Scotland was the last leg of our UK and Ireland trip, and we really only had 24 hours to spend in the capital city, Edinburgh. Here’s how we spent our 24 hours in Edinburgh:
Arriving in Edinburgh
Our 24 hours in Edinburgh spanned two half days. We took a plane on Saturday from Dublin to Edinburgh, arriving in Scotland around 2 p.m. At the airport, if the taxi stand is empty then the private car hire people will try steer you toward their cars, which are more expensive and the drivers aren’t as good as the cab drivers. But you don’t have to be herded toward their cars; you can wait for a taxi at the taxi stand.
We checked in at our hotel, a cute little townhouse hotel called Hotel Ceilidh-Donia just south of Arthur’s Seat. The room had a king-sized bed and a large bathroom. It was our favorite hotel of our whole trip. Even being in the front room right by the door, it wasn’t very loud and guests coming and going didn’t bother us.
Visit Edinburgh Castle
Our first stop was Edinburgh Castle, which was easier said than done. The bus we were on seemed intent on taking us around the entire city instead of to the castle, even though it was the bus the hotel receptionist told us to take. At this rate, I figured it was quicker to walk, so I made us get off the bus and start the long climb up to the castle (and it probably was quicker).
But when we got to the castle, they told Kevin that his backpack was too big to bring in. Anything over 30L won’t be let in to the castle, and there’s nowhere to store it. So we went back down the hill, got a cab, went back to the hotel, dropped off his backpack, and took the cab back to the castle.
By this time it was 4:45 p.m. (last entry is at 5 p.m. in the summer) and I was determined to storm that castle. Back up the hill we went, and this time getting into the castle was a breeze. Once inside the castle, I breathed easier knowing we had time to explore.
Sitting atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle has dominated the city skyline since the 12th century. The castle has had 26 sieges in its 1,100 years, making it the most besieged place in Great Britain. The castle houses St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh; the Royal Palace, which houses the Honours of Scotland: the crown, the sceptre, and the sword of state; the Scottish National War Memorial; and the One O’Clock Gun, which is a time signal fired every day at 1 p.m. sharp.
Walk the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is the mile of street between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. If you’re really dedicated, you can walk the whole Mile, and I’ve done it before; just remember that the Mile back toward the castle is all up hill. We only walked half of the Mile this time, and we had plenty of adventures along the way.
Up near the castle, the Royal Mile is peppered with tourist shops. In one of these, Kevin got fitted for and bought a kilt.
Along the street, buskers and street performers try to catch your eye. There is no lack of bagpipe players, of course, but you’ll also find hilarious street magicians and pyrotechnics.
And of course, the Royal Mile is the perfect place to get some haggis. The Royal Mile Tavern seemed a fitting place to get Kevin his first taste of the traditional Scottish dish. Haggis is made of sheep heart, liver, and lungs mixed with suet and spices and traditionally boiled in a lining of the sheep’s stomach, but more often now it’s encased in a sausage casing. Kevin had a burger topped with haggis, and I had chicken stuffed with haggis.
After dinner, we took a bus back to our hotel and relaxed for the night.
Visit Craigmillar Castle
We had one last castle to visit on our trip. We had conveniently picked our hotel to be halfway between Edinburgh Castle and Craigmillar Castle so that on Sunday morning we could check out, leave our luggage at our hotel, and take a short bus ride to Craigmillar Castle right when it opened at 9 a.m. The bus drops off near the castle park. It is a bit of a walk from there to the castle.
Three miles south of Edinburgh city-centre are the ruins of Craigmillar Castle, best known for its association with Mary, Queen of Scots. This is where the “Craigmillar Bond” agreement was made, in which many of Mary’s noblemen conspired to “remove” Mary’s unpopular husband.
At Craigmillar Castle, you get free reign over the grounds. At admissions, they tell you to try out all the doors, and if a door is unlocked then you are welcome to explore what’s behind it. On the walk up to the castle, you may be greeted by the castle cat who likes to wander the fields.
The keep of the castle was four stories tall and had plenty of rooms. There was so much to explore, we thought we might never get out of the castle. At the top of the tower house, you can see views of the city, from Edinburgh Castle right down to Arthur’s Seat. The ruins are in surprisingly great shape, and there’s almost no room you can’t explore.
Once we’d poked our head into every chamber and taken every stairway to nowhere, we went back to the admissions office and gift shop to call a cab. While we were in there, Kevin-the-enabler convinced me to buy a Mary, Queen of Scots bear. And now I have a bear from every leg of our journey around the UK and Ireland.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Edinburgh? Let me know in the comments below!