It was the beginning of the weekend and my first impressions were very positive; but there were a lot of things to do in Edinburgh!
The city of Edinburgh has centuries of history and it’s divided into two areas: the medieval Old Town and the Gregorian New Town. Edinburgh was created as a separate city, apart from the fortress in the 12th century, although they believe there have been inhabitants in the area since the Bronze Age.
Our trip began in Saint Andrew’s Square, located to the east of George Street. They began to construct the plaza in 1772 as part of the New Town, designed by James Craig, and after only six years, it was one of the most fashionable areas to live in the city. At the end of the 19th century, the area became a commercial center of the city. Today there are gardens boardered by offices, banks, insurance companies and other financial offices. We were really surprised by the number of big department stores and buildings that must have been very expensive to build.
We continue our visit by making our way towards the Scott Monument, which was constructed in 1841 and looks like a big gothic style rocket ship. We thought it looked like a church, but in reality, it was a monument conmemorating Sir Walter Scott (the author of great literary works like Ivanhoe or Rob Roy). There are 287 steps to climb up and get a bettter view of the Old Town and New Town in Edinburgh. It’s true that we didn’t have time to go up, but the views are gorgeous from below, too, since the monument is found in the corner of the Princes Street Gardens.
After that, we visited Edinburgh Castle, where we enjoyed the history and the beauty of the historic site. When we came out of the castle, we found a shop that specialized in Scottish clothing and where we learned the significance of the different Scottish plaids. It was time for lunch, so we chose a typical spot that had a cozy dining room and something to warm us up and give us our second wind. I chose a bowl of soup and a cheddar cheese sandwich with some typical cookies for dessert. We should remind you that Scotland the big meal isn’t lunch. It’s more normal to have a big dinner and at lunchtime eat something lighter like a sandwich or vegetable soup. In this case, we chose well because everything was delicious.
After lunch we walked down High Street stopping at Parliament Square. We visited the Cathedral of St. Giles, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh. It is the “mother” of the Presbyterian church and in the chapel is of the order of the thistle (a band of knights lead by the Queen). We liked the historic center and High Street a lot, but there were so many shops selling touristy things with plaid print or shortbread cookies, that a bit of the charm was lost. Even so, you can imagine what it must have been like centuries ago when people walked along the street with their capes and coats on a Sunday after the services at St. Giles.
It was time to rest at the hotel and we bought a scone and a cappuccino for a snack on our way back. That night we decided to try something typical from Scotland (and the UK in general): Sheppherd’s Pie. This dish is one of my father’s favorites: a beef and vegetable stew covered with mashed potatoes and heated up in the oven. Of course, we enjoyed the meal with a pint of beer (it was a no brainer since we were eating in an authentic pub!)
The second day in Edinburgh, a city that was capturing my heart with every step we took
The next day started out cold and cloudy, but we still wanted to go visit Calton Hill, the first public park in Edinburgh. We got a bit lost trying to find the entrance to the park, but in the end we made it and climbed the hills to enjoy the views of the River Forth. Here is also where you can find the Scottish Parlament.
The thing that impressed us most about this national monument was that it reminded us of the Parthenon. It was constructed in memory of the soldiers who had fallen during the Napoleonic wars, but they took so long to construct the monument that it became known as the disgrace of Scotland. It’s interesting to note that Calton Hill is the product of glacial erosion. We learned that 350-400 million years ago, there was a glacial period and there was volcanic activity in the area of Edinburgh. The glacial erosion created a natural fort where we now find the Castle of Edinburgh. Nor Loch is another area where you can see the presence of the volcanic past.
After visiting Calton Hill, we headed for the National Galleries, the national museum of art on Scotland. You can find the museum next to “the mound” and Princes Street Gardens. There we found the most important paintings and art in Scotland. It was an interesting visit, but since we didn’t know much about Scottish painting, it was a very educational visit. It is free to enter the galleries, and another plus is that the museum is set up to be family friendly. When we visited, there was a group of school children being lead on a tour of the museum, and it was great to see the guide pointing out interesting things in the paintings for the children.
That day we ate lunch in a café on High Street where we enjoyed soup and a salad with home made bread. While we ate, we enjoyed watching the different people pass by on the busy street. Afterwards, we took a walk in the Princes Street Gardens where we enjoyed some amazing views of Edinburgh Castle. The truth is that the views from below really show how it was a natural fortress. It would have been impossible to attack the city from there. It’s similar to the geography in Segovia, where you can see the fort on the top of a cliff. We stopped next to the Ross fountain to take a photo of the park and the castle.
The Princes Street gardens are another of the public parks in Edinburgh and they were created around 1820 after emptying the water from Nor Loch and creating the New Town. The gardens extend along Princes Street and are divided by “The Mound” (an artificial hill in the center of Edinburgh). Today it is a place to meet and also where they hold concerts in the Ross Bandstand. We decided that after visiting the park, it was time for a coffee and a rest at the hotel.
That evening we ate a pub near the hotel in the area of St. Andrew’s Square and it was time to try the famous dish of the UK: Fish and chips with mushy peas accompanied by a pint of beer. The food was more or less what you would expect of a fried fillet of fish and french fries, but we enjoyed the atmosphere a lot.
We left Edinburgh wishing we had more time to explore the Scottish capital, and wanting to see the nearby city of Glasgow, but then, it’s always good to have a reason to return to places that we enjoy! Due to Edinburgh’s size, the ideal is to stay in an apartment (in New Town or the older section). In any case, the city of Edinburgh was very welcoming, in spite of the cold, and we ruskommend it with 5 boquerones.