile tour was a visit the Edinburgh castle; which the two of us had been looking forward to this entire trip. This mile long road was known to be a defensive area where locals had to enter at the bottom of the hill to take the mile long trek up to the castle which is the highest point. The most fascinating fact we learned, before even stepping foot inside, was that it was built on top of an extinct volcanic plug that appeared around 350 million years ago. We could probably write a novel about the expansive history of this landmark, but instead here are a few highlights from our tour.
- Experiencing the Crown Jewels Museum was jaw dropping. Inside you are able to see crowns, as well as other royal accessories, that were worn by kings and queens.
- The oldest building in Edinburgh is nestled inside the castle walls: St. Margaret’s Chapel, and it’s still in use today for special events and weddings. The chapel was very tiny, that our over six foot selves had to bend down to get inside the doorway. It’s a spectacular sight to see.
- Another highlight were the dungeons and discovering what the prisoners had to endure was shocking.
If you’re searching for a tour to do of Edinburgh we recommend looking into Mercat Tours; they offer different themed tours that you can take throughout the city. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of the Royal Mile and can’t wait to go back soon to experience another!
After our tour we took a pit stop at the Scotch Whisky Experience which was located right next to the entrance of Edinburgh Castle. A trip to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without trying Scotch Whisky. We thought it was going to be a simple whisky tasting but it turned out to be much more than we expected. It was an interactive exhibit that educated you on the process of whisky making while showcasing the types of whisky that are produced in various regions of Scotland. This experience also features the worlds largest whisky collection and allows you to take an expedition on their state of the art ride that could give Disneyland a run for its money, but for adults of course. Both of us were amazed by this hidden gem in Edinburgh and never knew how much science went behind the making of scotch whisky. Check out The Scotch Whisky Experience here for more information.
One of the aspects we loved about the entire city of Edinburgh was how accessible everything was. We found that majority of our time was spent walking which allowed us to soak up as much of the town as we could. We were fortunate to have an overnight stay at Old Town Chambers Luxury Apartments which was centrally located to the Royal Mile! Our two-bedroom apartment was equipped with a full kitchen, dining area and spacious living room where we could focus on our work when we weren’t exploring the city. Old Town Chambers is a great place for any type of traveler and if you are looking for accommodations that are centrally located, then we highly recommend it.
Our second day in Edinburgh started off with a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city. The City Sight-Seeing bus stop was located right by our hotel on Waverly Bridge. The best part about having the hop-on hop-off ticket is that you can use it all day to maximize your time seeing the city, hopping on-and-off at places you wanted to see along the way. The bus also had a great audio tour you can listen to while riding, and headphones were provided. We made a stop at the National Museum of Scotland to take a look inside. We ended up liking it so much that we stayed over an hour before proceeding with the bus tour. Our final stop was the Holyrood Palace, which was located at the base of the Royal Mile.
We weren’t able to take any photos inside the Palace but we can tell you that it is a magnificent place to visit and is a must see when in Edinburgh. During the summer months, Holyrood Palace is used by the royal family but when they are not there, visitors are allowed to tour the palace grounds. There were many highlights from our tour; the throne room where paintings of previous kings and queens covered the walls, the massive bedrooms with original furnishings, dining areas that are still in use for dignitaries and other guests of the family, and the ruins that used to be an Abbey founded in 1128. One of our favorite areas of the palace was the bedchamber of Mary, Queen of Scotts in the North-West tower that displayed how her bedroom would have looked when she lived there centuries ago.
The Holyrood Palace should be at the top of your list when you visit Edinburgh right next to Edinburgh Castle. You get an amazing sense of past and present royal dynamics. If you want to visit the palace click here.
Our final tour in Edinburgh took place at the Royal Yacht Britannia, the royal family’s summer vacation yacht that is no longer in commission. This was a surreal experience for us, due to the fact that the current royal family used the yacht for quite some time and most of their belongings and decorations are still on board. You get an amazing sense of what life was like on the yacht and how much man power it took to operate. One of the best features was seeing the photographs of the royal family smiling and laughing together during their time on the yacht. One of the fascinating facts we learned was that the only time Her Majesty the Queen cried publicly, was when the Britannia was decommissioned. If discovering more about the royal family is something that you are looking to do then add the Royal Yacht Britannia to your itinerary.
Overall our time in Edinburgh was unforgettable, and we only just skimmed the surface of the city’s history. If you are planning on visiting Edinburgh here are some of the top things we would recommend you add to your list!
- Edinburgh Castle
- Holyrood Palace
- Royal Yacht Britannia
- National Museum of Scotland
- Royal Mile Tour with Mercat Tours
- The Scotch Whiskey Experience
One of the best pieces of advice regarding Edinburgh is to plan. Many places require a ticket or a reservation, so knowing in advance where and when you can go to certain places will help maximize your time. Another piece of advice is to walk everywhere you can, if you are able to. We got to see more of the city just by walking and when you need a break you can stop in one of the many stores, bars, and restaurants along the way. We hope you enjoy Edinburgh, just as much as we did.