The best way to get to Edinburgh (it’s pronounced ‘Edin-Burra’, by the way) from London is via rail. Catch a train at King’s Cross (AKA the train station from Harry Potter, better known among Potter-heads as Platform 9 and three quarters. Be sure to pose with the trolley jutting outta the wall while you’re waiting for your train). Once aboard, stay glued to your window seat as the scenic beauty of the countryside and the pristine meadows will sweep you off your feet. However, once you make it to your destination, be sure to NOT unbutton your cardigan (which reminds me: Pack warm for this journey especially in winter), lest you wanna catch your death of cold. It really is flippin frosty! (Edin-brrr, eh?)
The first monument that catches your eyes (or rather looms over you and seemingly follows you around wherever you are) just as you step out onto the cobblestone streets of this beautiful Scottish capital is, of course, the Edinburgh castle. Centuries old, steeped in fascinating history and still rising high above with a breath-taking view, the castle is a must visit (thankfully, you won’t have to rappel up the gigantic and rocky cliff atop which it’s situated, as there is a sloping cobblestone path along which you can trudge to visit it). It is also home to the mother o’ all cannons which has brought down many a kingdom- The Mons Meg (thankfully now it has been retired and rests easy upon the ramparts, only to be fired for a special occasion like coronations and such). The war memorial up there is also worth a visit, with its ledgers containing the names of those who gave their lives in the World Wars, its elegant architecture and picture-perfect gardens dedicated to the same.
Want more o’ Edinburgian history? Then, hop aboard one of those hop-on-hop-off buses and explore the city and its landmarks. Learn about all the famous people who lived in and around Edinburgh. Most of them were born or grew up there, while others found inspiration and still others, found fame. JK Rowling, RL Stevenson, Robert Burns, Robert Ferguson, Walter Scott (remembered by the tallest monument in the heart of Edinburgh), chloroform, antiseptic, Jekyll and Hyde (inspired by Deacon Brodie- a cabinet maker by day, gambler/burglar by night who was hung to death and is now honoured with a pub on the Royal Mile- whose story inspired young, bedridden Stevenson), they all got their start in this lovely city.
Find yourself humming Sunshine on Leith by The Proclaimers (a great band if you love Scottish music and one of my all-time faves) as the bus crosses o’er the still an’ tranquil Leith river. The bus, unlike the British ones, is equipped with a human tour guide instead of an audio guide and the brilliantly unique Scottish accent is pure music to one’s ears! Hearing about the fascinatingly creepy paranormal history of Scotland and about graveyard poltergeists (apparently, every place here’s got a ghost story attached to it!) in this fantastic accent is obviously an added bonus! If you like grotesque history, there’s also the valley into which women suspected of witchcraft were tossed so as to meet a watery grave (Quite different from the usual burning at the stake method, but still a gruesome way for a witch to go!) and the building used by Burke and Hare to commit murders for 16 months (the murderous duo sold the corpses to Dr. Knox for anatomic study. Spooky!).
Also, hear about an apothecary turned pub, cleverly titled Doctors just so hubbies popping in for a nightcap or two could attend to a call from their worried wives and just lie about their whereabouts by saying the following: “Sorry, love. Be a while. Just at the doctor’s.” (True story and a genius idea to escape a fight with the ol ball an’ chain, eh?) Talkin of pubs, there’s also one named ‘Greyfriar’s Bobby’ that’s dedicated to the most loyal dog who stayed beside his master’s grave for 14 years before passing away, before being buried beside his beloved master upon his death and having a pub and even a statue erected in his honour (even our Indian doggies don’t get that!) Alas, the statue’s once shiny black nose has suffered much damage and lost its sheen due to it being rubbed for good luck by far too many tourists…. So, don’t give the poor doggie a hard time! Just pet him and stay away from the nose (Speakin on behalf of the Scottish, of course!).
Another great place to stop by is the National Museum of Scotland. Where would we be without our inventors and archaeologists, eh? Our Freddy the robot, our 3D printers, our Dolly the sheep, our fossilized sperm whale skulls, our changing fashion trends…. I hope ya didn’t skip all that, cuz that’s exactly what you’ll see at this giant building that’s overflowing with a ton o’ knowledge! A must visit if you wanna escape the crude illustrations of your biology and history textbooks and witness the real thing! So, go ahead and explore at this free of charge museum. Donations are accepted, so be sure to drop some cash in the numerous donation boxes here before leaving, so they can continue preserving these treasures. Speaking of donations, be sure to drop a coin for the local street bagpiper. Be it out in the square or in the safety of your cosy apartment (I recommend renting one of these as they’re cosy af and better to stay at then a hotel as they’re more homely and even have kitchen and other facilities), one just can’t escape the ‘bagpipe-a-palooza’ surrounding quaint and lovely Edinburgh!
A trip to Edinburgh isn’t complete without filling up on endless plates of fish n chips (Blimey! Your body will be made up of haddock an’ potatoes by the end of the trip, I swear!), sampling some haggis (sounds like a yucky dish, but tastes good) and slurping on the creamy and milky handmade 99 (vanilla soft serve ice cream topped with a Cadbury flake as well (who can resist ice cream, eh?). Wash it all down with a glass of the homebrew- whiskey or some scotch. Slainte! (That’s Scottish-Gaelic for ‘cheers’, by the way). Speaking of homebrews, don’t miss out on the brewery tour.
As for souvenirs, what better way to return home with a suitcase stuffed with handstitched tartan kilts, tights, accessories like coin purses, handbags, et al emblazoned with the thistle (national flower of Scotland) or embroidered with the national flag of Scotland/St. Andrew’s Cross, actual bagpipes (will take a ton of practice to master the instrument though) and even Christmas décor (Edinburgh is home to a 24/7 Christmas décor shop aptly titled ‘The Nutcracker Christmas Shop’).
So, don’t shy away and pay this awesome city and its friendly people a visit whenever you can!