Edinburgh: The Scenic 360º

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Nelson Monument

When we arrived in Edinburg, my husband and I took a cab from the train station to our hotel near the University area. We quickly dumped our luggage in the room, changed shoes and headed out the double glass lobby doors to explore the beautiful city on the shores of the Firth of Forth. There was no plan really, I remember printing out a list of must see’s and figured we’d stumble on something amazing soon enough – the city is, after all, gorgeous with a wealth of historical and natural wonders. We wandered down along the lively Royal Mile then took a detour through an old atmospheric cemetery built on a hill. It was when we reached a clearing at the top that a recent travel review appeared vividly alive directly in front of me,“This small, steep hill scattered with architectural oddities and follies were once supposed to make Edinburgh the Athens of the North,” and I knew exactly where we were: Calton Hill. Oddities work for me, because I prefer the quirky side of history and this was no exception, a jumble of monuments that looked as though they’d been dropped from the sky above, landed hard and created a backdrop to the astonishing views of the area. From here we climbed Nelson’s Monument to the top viewing balcony, and despite gusty winds we enjoyed the scenic 360 of Princess street, the New Town, Leith, Holyrood Palace and Arthur’s Seat.

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National Monument of Scotland, a memorial to Scottish soldiers and sailors who died in the Napoleonic wars. Never finished, nonetheless lovely, and a popular place to simply hang out and enjoy the views.
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New Town, built between 1767 ~ 1800, is known for its neoclassical and Georgian architecture, and is considered a masterpiece of city planning. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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Inspired by a Greek temple of the Four Winds, the Old City Observatory, designed by William Henry Playfair in 1818.
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The official residence of the British Monarch of Scotland, once home to the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots.
Princess Street featuring the distinguished clock tower of the Balmoral Hotel
Princess Street featuring the distinguished clock tower of the Balmoral Hotel

Takeaways from our visit to Edinburgh:

  1. Three days including travel to and from London was barely enough time to scratch the surface of this fabulous UNESCO World Heritage city.  Four or five days would have been reasonable for us, and I’d love to push-off to the Scottish Highlands from here when we return someday.
  2. Edinburgh Castle is a must see, and I highly recommend the free tour. Our guide was lively, kept our interest and educated our group with important history in all of 30 minutes. Don’t miss the charming St. Margaret’s’ Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh.
  3. We focused most of our time in Old Town. On our last evening we wandered over to New Town for a delicious dinner in the welcoming Olive Branch Bistro, when we sadly realized we didn’t have nearly enough time to explore this lovely half of the city, including the waterfront area of Leith and Dean Village.
  4. In my last post, Climbing Arthur’s Seat, I wrote about Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat. If you visit someday, don’t forget to pack your hiking shoes and climb to the top of this beautiful dormant volcano.
  5. My blogging friend, Restless Jo, posted a wonderful piece on Holyrood Palace, Clandestine Cloak and Dagger in Holyrood Palace last September. After reading her post last week, I deeply regretted not making the time to tour this site.
  6. We enjoyed wandering off to the little side streets of the Royal Mile in Old Town to get a feel for the city’s medieval history. My favorite street was Victoria Street, a charming curved road lined with restaurants and colorful shops; and below that the Grass Market, a historic marketplace lined with pubs and interesting architecture…all with a stunning view of Edinburgh Castle from above.
  7. The country’s most popular attraction: the National Museum of Scotland, it’s free and worth at least an hour or so if museums are your passion.
  8. Always do your research, and make a plan so you can use your time wisely…but for me the most important thing about travel is to remember to relax a little when you’re out and about, and to take advantage of the city’s sights, sounds, and especially the views.

e.

76 comments

  • The pics look great cant wait to be there soon; late summer 😃 still a long way to go but happy that I will get to visit this unique and wonderful place on our planet.

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  • Thank you so much for the lovely comment 🙂 The sun was setting as I climbed Calton Hill (on a day trip from my north east home) a couple of years ago and it was so atmospheric and beautiful with the long shadows. I had to scurry back down to catch the bus. 🙂 Last time, when I did an overnight stay to meet Jude, I did the walk out along the Water of Leith and really enjoyed it. Still found time for an hour or so in the National Museum AND the Botanic gardens. Arthur’s Seat if I ever get back up that way.

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    • You are so welcome, Jo. I’m still wondering how I slipped up and missed a visit to the palace..the story of Mary Queen of Scots has always intrigued me. Thank goodness for your wonderful post!
      Have a wonderful evening!
      elisa

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  • Splendid vistas, Elisa. It’s a long time since we were in Edinburgh. You’ve whetted my appetite to return. Sights and galleries apart, I seem to remember there were some fab eateries.

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    • I loved everything about Edinburgh…including the food. For once I planned ahead and made several dinner reservations, and I wasn’t disappointed in any of the choices. I feel like you do, I’d like to return soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Beautiful scenic. What is intriguing about these older cities is how well laid out they are, particularly when they did not have the building technology and materials that we have today. Of course, when you’re higher up, you can see a lot of the surrounding area much better. 🙂

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    • That was one thing I took from reading about the “New Town” (New being as old as the oldest cities in the U.S.) that it’s considered a masterpiece in urban planning. I’m just happy I had pictures to post, it was so windy that day, especially up on the tower. I mostly have fuzzy photo memories!

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      • If you find in your stats some of the posts from the “Fun and Fabulousness” days receiving page views, that’s me. You’re an excellent writer. With that said, you need to write more often. One question – did you ever get back to that old Kodak place?

        Visit with you later. 🙂

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        • Hey there! I saw this comment somewhere, maybe on my phone one day, and then I had trouble finding it again. But here you are! I do miss those Fun and Fabulous days, simpler times for some reason. Always hated the name, but now it just makes me smile. So back to your question…I don’t know! I rarely go into Atlanta anymore, which is kind of silly, but traffic and all that. I will try to find out, because I’d like to know too. Something tells me its gone…one fault of this great city is their penchant for knocking down it’s past. Glad you are well! take care,
          elisa

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  • Beautiful shots and a very interesting read as usual Elisa. The only time I have ever been to Edinburgh was back when I lived in the UK, when I was commissioned to photograph the Jenners department store; consequently I did not see much of the amazing city. Your pictures make me realise how much I need to make the trip north next time I am visiting my parents… Superb images!

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    • That must have been interesting work, photographing Jenners. Ugh. I just realized we didn’t even pass by that building – its almost impossible to really get to know a place unless you have time to spare. A return trip to Scotland is mandatory! I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. It was incredibly gusty that day, especially atop Nelson Monument, and most of my shots are a blurry mess. Still pretty though, which does say something about the landscape. Take care, and I’m glad you stopped by.

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  • I only ever walked from the University where we were staying (U of E) onto Princess St., I believe, in 1974. Summer Festival was happening; Joan Baez was performing, among others. I Loved Edinburgh, though friends quickly picked us up and whisked us to a castle in Kirkcaldy to stay for a few nights. Saw Loch Tay and surrounding countryside, then left on the train back to London.

    Landed in Dublin a couple of months ago – drove around Ireland, circumnavigating most of it. Ran into a woman on the train – she and her family had come for a wedding from their home in Edinburgh. Loved chatting with all of them – wonderful folks.

    Nice memories, thanks for your very informative post! And for digging up these memories inside of me … 😉

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    • I feel right at home on the British Isles, even more so now that I found out I have more Irish/Scottish ancestry that I realized. I can envision you as a 70s girl frolicking at the popular music festival (they were still cleaning up from it when we were there) and driving along the gorgeous Irish countryside last year. It’s always hard to pick a favorite country that I’ve passed through, but Ireland has to be very near the top. Glad to hear from you, Bela!

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    • Hey there, glad you could come along on our windy, walky visit. It was one of those trips that you need a vacation from your vacation!
      Take care,
      elisa

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  • I so enjoyed this visit to Edinburgh, Elisa — great photos, great information. When there isn’t enough time, it’s because you’ve landed in a wonderful place.

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    • Thanks Jet, loved it there. I guess it goes without saying that there’s never enough time when traveling, but this time I wish I had planned a little better. Next time, next time!

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  • Wonderful photos Elisa, and your descriptions of one of the few cities in the British Isles I haven’t visited, made my mouth water.
    I long to see Edinburgh, and you’ve made it sound even more enchanting than I had thought. At the moment in the Antipodes, I couldn’t be further away!

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    • Hi, Valerie! Sorry for the late response. I do so enjoy hearing from you, and to think you’re so far away! Antipodes, I had to look it up it was that foreign to me. I hope you had (or are still having) a lovely adventure. Take care, and safe travels!

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    • Hi there! Sorry for the late response, I just now noticed your comment, and thank you! My theme is called “Blink” and its really very user friendly, and easy to setup. What I like the most about it is how it looks on cell phones, iPad, etc. I’ve changed my theme several times over the last few years, and this one is my favorite. Also, I’ve always gotten the help I need from WP theme support. Good luck!!

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  • Beautiful photos, Elisa! I love to visit Edinburgh in the future. Thank you for the tips and information. 🙂

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  • I can see why the place was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Absolutely magnificent architecture, indeed. Excellent photographs and I thank you fir sharing them… Love & best wishes. 😀

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    • Thank you, thank you. Scotland has a wealth of natural and man made beauty. Funny, everywhere I visit is full of surprises. Thanks so much for stopping by – have a great week.
      Take care,
      elisa

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  • I loved it, too… ❤ and we met Scots who spoke honourable French… 🙂 btw, after the brexit, they look forward to being independent more and more… 😉

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  • HI Elisa,
    I loved reading this post. I was in Edinburgh for the International Storytelling Festival last October, and I enjoyed the city so much. You really captured it in your photos!

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    • Namomi!
      I’ve come to learn that Edinburgh is known for a variety of wonderful festivals, and I’m happy that you were able to experience one of them – the Storytelling Festival sounds wonderful. I’d love to attend the Military Tattoo someday. They were just breaking down the stadium for the last one when we were there. Love that city! Nice to hear from you…take care!
      elisa

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  • Awesome photos!…What is interesting about these more seasoned urban areas is the means by which well laid out they are, especially when they didn’t have the building innovation and materials that we have today…

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    • Thank you, Sariska. Urban planning from long ago has always intrigued me. I don’t know how they did it…great minds, I guess! Thanks for stopping by and take care,
      elisa

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