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Medieval Magic in Scotland’s Capital – Edinburgh City Guide

Edinburgh City Guide

Scotland’s capital city is bathed in history, with both its Old Town and New Town listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Rising up beside this medieval city is Arthur’s Seat, the panoramic mountain range that spoils visitors with unparalleled views across the city. In the Old Town you’ll find the Royal Mile, the long stretch of road that starts at Edinburgh Castle and ends at Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the Royal Family in Scotland.

In Edinburgh you will hear tales of ghouls and ghosts at the historic Greyfriars Kirkyard, shop till you drop along Princes Street, enjoy fine food in the city’s notable dining scene and laugh your heart out at the famed Fringe festival or one of the many comedy clubs.

I recently visited this energetic city for the third time with my friend Keith, and still found the city could surprise and captivate me. Here is my go to list for your first visit to “the Athens of the North”.

Things to Do
Edinburgh Castle

No trip to this medieval city is complete without visiting Edinburgh Castle. Perched high on the imposing basalt structure know as Castle Rock, it is a recognisable feature of the city’s skyline. You can buy your tickets in advance online for a slightly cheaper price, with under 5’s going free. Included in your ticket price is a guided tour of the castle. Learn about this historic fortress that is still an active military base to this day. The castle is also home to the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the oldest in the British Isles.

Real Mary King’s Close

Situated on the famed Royal Mile sits Mary King’s Close. In the 1600s closes were narrow streets made up of tenement houses. Due to the wall surrounding Edinburgh at the time, residents built upwards to stay inside the city walls, resulting in buildings reaching up to eight stories high. Visit this historic close and learn about the vibrant stories of the people who lived there, street traders, plague victims and perhaps even a ghost or two!

National Museum of Scotland

You could spend hours wandering around this beautiful space, and in fact, we visited two days in a row as there is just so much to see. Entrance is free, with donations welcome to maintain the upkeep of the museum, and it’s well worth a visit. Young and old will be entertained here, from wonders of the natural world like dinosaurs, Scottish history, archaeology, and my personal favourite space and science. The museum also runs free guided tours if you prefer someone to talk you through the fascinating highlights of this venue.

Soak up the View

One of my favourite things to do when on holiday is to grab a coffee and just wander around. Usually I’m quite organised with my time, as I want to fit everything in and see all of the city. But sometimes you need to get a little lost, and often that’s where the most interesting sights lie. We picked up coffee and Stroopwaffle brownies (a favourite Dutch treat of mine) from Tasty Buns and we happened upon a street market, full of arts and crafts, tempting Scottish cheese and fresh produce. We spent some time popping into various vintage shops (if you’re a fan of vintage clothes, Edinburgh is full of quirky shops). We visited Toolbooth Market, as well as the Edinburgh Christmas Markets. The latter was so jam-packed we didn’t stay long. Sometimes it’s best to stray from the beaten path.

Take a Tour

Edinburgh’s rich history means there’s almost a tour for everything. As you walk along the Royal Mile you’ll see guides with umbrellas offering tours in many languages, and groups of tourists happily following their guides along the cobbles. No matter what your budget you’ll find a tour to suit your needs. I’ve been to Edinburgh three times and have always taken a new tour, both free and paid for. I’ve taken a free ghost tour (which wasn’t great) and I’ve taken the Underground City Of The Dead tour, which only cost £11.00 and was brilliant. My favourite tour, however, was The Potter Trail. As a devout Harry Potter fan, I couldn’t pass this up. On this award-winning tour, you’ll discover the café in which JK Rowling wrote the first book, visit the famous graveyard that inspired many characters names and even see where Lord Voldemort is buried. Did I mention the tour is completely free? But I guarantee you’ll love it so much you’ll give a much-deserved donation at the end.

Where to Eat
Urban Angel

This café/bistro is the perfect spot for a caffeine pick me up, or a hearty breakfast or lunch. This cosy space was once a traditional bakery, with old stove cookers and wooden beams showing the venues character. We visited Urban Angel for breakfast where I chose my go to brekky favourite of avocado on sourdough toast with a side of poached eggs and Keith had baked eggs with feta and za’atar. The food was delicious, and along with two perfect flat whites it filled us up for another day of adventure. You can also indulge in French toast with hazelnuts and chocolate or maybe a mimosa for a truly decadent brunch.

Lovecrumbs

Our flight to Edinburgh was really early and we arrived to the city at about 8.30am. While this was great as it meant we could visit lots of sights it also meant we were a little sleepy. Our first order of the day was coffee! Luckily for us, right around the corner from our hotel was one of Edinburgh’s prettiest café’s that has incredible coffee, Lovecrumbs. With an emphasis on supporting local suppliers, you’ll find fresh salmon on sourdough, handmade cakes and divine cheese toasties. The interiors are laid back, with large sharing tables. If you can’t find a table why not perch yourself in the café’s window display that is complete with comfy cushions, and watch the world go by?

The Grain Store

We had booked tickets to visit Real Mary King’s Close and had just a little over an hour to have a quick lunch. Located very nearby the Royal Mile we found a lovely restaurant called The Grain Store on Victoria Street. The street winds around in an elegant curve and is full of restaurants and shops, giving you that old school feeling of how the city used to be. We managed to get a table in the busy restaurant, and availed of a great value set lunch of two courses for just £14.00. We enjoyed Stornoway black pudding, spiced cauliflower soup, crisp pork belly, and roast hake. Sitting by the window of the first-floor restaurant we had a great view to the bustling street below. The dining room was warm and inviting with a slightly gothic feel to its design. What better way to dine like a true Edinburgh native than in this medieval style venue.

FEATURE BY SINÉAD SMYTH
David O'Byrne

Sinéad is a Culinary Arts graduate from DIT. She is a passionate cook with a love of fine dining and modern Irish cuisine. A gin lover, Sinéad loves seeking out cosy new pubs and sampling a variety of craft beers.

If she’s not dining out, Sinéad loves travelling the world exploring new cultures and cuisines. Working with TheTaste allows Sinéad to fully immerse herself in the Irish food industry.

Sinead Smyth Sinead Smyth

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