I’ve been so excited to sit down and get started with Edinburgh content. So excited, in fact, that I actually began writing this post while I was still there! During the Easter holidays my family and I spent 7 days in the Scottish capital, and our time was absolutely jam-packed. It was our first visit to Scotland, and a special one at that. My Dad actually grew up in Edinburgh before moving to Wales and this was the first time he’d come back in 42 years.
The city of Edinburgh is absolutely bustling with life and it’s a complete hub of culture. You can’t help but learn something new while you’re there. Especially if you’re walking through the streets and happen to hear a snippet of information from a walking tour guide. While the options are endless, there’s a select few things that I’d consider a must. There’s so much to do in Edinburgh that it’s difficult to fit it all in. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know all about some of my day-to-day antics there!
Yes, the classic Edinburgh Castle is first on my list – and for obvious reasons. The castle can be seen from all directions in the city in both the Old and New Town, there’s no hiding from it! The dominating structure is perched up on castle rock, an imposing cliff face overlooking the city. Inside the walls there’s a wide range of things to do and see – I’ve listed a few key attractions below.
The crown was first used at the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543 and is considered to be priceless. Photography is strictly prohibited in this area and is guarded closely by staff.
This wood panelled dining hall was the hub of great banquets and events in it’s prime. It was later used as a military hospital until 1886. The walls are lined with weapons and armour; illustrating it’s military history.
If you think you’ve seen big guns, think again. The Mons Meg has a barrel diameter of 20 inches (big enough to fit a small child!) and is capable of firing a 150kg gunstone up to 2 miles (3.2km). This thing can do some serious damage.
Growing up in rural West Wales, I’ve seen my fair share of small buildings. But I’ve never seen anything like this! St Margaret’s Chapel is an absolutely tiny Grade A listed building, with barely enough room for 20-30 people. In the 16th century it was used for gunpowder storage before being restored to a place of worship in 1845.
In the 1700’s and 1800’s prisoners of war were kept below The Great Hall in Edinburgh Castle. They’ve recreated some of the cells to show what life would’ve been like for a prisoner of war. The recreation is complete with voice-overs from prisoners at the time. The gallery side of the exhibition displays some of the original wooden doors from the prison cells at the time, complete with prisoner’s carvings.
Located at the centre of the Old Town, Camera Obscura is a mind-blowing experience. Like my Mum said, “it’s like Techniquest but better”. They also have some of the best views of the city from their rooftop – perfect for those cityscape pics on the ‘gram! My favourite part of the attraction is the World of Illusions. To see what else they have on offer, click here.
This room really is a trippy experience! Two people stand at either end of the room. On the left side of the room, the person appears much smaller than they are. On the right side, it turns you into a giant. I tried it out with my younger sister who’s just under 5ft (I’m 5ft6 for reference).
This isn’t one for those of you who suffer from motion sickness, that’s for sure. The spinning lights paired with a tilting bridge are not for the faint-hearted.
It’s exactly what it says on the tin; a maze made out of mirrors. Before you go into the maze it’s asked that you put on a pair of plastic gloves to reduce fingerprints on the mirrored surfaces. Although it might seem easy at first, it’s ridiculously difficult to tell the reality apart from the reflection!
Owned by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Edinburgh Zoo is dedicated to wildlife conservation and is also a registered charity organisation. If you’re there around 2pm, you’ll even catch the Penguin Parade!
This is something which began as an accident back in the 1950’s when a keeper accidentally left the enclosure open. It’s now one of the zoo’s most sought-after events!
These are the only Queensland Koalas within the UK, and they’re absolutely adorable. We were lucky enough to see a 9-month old baby (joey) koala on our visit. For the first six months of a joey koala’s life they’re situated in the mother’s pouch. For the following six months, they remain on the mothers back instead. They’re born blind and nurse on the mother’s milk for a year after birth.
The Edinburgh vaults are situated beneath the city, and were once filled with hustle and bustle of city life. The vaults consisted of 19 arches and is 1000 feet long, however only arch is still visible today. This is because the city built up around the South Bridge Vaults, which is why they’re largely invisible today.
The vaults were home to a multitude of purposes throughout the years including a marketplace for various businesses (cobblers, distilleries, pubs), and then housing for the poorest in society. The vaults were later excavated and is now suspected to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland.
During our visit we went on a Ghost Tour of the vaults with Mercat Tours. Our tour guides Margaret-Anne and Arwen were absolutely fantastic and really encapsulated the vault’s haunted reputation perfectly within their tour.
Although not an attraction, The Royal Mile is the epi-centre of life in the Old Town of Edinburgh. It runs through the city, connecting the Palace of Holyroodhouse to Edinburgh Castle. We passed through the Royal Mile most days on our trip, and quickly became well-acquainted with what it had to offer.
Peppered with restaurants, pubs, and souvenir shops, you may also find some hidden gems. Not to mention a plethora of tartan scarves you’ll find lining the streets. There’s usually a bagpipe player in full traditional Highland dress, and if you’re lucky you can even find an owl or two!
The St Giles Cathedral has seen a lot of restoration work over the years, however it was originally erected in 1124. A Grade A listed building, the church is often considered the “Mother of Presbyterianism”. The cathedral is dedicated (as the name would indicate) to St Giles, who was the patron saint of lepers in the middle ages as well as the patron saint of Edinburgh. Although it’s still used as a place of worship, the cathedral is also host to a variety of music and cultural events.
Located in Grassmarket, The Wee Pub definitely has a fitting name! The Wee Pub is a small little pub with room for a maximum of 20 people. The entrance can be found through a small alleyway, although you can also reach it through Billy Mulligans.
The quaint little bar is also part of the Grassmarket Gin Club; “showcasing Scotland’s smallest pub with Scotland’s best gins…”. Although small in size, it’s huge in character and is also available for event hire. I couldn’t resist getting a pint (or half, at least) during our visit!
Walter Scott was a famous Scottish playwright, poet, and historian. The Walter Scott Monument is a dominating structure situated next to the Princes Street Gardens in the heart of the city. Standing at a massive 61 metres, the Walter Scott monument is the largest monument dedicated to a writer in the world.
This particular attraction won’t be for everybody, but even I had a great time! Maison de Moggy is home to 12 cats, all of whom were raised in the café. When the café shuts, they remain there overnight getting checked on regularly by their cat nannies. Named the best cat café in Europe by Easyjet Traveller Magazine (2018), Maison de Moggy have profiles of their 12 feline residents all round the café! My sister and I took a particular shine to Elodie, the sphynx cat.
It’s recommended that you book this in advance as only a certain number of people can go into the café during each time slot. You can also pay on the door which generally isn’t advised due to how fast the time slots can fill up. Head over to the Maison de Moggy Instagram to learn more about their #pawprintchallenge competition – you can win free entry to 2!
This is one of the things I didn’t get round to seeing during my Edinburgh trip! There was a sweltering heatwave on our visit and left us not really wanting to make the rocky trek. The mountain was formed by the same volcanic eruption that formed the Castle Rock (on which Edinburgh Castle sits), and Calton Hill. I’ve seen so many photos on social media of the views from the summit and I can’t wait to get to see it for myself!
I’ve still got a few Edinburgh related posts up my sleeve, but will be staggering them with my usual sustainable living content over the next couple of months! I had an absolutely incredible trip and made memories I’ll never forget. I even tried Haggis and a deep fried Mars bar while I was there – might as well, eh?!
I'm Elen Mai, the brains behind Welsh Wanderer and 20-something human biology student from (you guessed it) Wales! Welsh Wanderer is designed with the eco-conscious adventurer in mind. So stick around for tips & tricks on living sustainably.