So You’re In Scotland? Here is Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to Castle

Aside from the accent, Scotland’s Capital has plenty more on offer to attract you… 

I spent a very short 2-days in Edinburgh, whilst there I visited: Edinburgh Castle, St Giles Cathedral, Royal Mile, Princes St Gardens, Melville Monument of Saint Andrews Square, Scott Monument, Scotman’s Steps, did a spot of shopping along Princes Street and walked across both Waverley and North Bridges.

For me an immediate attraction of Edinburgh is its simplicity and ease of getting places. Before going to a new place, alone, I always Streetview my way through the city because it means when I am there, the city feels familiar in a way. Despite the use of maps and GPS Navigation on my phone, I am the type of person who will get lost, Yes, even if I have a woman telling me to “turn left, then in 100 yards, turn right.” I can loose myself in a circular room, so the fact that I found Edinburgh hard to get physically lost in was a surprise.

Mentally however, I was lost in it’s beauty.

The first place on my list was Edinburgh Castle and Royal Mile, which wasn’t far from my Hotel.

The Royal Mile leads you up towards the castle. It is a street full of Scottish souvenir shops, quaint cafes, boutique stores and plenty of tourists. I pictured this street differently in my head before going to Edinburgh, I thought there would be Kilts hanging from trees and people handing out free samples of Haggis about but my first glimpse of Scotland was more than skirts and savory foods mixed with sheep insides.

Realistically Kilts and all things tartan were hanging on shop doors, not from trees and Haggis was served, just inside restaurants and at a price. Its a beautiful street, full of creative craft stalls and street artists.

It allows even the most cautious traveler – aka Me – freedom and faith to wander without boundaries.

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 Just at the top of Royal Mile, there is a street called ‘Castle Walk’, which leads you up to Edinburgh’s Castle – duh! – and just down from the Castle is a exhibition called ‘Camera of Optical Illusions’ put on my Camera Obscura, lined up on the wall are a few mirrors, giving you a reflection entirely different than you may* be used to! *I say may because everybody’s perception of the World is different. 

It’s an interesting piece to have nearby one of the most touristy places in the city, but definitely worth a visit as it offers the chance to take arty photographs. You can decide to pay (adults £13.95 / Students £11.95) to go into the place and see a lot more, or you can just venture past the select few mirrors outside for free!

The grounds around Edinburgh Castle are historic – it’s the oldest building in Edinburgh – spacious and offer great views of the city at a height. The entrance before walking up to the castle is just like one you would see in a Disney Film with a footbridge and massive wooden doors.

You can freely walk about the outside of the castle and can get up to the Gift Shop – which is full of postcards, tartan scarves, kilts and oh so divine blanket wraps – before needing to pay a fee of £16.50 (Adults 16+ / concession rates available – price based on April 2015-March 2016 inflammation.) However, I am not interested in history and museums much so I didn’t experience the interior of the Castle, although I did take time out from walking around – feeling oh so proud of myself that I hadn’t got lost yet – to write…

Written Sunday 8th March 2015, slouched against a wall surrounding Edinburgh Castle. 

This Morning I was rushing through security with untied boots, adjusting my belt and hoping to God the people in front would take this process seriously and have their liquids ready. Now, fast forward three hours and I am leisurely wandering through the grounds of Edinburgh Castle and adjusting my own mind.

I can’t believe I am in Scotland, on my own. I’m very much a home bird; losing myself in a circular room is something I wouldn’t put past me. So it has come to a surprise that finding my way through Edinburgh has been a breeze. So far. 

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My next stop was St. Giles Cathedral, which I found accidentally on my way back from the Castle. I was so fixated on my way upwards to see the Castle – it was one of the things I needed to do before leaving Scotland, even if I didn’t see anything else – that I didn’t notice I had actually past the Cathedral. To be honest St Giles has nothing on Notre Dame (obvs) or even Coventry’s Cathedral but it is quaintly tucked away, just of the Royal Mile and is one for the lovers of historic and old architecture. Again, you can go inside, admission is free but a donation of £3 is recommended. You can also go on a Rooftop tour and enjoy the views of the Royal Mile for £5.

Are you a Backpacker or a Student? Well you need to get yourself and your I.D to the corner cafe that is Southern Cross Cafe. They have plenty to offer (Gluten Free and Vegetarian options too!) from Light Bites to Main Meals and Cakes, including Meat/Vegetarian breakfasts (served until 3.30pm) with Haggis/Veggie Haggis in them – unfortunately I came in too late for breakfast! Perks: Free WiFi, Backpacker and Student Discount, good value for money, lovely staff, great coffee and it was a pretty place to chill. NB: I wasn’t keen on the Vegetarian Quesadillas – they had a yucky sauce in them, although the side salad was nice.

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I mentioned before that historic places aren’t really my thing, but what seems to delight me in any culture is Craft and Stationary shops, especially independent ones – they’re one of a kind -, ie: not Paperchase. One I found love in was just at the bottom of the Royal Mile and on Cockburn Street is the perfect place called Miss Katie Cupcake, its an absolute Alice in Wonderland, expensive Wonderland but still worth a visit. It is full of kitsch/vintage type jewelry, artwork, decor and stationary.  Note: you can’t actually take photos inside this shop, but I only realised the several “no photography” signs after taking about a dozen photos.

I seriously did want to spend all of my savings in this place, I wonder if she has a store credit card I could have taken out?

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More interesting and independent shops I wish I knew about (such as Hannah Zakari) can be read about here.

P.S: The accent really is something.  

VisitScotland to experience more of Edinburgh’s Attractions.

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