Edinburgh might just be the most haunted and atmospheric city I’ve been to. And you know, it has had its fair share of serial killers, ghost stories and plague outbreaks. In the Old Town, memories from the Middle Ages lurk around every corner, in the dark alleyways and the moldering graveyards.
MORE SCOTLAND TRAVEL TIPS: GET MAPS, ITINERARIES AND SCOTTISH PHRASES
BAGPIPES AND SCOTTISH HISTORY
Scotland has a lot of history and you see traces of it everywhere. From the bagpipers on every street corner to Edinburgh castle which is built on a 700 million year old extinct VOLCANO.
EDINBURGH AND THE REAL JEKYLL AND HYDE
Just before I went to Edinburgh, I found out that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his notorious novel about Jekyll and Hyde here. The inspiration is obvious.
Edinburg’s Old Town is one of the most haunted in Europe. But Stevenson’s true inspiration came from William Brodie, a real-life Jekyll and Hyde who led a double life and was hanged for theft in 1788. Deacon Brodie’s Tavern on The Royal Mile is named after him.
MARY KING’S CLOSE
The most atmospheric and historic spot in Edinburgh is Mary King’s Close. Back in the 1600’s, Mary King’s Close was one of Edinburgh’s busiest and most vibrant streets. It was named after Mary King of Scotts.
This guided tour was by far the most fun and interesting I joined in Edinburgh and I highly recommend it. Our guide was absolutely hilarious while realistically explaining how life was 400 years ago. Clue: it wasn’t pretty.
Another very Scottish thing I did in Edinburgh was drinking whisky. Now, I’m not really a whisky drinker, but after joining the Scotch Whisky Experience, I am definitely more open-minded.
This place is home to the largest Scotch whisky collection in the world, and I got to taste the famous smoked Highland whisky → not my favorite, but it was fun to try.
HAGGIS AND A SCOTTISH BREAKFAST
When I came to Scotland there was one thing I HAD to try: Haggis. On purpose, I didn’t read up on what exactly it is because I’m pretty sure it would have scared me off.
I ended up trying haggis three times, each cooked in different ways. And you know what? It was surprisingly good. Sort of spicy and dark in flavor.
So, aside from a ghostly past and a questionable national dish, Edinburgh has quite a few nice viewpoints. And one of the best ones is Calton Hill, which is a UNESCO site. I also found several iconic monuments up there, like the National Monument and the City Observatory.
Calton Hill is easy to hike and it only takes 5-7 minutes. I went there in the morning to catch the sunrise, but you know.. Scotland and the weather
THE ROYAL MILE
Another popular place in Edinburgh is the Royal Mile. Since I was in town during the Edinburgh Festivals, the Royal Mile was packed with people, artists and tents. Normally, it’s just the main pedestrian street where lots of the top attractions are located, like The Scotch Whisky Experience, Mary King’s Close, Camera Obscure, Edinburgh Castle and much more. But during the festivals, it really came alive!
While on the Royal Mile, I went to the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. What I got was six floors of optical illusions, cool tricks, a mirror maze and much more. On the roof there was a panoramic view of Edinburgh. It was fun, but it’s one of those experiences that are best when shared.
Of all the things Edinburgh has to offer, the castle takes the prize. It’s perched high on a steep, rocky cliff and has been at the center of numerous wars, having been attacked and besieged many times.
Back in the day many prisoners were locked up in the dark dungeons at the castle… and forgotten
THE NEW TOWN
So, if we go back to the Jekyll and Hyde reference for a bit…
As a city, Edinburgh fits the description when you compare its Old Town and New Town. Most European cities with a medieval old town have a sharp architectural contrast, like Colmar or Tallinn. But the difference with Edinburgh’s Old Town is the atmosphere. It’s dark in a ghostly kind of way, while the Georgian town houses in the New Town are classy and simplistic.
The National Museum is an interesting place to visit. I came there to watch a dance performance during the Fringe Festival and had a chance to walk around the museum afterwards.
The Scotts’ history with the English is very much alive today. The quote below is just one of the freedom texts that are found in the National Museum.
Oh, and guess who I found?
Dolly, the cloned sheep! I had no idea she was from Edinburgh, but what do know
Last but not least, let’s talk about Edinburgh’s skyline.
I mentioned that Calton Hill was a great viewpoint in Edinburgh, but the view from Camera Obscura building is actually better. The city also lights up after dark and I was lucky enough to watch it from atop the Edinburgh castle during the Military Tattoo Festival. It was the perfect way to end my week in Scotland.
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