I was reading through my Twitter Timehop and found myself quoting something Michelle said the minute we landed in Copenhagen’s Lufthavn Airport, just a few hours after leaving the majestic country of Scotland. “If Copenhagen is Narnia, then Edinburgh was definitely Hogwarts.”
She was entirely right. Everything about Edinburgh felt like a dream. It was like we were transplanted into the world that J.K Rowling created that we were only been able to read in her novels. Gorgeously green, overcast, and a bit chillier than we expected. It was the end of June and our leather jackets were a solid choice to pack, though not as warm as we had hoped.
“Do you have £1, Diana?”
I was confused as to why Michelle would be asking me for money a minute after we hopped off of the MegaBus that dropped us off at Waverley Bus Station. We opted for an 8-hour journey up from London to get to Edinburgh. While it was cheaper than flying direct or connecting at Heathrow, we wouldn’t recommend that long of a journey unless absolutely financially necessary. We felt like hell.
The start to our Euro trip last year didn’t exactly go as planned. As soon as we left the bus depot and found ourselves on Princes Street, unsure of which direction would take us to our Airbnb, we were not only extremely jet lagged, but we were already lost. Looking up at Castle Rock and the Scott Monument made the frenzy to find our accommodation a little less stressful though.
Eventually, we found our way toward the bus that would take us to our apartment on Dalkeith Road. The bus left us right in front of the door. Literally right at front. We soon realized, even though the bus system in Edinburgh was very accessible and convenient, it wasn’t all that necessary — even if it was the only place that we could always rely on for Wi-Fi.
Edinburgh is a tiny, quaint city, with almost all the major attractions feasible to see in two days, which was what we gave ourselves. Michelle and I both fell in love right away, and we could have easily and happily spent more time in its capital city as a result of the “love at first visit.”
One thing we loved most about the city was the abundance of closes and alleyways. For some, the word “alleyways” conjures up an eerie, creepy feeling. Not in Edinburgh. We actually allowed ourselves to get lost during our wanderings because of how intrigued we were at the mazes and puzzles that form the city center. One second you’re wandering Princes Street Gardens, the next you’re within the Royal Mile. Edinburgh is small, making it completely walkable and somehow connected, so don’t worry about actually getting so lost that you can’t find your way back through these closes – you will!
As avid Harry Potter lovers, one of the main goals on our trip was, no doubt, to experience lunch at the place the boy wizard was born. The Elephant House was a sure stop. Thankfully, the queue to get inside wasn’t as long as what it would be in somewhere like New York City. A few minute wait and we were seated in the back dining area. Lunch wasn’t a 5-star dining experience, but being inside the cafe felt like being in a museum dedicated to Harry. Pictures of famous visitors, and of J.K Rowling on recent trips back, lined the walls. Postcards and memory trinkets, for visitors to buy, also adorned the front of the cafe.
But the best part remained in the bathroom. Thousands upon thousands of signatures, dedications, quotes, jokes and other scribblings plastered the walls in different marker and pen shades. EVERYWHERE. We spent some time in the loo, adding to the wall ourselves while wiping the subtle tears we knew were to be expected.
“THIS WAY TO THE MINISTRY” above the toilet and the dedications to Dobby were among our favourites. I highly recommend any Harry Potter fan to take an hour or two to just sit at The Elephant House and revel in the history and magic that it holds.
While we did only have two days in the city, looking back on it now, we did a hell of a lot. Many happy memories exist today of the first stop on our sister trip together. The Scots are also delightful people, making sure any visitors understand that they are “Scottish first, British second.” The patriotism never falters and is humbling to see, to say the least.
Now, here are a few more tidbits and recommendations for any future traveler headed to the gorgeousness that is Edinburgh.
Where To Visit:
The Royal Mile – way too many things going on but it’s a must visit. The restaurants are a bit touristy and sadly, the one we went to catered to “American cuisine.” We should have known better. Regardless, there is tons of people watching to do and opportunities to experience the nightlife with bars and pub crawls, which we had to pass up on because of the jet-lag. But make sure to visit the line of bars/pubs at Cowgate! But what’s truly great about the Royal Mile is what lies at each of the ends.
Edinburgh Castle – A MUST. SEE. It’s at the very top of the Mile. It’s ancient, huge, and gorgeous. We left this at the end of our last day which we actually regretted, because we had to rush and couldn’t really explore it fully. The view from the top is stunning, even on a cloudy day. There’s so much history to read about and is still so beautifully preserved. Gotta love the Scots representing with all their flags waving, too.
Holyrood Palace – At the other end of the Mile is where little ol’ Queen Elizabeth II stays on trips up to Scotland. We weren’t able to go in, but it’s still pretty cool to look at it from the outside and read all about the happenings of the monarchy during their trips up north.
Arthur’s Seat – This was probably one of our other favourite ventures while here. We were so tired on our first night in, but decided to get up from a nap and head up to Arthur’s Seat, which was right behind our accommodation, in Holyrood Park. So worth it! The #VIEWS are unreal. It was a bit windy on our way up but that didn’t stop us from taking the hike up and using every minute before sundown as a photo-op.
Victoria Street/Foot of the Grassmarket – These streets reminded me of the colorful area of Notting Hill in London. So many hidden gems, vintage charity shops, cute restaurants and pubs can be found on this curved street. One of my old Instagram captions read, “Look! It’s a street on top of another street.” That’s basically the gist of it. Victoria Street then turns into Grassmarket which is basically the same idea.
Mary’s Milk Bar – We weren’t able to go in as it was closed, but Mary’s Milk Bar at the foot of the Grassmarket is a MUST for our next visit. I’ve heard nothing but exceptional things. Retro vibes, home-made gelato and seating that overlooks the castle? Sold.
Dean Village/Water of Leith – Near New Town, Edinburgh, prepare to be enchanted by the beautiful scenery of Dean Village. Plenty of colors, parks and green spaces can be found around the quaint village. It’s perfect for an afternoon stroll. The Water of Leith also runs through the village. If you follow the entire river, you’ll end up at the town of Leith and the beachfront. Probably best to leave beach days for the end of July. It was too cold to go while we were there.
Greyfriars Bobby – Be sure to rub the Skye Terrier’s nose if you’re passing by. For luck? Scottish tales tell the story of this dog who watched over his owner, a police officer and nightwatchman, in life and even after, in death.
Irn Bru – Yes, it’s supposed to be orange. Our AirBnb hosts provided us with typical Scottish drinks and snacks upon arrival and this carbonated drink easily became our favourite. It pretty much tastes like orange Juicy Fruit (an American reference) and is known as “Scotland’s national drink.” After whisky, of course.
Heart of Midlothian – Spit on it. No, seriously. On the pavement next to St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile lies the beautiful, granite heart mosaic. While people spit on it now for good luck, it was once done as a sign of disdain for an old prison and spot of execution in the town centre.
Edinburgh, you were a dream. Thank you for your beauty and good vibes; we hope to see the rest of you soon. Also: If anyone calls Edinburgh by how it is spelled, they are gladly mistaken. Edinburgh is pronounced like Eh-din-bruh. Just an FYI.