Edinburgh in Scotland is one of those places I knew I wanted to visit, but due to it being too ‘normal’ in my eyes because you know, they speak English, and so do I, I didn’t really rush there. I was after that I’m-on-vacation feeling I get when I’m in a foreign land where I can’t speak the language and the food is unique and the street signs are quirky.
Well, I wish I’d gotten to Edinburgh way sooner, because whilst they speak English, that didn’t mean I was any less taken away by the differences in culture, food, landmarks and the people. Here’s 11 things you need to know about Edinburgh before you go, or even, to excite you into visiting!
1. Edinburgh Rocks
Yes I said it – I love Edinburgh and its rocks! Lets talk about the rocks of Edinburgh.
The beloved castle is situated on one massive rock called Castle Rock. Arthur’s Seat, a great place to hike and get a great view of the city is a rocky ex-volcano, and the city is chock full of rocks…well er, stones. Basically, the Scottish love their rocks….and stones, and I too fell in love with their rocks and stones.
2. It’s the Capital
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and is the UK’s 2nd most visited destination after London. Both the Old town and New town of Edinburgh are UNESCO Heritage Listed and you’ll be able to enjoy stunning architecture everywhere!
3. Royal Connection
At the end of the Royal Mile (a mile-long shopping street) is Holyrood Castle, an official home of the Queen of England.
4. It’s OLD and very hill-y
Edinburgh is one of the oldest cities in the world and follows suit of Rome, sitting on 7 hills. Yes – you will be doing lots of walking up and down the hills of Edinburgh during your visit to this historic city!
5. Ease of travel
Once you’ve arrived at Edinburgh Airport, you can get into the city quite quickly and cheaply! For 8 pounds (return) you can travel on the tram to the centre of Edinburgh. It takes about 30 minutes all up and is really pleasant!
6. Edinburgh is very walkable
I found transport in Edinburgh to be good overall, with the tram set up which is quite new, and the numerous buses travelling about town, which we used a few times (like getting to the base of Arthur’s Seat!). However, Edinburgh is a very walkable city so you may not need to use the buses at all!
7. Edinburgh has an epic Castle
Whilst in Edinburgh recently, we wanted to go to Edinburgh Castle. It’s basically the gem of the city, dominating the skyline as it sits smack bang in the centre of town. However, time was against us and we chose to walk to Arthur’s Seat for a view of Edinburgh in all of her glory instead. I have promised to myself to make sure I get back to Edinburgh so that I can visit the Castle and see the Stone of Destiny. I’m thinking of pairing this with visiting during Edinburgh’s famous arts festival ‘Fringe‘.
However, what did I love about a castle I never went inside of? Well, its beautiful at night. The castle is lit up from all angles, and can be seen from anywhere in the city. Not only does it add a moody atmosphere but also helps you work out where you are!
Also Edinburgh Castle it is the biggest in Scotland and is situated on a large large rock, aptly named Castle Rock. In fact this rock is an extinct volcano and the castle? Well, it seems to plug the hole. Well done to the men in kilts who thought up that one!
One story I particularly enjoyed hearing whilst in Edinburgh about the castle was when Scotland finally got their thrown back (which incidentally is also a large rock/stone called The Stone of Destiny). In the 1300s, the Stone was captured by the English. They still had it in 1950, when 4 Scottish lads went down to Westminster Abbey and stole it back. After their subsequent struggle (including breaking the stone), the priest in Edinburgh they left the stone with called the police, and the stone went right back to England.
Cue the 1990s when the English finally decided to give the stone back to the rightful owners, the Scots, and the entire nation stopped as one to watch the stone being carried into Edinburgh Castle, finally!!
8. The Tale of Greyfriars Bobby
One of my favourite things about Edinburgh is the Greyfriars Cemetery. There is a monument and statue for a dog called Bobby which people leave sticks at. Bobby was a policeman’s dog/sidekick whom, after his owner passed away, didn’t leave his side and continued to sit at the mans grave inside this graveyard until his own death, 12 years later..!! What a dog!
9. Harry Potter Connection
Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter! By all accounts, JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book inside of a cafe called The Elephant House which looks over the graveyard. Many of the names of characters within the books are taken from this graveyard, like none other than ‘He Who Shall Not Be Named’.
Walking around Edinburgh, you can also see the inspiration of Hogwarts, George Heriot’s School. Or perhaps walking along Victoria Street right nearby you’ll realise you might be walking along Diagon Alley…And then there’s Potterow – the street where Edinburgh University stands. So – if you are a bit of a Potter nerd, Edinburgh’s got you covered!
10. Shitfaced in Edinburgh
The funniest thing I heard whilst on a walking tour of Edinburgh is this: During the times when people didn’t have toilets, Edinburgh was a festering disgusting smelly mess. It also is situated on a hill, with the bottom of either side having been lakes for the city’s drinking water. So with no toilets, people used buckets to store their waste before then throwing it out of their windows to the street below – hence the disgustingess of Edinburgh. And at the same time, the matter would flow down the streets to the lakes, making them undrinkable.
As the random throwing of matter out of windows meant people might get hit by it, there was a new law passed called the Nastiness Act. This now ruled that citizens could only throw their matter out of their windows between 10pm and 5am. Throwers would also have to yell “gard l’eau” a French term for Mind the Water.
However, with the drinking water problem, everyone in the city was drunk, only being able to drink alcohol. And so, often when yelling gard l’eau, the really drunk folk took too long to understand what was happening, and before they could get out-of-the-way, the falling matter/water would fall on their faces…creating the term Shit Faced. Thank you Edinburgh!
11. Edinburgh Tours
I have to mention that Hunk and I went on 2 tours whilst in Edinburgh. The Ghost and Ghouls night tour by Mercat Tours which took us around the streets of Edinburgh and then down into the creepy ghost-filled underground spaces was excellent! We really felt the ghostly vibe of the city through interesting and haunting tales told by our tour guide.
We also did the Free Walking Tour by Sandemans which was a comprehensive 3 hour walking tour. Our guide Greg was hilarious and really knew his history – so I can highly recommend this tour if you are in Edinburgh!
So there you have it – you are now armed with facts, tips and stories for a well-informed visit to Edinburgh, one of the oldest and most beautiful cities I’ve been to! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me!
Pin for later!