Edinburgh Castle - Plus - Why We Focus on Smaller Towns

Edinburgh Castle - Plus - Why we focus on small towns

**I will preface this article by warning you that it is not entirely positive. As I mentioned in my previous article about the Scottish Highlands, yes we visited Edinburgh, but we very much appreciated the highlands more. We are not city people and this visit reinforced what we already know about ourselves. We know millions of people love Edinburgh, and we can see why. But since we are not city people it didn’t quite hold the same charm for us. In no way are we saying that you shouldn’t go see Edinburgh (unless you don’t want to of course). 

Honesty is our most important policy at Destination: Overlooked, and we can’t pretend travelling is all sunshine and rainbows all the time. Although that would be cool.**

Our Arrival

After a long day of waiting in the airport and delays due to fog, we were finally in a black cab on our way from Edinburgh airport to the city centre. We were optimistic. Here we were, finally in Scotland. I could hear bagpipes in my head already, and even though it was dark I could see the outlines of the fancy old buildings of the city.  We kept telling ourselves Edinburgh is not a “huge” city, it will be different. We will have a lovely time and see all the things there are to see. We will eat fish and chips, go to that awesome vegan restaurant to try their veggie haggis, have lots of tea and scones, find a family tartan scarf for me, etc, etc, etc.

Since we arrived very late in the evening, we just had a light dinner at the hotel and called it a night. We woke up early the next morning and had breakfast that included some of the best granola we have ever tasted, so we were still optimistic that this city would be different. And then we ventured outside.

Edinburgh Castle - Plus - Why We Focus on Smaller Towns

Even though it was early in the morning and not much was open yet, the city was still bustling with activity. People going to work, shops and restaurants getting their deliveries, and a smattering of tourists who also woke up early were wandering around. Besides the bagpipes we heard in the distance when we first stepped out of the hotel, this unfortunately was looking and feeling like any other city.

Since Edinburgh Castle didn’t open to the public until 9:30am, we had a couple of hours to kill, so we ended up just walking around town. Again to me at least, it felt for the most part like any other city. A filthy, smelly, noisy city. This was not what I was hoping for, and everything I was afraid of. The magic of Edinburgh I kept reading about was still eluding me. Like in pretty much any city I’ve ever visited, I was overwhelmed, and the anxiety was building.

 The super-friendly squirrel in Princes Street Gardens

The super-friendly squirrel in Princes Street Gardens

The Castle

Finally, 9:30 am was approaching, and we started walking toward the castle.  We walked through Princes Street Gardens to get to Edinburgh Castle, and a very rotund grey squirrel was so friendly he practically climbed up my leg to beg for food. Things were looking up. The gardens were at least cleaner than the streets of the city. On the way to the castle, we also walked past the Parish Church of St. Cuthbert and through its cemetery, eerie in the morning fog. 

 Edinburgh castle from below

Edinburgh castle from below

Walking up the rest of the way to the castle via Johnston Terrace, we kept catching glimpses of the castle right overhead. When we finally made it to the entrance, there were a few tourists there already, but for such a major attraction, it was relatively deserted, which was a plus.

 Heading towards the gatehouse of Edinburgh Castle

Heading towards the gatehouse of Edinburgh Castle

 The gatehouse of Edinburgh Castle

The gatehouse of Edinburgh Castle

Entering through the gate of the castle, we purchased our tickets (£17 per person) and proceeded on our self-guided tour, taking our time through the Royal Palace, St. Margaret’s Chapel, the National War Museum, and more.

 After the ticket booth, heading towards the main attraction

After the ticket booth, heading towards the main attraction

 It was a little windy and chilly up there

It was a little windy and chilly up there

 Mons Meg - A huge gun that was gifted to James II, King of Scots

Mons Meg - A huge gun that was gifted to James II, King of Scots

 There were many, many canons at the castle. Each with their own unique viewpoint of the city

There were many, many canons at the castle. Each with their own unique viewpoint of the city

 Robert the Bruce being crowned

Robert the Bruce being crowned

We actually got to see the Scottish Crown Jewels, however cameras were not allowed in that part of the building. But at least now Marcin knows what to get me for my next birthday.

 Inside of one of the many rooms in the Royal Palace

Inside of one of the many rooms in the Royal Palace

 The front of the Scottish National War Memorial (cameras not allowed inside)

The front of the Scottish National War Memorial (cameras not allowed inside)

 The back of the Scottish National War Memorial

The back of the Scottish National War Memorial

 A model of the HMS St. George inside one of the museums in the castle

A model of the HMS St. George inside one of the museums in the castle

 Cemetery for Soldiers' Dogs

Cemetery for Soldiers' Dogs

 Iconic red telephone booths inside the castle walls

Iconic red telephone booths inside the castle walls

 Looking back toward the Royal Mile from the castle

Looking back toward the Royal Mile from the castle

The Rest of the City

That afternoon as we walked back from the castle, we noticed all the activity going on for the city’s Christmas market. The far end of Princes Street Gardens and part of Princes Street itself were dedicated to a temporary amusement park for the holiday season, which was very disappointing. I knew there would be a Ferris wheel this time of year, but I had no idea there would be so much else preventing us from seeing the city.

Back in our hotel room (located right on Charlotte Square), the amusement park on Princes Street was still very evident with screams heard from outside every few minutes as people were catapulted into the air. Although the hotel was very nice, at this time of year it definitely was not a relaxing retreat.

The Food

One of the only other highlights from our short time in Edinburgh besides the castle was our lunch at Fishers in the City on Thistle Street. Between the two of us, we split an order of fish and chips, and an order of the Grilled Halloumi Salad with Smoked Hake. Both of which were delicious. The restaurant itself was split into two areas. We were situated in a comfy corner booth with bookshelves, and I was happy to see that the books on our shelf contained works by Edgar Allen Poe and Lewis Carroll, two of my favourites.

 Fishers in the City - on Thistle Street

Fishers in the City - on Thistle Street

 Books on display at Fishers in the City

Books on display at Fishers in the City

 Delicious fish and chips (and beer) at Fishers in the City

Delicious fish and chips (and beer) at Fishers in the City

 Grilled Halloumi Salad at Fishers in the City - Mixed leaves, marinated figs, cherry tomato, charred halloumi, walnut & caper dressing (plus either smoked duck or hake at additional cost)

Grilled Halloumi Salad at Fishers in the City - Mixed leaves, marinated figs, cherry tomato, charred halloumi, walnut & caper dressing (plus either smoked duck or hake at additional cost)

Our thoughts

We fled the city the next morning toward the Scottish highlands, where we had a much better time. After reflecting on this for a couple of weeks, I might be open to seeing Edinburgh again (in small doses), because we did miss a lot of sights that we wanted to see, but the reality is we just don’t like cities.  Even if Edinburgh is a much more manageable size than London, New York, or Paris, it is still a city and has everything that goes with that. 

This trip reinforced our dislike of cities and strengthened our need to seek out smaller, less-travelled towns and villages. The moral of the story is, even though a place is a “must see” according to the guidebooks, the blogs, and even your friends, you know what is best for you. You know your likes and dislikes better than anyone. We are all for getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things, however, sometimes your comfort zone is how it is for a reason. 

Edinburgh, I wanted to love you. Everyone else seems to. I like so many things about Scotland, but apparently, its cities aren’t one of them. Maybe if we visited during a different time of year it would be better, but I am hesitant to find out. I wish I could be someone that likes cities because it would make things so much easier, but I can’t change who I am, and I don’t care to.

We are both introverts and homebodies (sounds contradictory for full-time travellers, doesn’t it?), and city life really doesn’t suit us. We aren’t interested in nightlife, and we try to avoid crowds at all costs. Will we see major cities during our travels? Of course, but it doesn’t mean we have to like them. 

We will be in Paris for a short time next week, and although we have been to Paris before in the height of tourist season and it wasn’t that terrible, I am still apprehensive since it is such a large city. We will see how it goes.

Have you been to Edinburgh? What was your experience? Have you ever been to a place you thought you would love and that ended up not being the case? Let us know in the comments!

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Edinburgh Castle - plus - Why We Focus on Smaller Towns