Muschamp Rd

Scotland Trip 2024: Edinburgh

April 9th, 2024
Edinburgh Castle Selfie

My original plan was to fly to Edinburgh directly from Calgary Alberta Canada after WestJet announced that route. Alas despite still advertising it heavily on social media, they neglect to mention they don’t fly that route in March. I had committed to attending the Highland Whisky Academy in March so I didn’t make it to Edinburgh until after I’d traveled through the Highlands and onward to Orkney. So you could say I took the scenic route to Edinburgh.

Actually I did fly into Edinburgh airport, just not from YYC, instead I flew from Kirkwall. I then would later fly onward to Heathrow and make the treacherous transfer once again from terminal five to terminal four or vice versa. But before all that I spent two nights in the capital of Scotland, Auld Reekie. Before I took numerous walking tours of Edinburgh setting yet another record according to Apple Fitness, I didn’t know Edinburgh was called Auld Reekie.

My first day in Edinburgh

I flew from Kirkwall on the first flight South Friday morning, this necessitated getting up very early and catching a cab to the airport. I checked my backpack and impulsively didn’t take the tram from the airport as I had planned. My sister may be obsessed with double decker buses so when I saw I could ride one into town, I road in that instead. Alas it was pouring rain my first day in Edinburgh, so all the windows were steamed up.

My top priority was to find my hotel and drop off my bag. The bus may in fact have WIFI but it was spotty so once I got off the bus, I paid the piper, or at least Telus and turned on roaming. However, I was actually very close to my hotel. I had decided to splurge on the Caledonian. I have been saving Airmiles travel points since the early 90s and since I’ve wanted to go to Scotland for probably at least as long, I chose to stay here. My sister warned me against this, as old hotels often have small rooms or less amenities but honestly the Caledonian was really nice. Despite being just some guy who booked with points, I could literally see the castle from my window.

The Caledonian Hotel

This is now run by Waldorf Astoria though I think it is owned by some Middle East sovereign wealth fund. When I lived in Shanghai, I regularly went to the Bund and took people to the Waldorf Astoria for a photo in their lobby. That hotel is probably even more impressive especially at Christmas time, but the Caledonian is nice, and did I mention it is right on the bus and tram route from the airport and you can see Edinburgh Castle from your window? It also has a spa with a hot tub and pool.

The Caledonian Hotel Edinburgh Scotland
The Caledonian Hotel

Edinburgh Castle

After dropping off my bag and retrieving my umbrella, I set out for Edinburgh Castle in the rain. I was offered a bigger better umbrella. Pro tip, take the bigger better umbrella from your hotel. Actually I went to lunch first across the street then tried to find a post office, as I had hours before my guided tour of Edinburgh Castle, another UNESCO heritage site. All this resulted in me walking way too far, prior to having to climb the hill to the castle.

The view from my window
My view of Edinburgh Castle

Despite whatever Trevor says I’m going to say from the outside Himeji castle is more impressive, but inside there is a lot to do at Edinburgh castle. There are three museums, a church, a cafe where you can even have high tea. My sister wanted me to do this, but I was traveling alone. High tea seems like something you should do with someone. I did buy and make an Untappd checkin, I had Elvis Juice.

What Edinburgh Castle does have besides piles of military history is a great view. You can see far assuming the wind and rain let up. I was in the castle a long while, long enough to visit the cafe and their bathroom twice. Once before my guided walking tour and once later when I was tired of walking. Then of course I still had to walk back to the Caledonian Hotel. Of course I’d booked yet another walking tour of Edinburgh for later that night.

The view from Edinburgh Castle
A view from Edinburgh Castle

The literary pub tour of Edinburgh

Edinburgh has a lot of walking tours, it also has those hop and hop off buses and various packages so you should definitely shop around. I had bought yet another Lonely Planet guidebook and after reading it I booked the literary pub tour of Edinburgh while still in Calgary. This was of course a good time and I learned a lot but our tour group broke up as the last pub we went to as it was packed.

There is a Writer’s Museum and we were encouraged to visit that the next morning so of course I did. On the tour I met a couple from Vancouver, they must have been dismayed with how packed the Ensign Egart was, as they didn’t get one last drink there. Maybe I should have followed their lead as I ended up drinking my pint alone. Then I walked back to the Caledonian where I got a night cap at the Carley Bar before using the hot tub.

Day Two in Edinburgh

I resisted booking any more tours and I also nixed a trip outside of town to see the Rosewell Chapel after my experience going to Calloden on a Sunday. Despite being very interested in buying a kilt I never even got to try one on. I did eventually get a few more souvenirs for my family and visit several pubs I read about in the Lonely Planet. I particularly wanted to go to the oldest one in Scotland. As a result I basically took a very scenic walking route, until I finally ran out of time and energy and taxied back.

The Royal Mile

Unlike the day before the weather was much better so I went back to the Royal Mile and I did buy a nicknack or two. There were many many tourists. I had to climb many steps and saw many group tours. I’m not sure I took the optimal route, but I eventually made my way to the Writer’s Museum. I spent quite a lot of time there looking at exhibits and souvenirs but ended up not buying anything in their gift shop. Finally, I just got hungry and set off towards Greyfriars.

Greyfriars Bobby

I decided to see this gravesite for my sister. She likes dogs. There was actually a dog’s graveyard in Edinburgh Castle but this may be the most famous dog’s grave in Edinburgh. Poet’s and other prominent people are buried here, but none of the most famous writer’s are buried here. Ramsay may be the most famous poet buried at Greyfriars. You can also see the old city wall here and I saw another section of it later but my iPhone’s battery had died by then.

I ate nearby while waiting for crowds to die down before I visited the cemetery.

Greyfriars Bobby
Greyfriars Bobby

Edinburgh University

I actually skipped the National Museum, it was such a nice day I wanted to enjoy it outside. I pushed on to yet another pub that was recommended by the Lonely Planet. The pub itself didn’t turn out to be that great, but Apple Maps took me through Edinburgh University where I stopped to play with Peanut. Pet all the dogs. I also went to their gift shop and bought a bookmark by the same artist who I didn’t buy a bookmark from at the Writer’s Museum. I was also looking for souvenirs for my sister, but eventually she told me to buy her tea, so I went to a tea shop later on.

Holyrood Distillery

Having already toured nine distilleries I had no plans to tour another one, but following Apple Maps on my way to the oldest pub in Scotland I came across Holyrood one of the newer distilleries in Scotland. I popped my head in and was told a tour was starting in ten minutes, there was a spot available to me so I took it. I didn’t pay for extra drams or buy any at their bar, but the tour itself was interesting. Because they are so new I got to try their second whisky ever. This distillery is very much designed for tours and being in Edinburgh this was the largest group tour I participated in.

Whisky still at Holyrood Distillery
Whisky still at Holyrood Distillery

Holyrood Park

I must have been feeling good as I kept walking through or around Holyrood Park. On my distillery tour I learned about the height of arrows and thanks to Apple Maps and my willingness to walk rain or shine all over Scotland I made it to the oldest pub in Scotland, though I did have to wait for a table.

Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park
Holyrood Park

Sheep Heid Inn

Like a lot of things rooted in the past, such as the oldest pub in Scotland, may be up for debate. However, the Sheep Heid Inn is not only old, it is dog friendly and the food was very good. Once I got a table the staff was very helpful and even ordered me a cab. I had to abandon my walking in order to buy my sister the Earl Grey tea she wanted as a souvenir.

After securing tea, I walked to yet another pub. I think Apple Maps got confused and eventually my battery died, just as I made it to Brauhaus. This place was recommend in my Edinburgh Lonely Planet city guide which had gotten quite water damaged. As my iPhone was dead and my battery pack was back at the hotel I have no pictures or Untappd checkin from this bar. I also had to walk in the wind and rain and dark back to my hotel without Apple Maps.

Sheep Heid Inn
Sheep Heid Inn

In praise of hot tubs

My sister has one and she was quick to point out that three of the places I booked in Scotland had hot tubs. Two of them had saunas and steam rooms, even gyms. However after walking all over Scotland I liked the hot tubs best. I walked so much while I was in Edinburgh, I may have set yet another record according to Apple Fitness. As a result, on my last night in Edinburgh I turned in early, with no night cap whisky at the Carley Bar.

Heathrow and Home

Heathrow Airport is not my favourite. These large European airports take a long time to get to and a long time to transfer between terminals. I planned ahead but it was still stressful. I even thought I’d lost my passport at one point. In the end I had plenty of time to shop for duty free whisky and get a meal, but I would have had a nicer meal if Heathrow Airport was less stressful, maybe the third time will be the charm.

Edinburgh is really great. I’m already being pumped for information by numerous coworkers. You really do need more than two days especially if you want to take day drips using Edinburgh as a base. There are a half dozen whisky distilleries within a two hour drive of Edinburgh. Holyrood is literally in town and there is also the Johnny Walker Experience, the Edinburgh Whisky Academy and numerous bars to have a dram in. It is the cultural and political capital of Scotland. There is lots of arts and history, plus sports for example Scotland played in the Six Nations at Murrayfield Stadium while I was in town.

Walking back to my hotel I thought:

It’s mostly drinking with random outbursts of poetry.

Andrew McKay

If you have questions about or thoughts on Edinburgh, or better still advice on what to do next time you can leave a comment below. I’ve already been informed I should go to Glasgow, as apparently I did not drink enough while I was in Scotland.

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