Edinburgh has become a must on the travel list recently, and rightly so. The city, lifted from the pages of a medieval history book, draws in on average 3 million visitors a year.
But why has Edinburgh become a staple piece of Scotland? It could simply be that as the capital of Scotland, it is the natural place to go. It also is steeped in rich culture and history, including royalty and literature. No matter your interest, there’s something for everyone in Edinburgh.
There are two sides to the Scottish capital. Old Town Edinburgh, which is where the medieval buildings and historic tales are based, and New Town Edinburgh, consisting of Georgian buildings.
In this guide, I’ll be talking about the main things to see and do in Old Town Edinburgh, and why you should seriously consider booking a ticket to visit the place as soon as possible!
Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile
This is a must visit, and normally at the top of the list for those who visit Edinburgh. Take a walk up the Royal Mile, walking past the famous Edinburgh Wool shops, and find yourself at the top of the rock. Built on top of a now extinct volcano, archaeologists discovered that the rock was inhabited from the Iron Age. However, there has been a royal castle on the rock since the 12th century.
From the rock, you can see Edinburgh’s impressive skyline. Standing at the fortress wall, it’s clear to see that for the royals living at the castle, it had a prime advantage point for any potential attack. Unless it was a day full of snow, like when I went!
Appreciate the castle for it’s architecture over the centuries, and the ability to walk where royals walked all those centuries ago. Or, take pleasure in being able to visit the Stone of Destiny, an ancient symbol of Scotland’s monarchy. The stone was used for centuries in the inauguration of its kings. Seized in 1296 by King Edward I of England, the stone was built into the new throne at Westminster. It was used in the coronation of monarchs of England and then Great Britain. Christmas Day, 1950, four Scottish students removed the stone from Westminster Abbey. Three months later, it turned up 500 miles away. In 1996, the stone was officially returned to Scotland, and is on display in the Castle’s Crown Room, alongside the Crown Jewels.
You can also visit the room of James VI and I, the King of Scotland in 1567 and eventually England and Ireland. Son of Mary, Queen of Scots, the room of his birth has been renovated for the public. A small room, you can glimpse the coat of arms on the wall. Interestingly, despite being married to Anne of Denmark, it has been discovered that James had romantic relationships with men, most notably George Villiers, writing that ‘You may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else…Christ had John, and I have George.‘
Described as the possible inspiration for Diagon Alley, and known as Edinburgh’s colourful street, Victoria Street is just off from the Royal Mile. The curving cobbled road was once called Bow Street, until Queen Victoria took the throne. Stop by Victoria Street and discover the Harry Potter themed shops, and take a picture with the ‘enemy of the heir beware’ mirror. But it’s not just Harry Potter shops. The streets boasts independent establishments, and is home to Aha Ha Ha, a favourite Edinburgh joke shop. A fun fact for Victoria Street is the story of Major Weir. Major Weir was known as the Wizard of West Bow Street. As time went on, he was discovered to be a wizard, and he was tried for crimes such as necromancy and ‘supernatural activities’. He was executed for witchcraft in 1670. His house, demolished with the rebuilding of Victoria Street, was rumoured to be haunted by the locals.
Edinburgh Walking Tours
There are plenty of things to do in Edinburgh, and one of those things include the choices of walking tours. Usually gathered on Edinburgh’s high street, relive the gory history of Edinburgh’s past, including tales of murder. Explore the haunted buildings and listen to ghost stories. Or even take a Harry Potter walking tour, visiting where JK Rowling wrote, and where inspiration for Harry Potter May have come from.
The ‘Birthplace’ of Harry Potter
Harry Potter fan? (Can you tell I might be!) If you are, then no doubt you would have heard about The Elephant House. Hailed as the place where J.K. Rowling first wrote Philosophers Stone, it’s been a staple piece of any Potter’s fans travel list. However, The Elephant House was not the birthplace, hence the new writing of ‘birthplace’ on the outside of The Elephant House. Rowling did write at The Elephant House, spending time writing in the cafe, which has a direct view of the castle (Hogwarts, anyone?). She even did an interview back in the day from inside the cafe. Taking a Potter walking tour – a must for Potter fans – you will soon discover another place, probably the place where she spent the most time writing her novels. I won’t ruin that for you, though. Book the tour and you can discover it! Meanwhile, Ian Rankin, writer of the famous crime series featuring Rebus, has also spent time writing in the cafe.
The Writing Museum
Edinburgh, and Scotland, proudly boasts strong literature links. The museum, found just off the royal mile, is in a 17th century house. Inside, you will see manuscripts, first editions, and a writing desk that once belonged to Scott Waverley. The museum celebrates Scottish writers, such as Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Be prepared for curving steps! It’s like being inside a castle!
National Museum of Scotland
When visiting the National Museum of Scotland, you can explore the development of technology, including old phone systems. Spot an old iPhone, old camera equipment, and see how technology is developing every day. Take your time exploring the history of fashion, with clothing on display from top designers. Admire the Formula One cars, and marvel at scientific discovers – including Dolly the Sheep, the first cloned sheep.
Have you visited Edinburgh? Leave your comments below on where you think people should visit!