Edinburgh is one of those cities where you can never claim to have ‘seen everything’. There is always another nook and cranny to explore, another ‘close’ you haven’t peeked into. My family and I tried our very best to see everything (we soon learned this was impossible), but I think we nailed the main, main attractions.
To give you all a little peep into what a day in Edinburgh looked like for us, I’ve decided to type out a sort of outline, describing the places we visited in one day.
1. Edinburgh Castle and the Changing of the Guard
We arrived at the castle , which is located on Castle Rock, towards the end of the changing of the guard extravaganza, but even the last few minutes of exciting music were a treat. The castle is huge. Gargantuan. It looks a little drab from this view point, but inside, it is spectacular.
I must note that throughout our adventures in Edinburgh, we used the very helpful tips found Rick Steve’s Audio Europe app. We listened to him talk about the castle as we stood here, and learned a couple things before even going inside. Something that instantly caught my attention was the emblem that sits above the main entryway. It reads, Nemo me impune lacessit. That’s Latin for, No one provokes me with impunity. It was the motto of the Royal Stuart family of Scotland and is still the motto of the Order of the Thistle and some of the Scottish regiments of the British Army.
Once you have entered the castle, just before you get to the ticket booths, you can see this plaque. Reading little things like this made my experience at the castle so much more incredible and drew me into the stories of the people who used to inhabit it.
The view from certain parts of the castle is stunning. You can see across part of the city to the Firth of Fourth. If you look directly down, you can view the lush Princes Street Gardens as well as the many historic buildings lining Princes Street.
While visiting the castle, we opted to purchase audio guides. In addition, we were able to catch the live tour group that sets off for a small tour of the castle approximately every half an hour, I think. Both the audio guide and the live tour were wonderful! Our tour guide was fantastically descriptive as he pointed out important places and offered amusing anecdotes. If you visit the castle, I recommend both audio and live guides. The live tour wasn’t very long at all, and didn’t take us into every building of the castle complex, so the audio guide came in handy.
In all, I think you ought to give Edinburgh Castle a good two and a half hours. It took us approximately that long, and we didn’t even visit all the buildings in the complex! We saw the room in which King James I and VI was born, one of (or the only) great hall, and the crown jewels. We may have stepped into another building or two, but if so, they’ve escaped my memory. If you are on a mission to peek into every crack in the castle, it may take you…goodness, I wouldn’t know! But you can always ask the castle staff – they are wonderfully helpful!
2. A Meander Down the Royal Mile and the Writer’s Museum
Edinburgh was and still is home to some of the most influential authors in English literature. To learn more about them, I recommend visiting the Writer’s Museum located in Lady Stair’s Close.
This museum is not the most visible, and we only found out about it when we spied a small sign near the close’s entrance. I think it’s obscurity is quite ridiculous, for anyone and everyone visiting Edinburgh must take a tour of the museum. The museum is housed in Lady Stair’s home herself, an imposing residence.
Inside, you can walk the halls of Lady Stair’s home while viewing Robert Louis Stevenson’s rocking horse, Sir Walter Scott’s quill and ink pot, and many, many more artifacts which had me so enthralled that I didn’t remember to take pictures.
You must visit the Writer’s Museum. I don’t think tickets cost very much, and it didn’t take long at all to view everything it had to offer.
3. An Edinburgh Bus Tour
During our stay in Edinburgh, we purchased the “Royal Edinburgh Tickets” from the Edinburgh Bus Tours company. These special tickets offered us entry into Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Yacht Britannica, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, as well as discounts for tickets to The Glasshouses, and the Royal Botanic Garden. In addition, you get 48 hours of hopping on and off the buses which run regularly and offered us breaks from walking around the city.
Some of the tour buses have live guides while others give you audio guides. Both were great!
4. The National Museum of Scotland
After some time on a bus, we got off at the stop closest to the National Museum of Scotland, home to many an interesting thing including Dolly the sheep herself. Unfortunately, we were a little weary by this time, so the only pictures I have are one of a car, and one grimy image of some old chess pieces. You’re welcome.
The visit to the National Museum concluded our day of sightseeing. We went back to our hotel, freshened up, and came back out to wander about, but didn’t really visit any especially thrilling spots.
I hope this post was enjoyable to read, and hopefully helpful as well! If you’re ever visited Edinburgh and know of some more incredible places to visit (there are probably thousands, but one visit cannot encompass them all!) be sure to comment down below!