04 Sep Edinburgh in 48 Hours
I had a sneaking suspicion that I would fall head-over-heels in love with Edinburgh – and I wasn’t wrong. With its cobbled lanes, pub-lined streets, castles and ancient buildings, Edinburgh has so much character and history. Since we were there while the Fringe Festival was on we were also totally sucked into the energy and colour that surrounded us; everywhere we went there were street performers, shows going on and crowds of happy sightseers.
Unfortunately, we only had a mere 48 hours to enjoy all that Edinburgh has to offer so we decided to forego the festival and pick out a few key sights to visit and tours to join. Despite the fact that the weather was pretty abysmal and we found Edinburgh a pricey city to visit, we hope to return there to explore more of the attractions, experience the festival properly and hopefully celebrate Hogmanay in 2015. Here’s what we did manage to cram into our first 48-hour visit to Edinburgh.
We couldn’t visit Edinburgh without seeing its most famous landmark. Although I prefer more ruinous castles like Urquhart which we visited in Loch Ness, it was still interesting to walk through the ancient castle, see the banquet hall and the underground prison and take a look at the Scottish Crown Jewels (even though they’re not as spectacular as the jewels in the Tower of London). You also get a great view from the top of the castle and can look out over the city to the sea beyond.
City of the Dead Tour
I was eager to take a City of the Dead Tour to see the South Bridge Vaults, the underground chambers where the city’s poorest people used to live. I felt claustrophobic almost immediately upon entering the vaults; we stood in one of the brick-walled caverns in darkness listening to tales of the people who had lived in these cramped chambers amid disease and filth; how many were cooked to death when a huge fire ravaged the city above. I was relieved to get back above-ground, where we were led to Greyfriars Graveyard for more scary stories, bloody history and a big scare that literally made us scream out loud!
After fuelling up with a delicious veggie breakfast at Central Café, as recommended by the guys from Hungry Escapades, we set off on a Sunday-morning hike up to Arthur’s Seat, the biggest hill in Holyrood Park. The walk turned into a bit of a battle against the fierce wind and by the time we got to the top I had to hang onto the rocks to steady myself as we took in the fantastic views over the city.
I’m a big fan of the Dungeons in London, so since the Edinburgh Dungeons were offering discount visits while the festival was on we decided to get out of the cold and enjoy a bit of fun and some unsavoury history. The format was pretty similar to the London Dungeons, lots of comedic scares, talk about torture and boat and drop rides; there were also sections about the legendary Scottish cannibal Sawney Bean and gravediggers Burke and Hare.
Literary Pub Tour
One of the best ways to see Edinburgh’s old town is by exploring its pubs, as we found out when we took the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour. Led by two characters Clart and McBrain, who have starkly different views on Edinburgh’s literary figures, we were taken to some of the city’s oldest taverns to learn about the writers who frequented them, including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Some of the pubs were too busy to actually get in and sometimes the pace of the performance made the information difficult to absorb but it still made for an interesting evening and we had a nice walk around the key points of the city; if you’re not all that interested in literature though I wouldn’t recommend the tour.