Without a doubt, Edinburgh is a beautiful city with a lot of character. Cobbled streets, picturesque landscapes and dreamy accents – we were eager to explore what the Scottish capital had to offer. Much like London, many tourist attractions were rather pricey therefore we drifted towards the free or slightly cheaper choices to save our money for more important things; vegan cake.
One cannot visit Edinburgh without climbing Arthur’s Seat. Standing tall at over 250 metres, the extinct volcano provides legendary views over the city and beyond. From the top, you can see over the Salisbury Crags, beyond Leith and the Forth bridge as well as the coastal path toward North Berwick. There are many routes to the top, the most popular begins not far from The Scottish Parliament building in Holyrood, climbing the western side of the valley at a steady incline.
The route becomes more physically demanding toward the top, with rubble and loose rocks underfoot that can become slippery in bad weather. We were blessed with clear skies and sunshine until our descent where the heavens opened and the pathway became a little unsteady. The route took around 90 minutes with many photo stops along the way to admire an abundance of pictorial viewpoints.
The Royal Botanic Garden
Inverleith Row, Edinburgh, EH3 5LR
Price: Free or £6.50
Founded in 1670, the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh stretches across 70 acres of beautiful landscape located a mile northwest of the city centre. Home to a fossil garden, woodland, a Chinese pavilion and victorian greenhouses, you will never be short of things to see. On site there are 28 glasshouses that offer a warm climate for plants across the world. For £6.50, we gained access to 10 of the Victorian glasshouses to explore a variety of climates; rainforest riches, wet tropics and avid deserts. The humidity changed from one house to the next, a sensory overload of smells, images and colour. We saw coffee plants, cacao beans and rubber trees to name a few, growing in their new and simulated habitat.
Camera Obscura & World Of Illusions
549 Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2ND
Voted by Trip Advisor as one of Edinburgh’s top attractions, the Camera Obscura is the home of optical illusions. Split across 6 floors, you will find distorted mirrors, a vortex tunnel, holograms and a magic gallery. Get lost in the mirror maze, feel dizzy in the spinning tunnel and be fooled by your body’s distortions.
Once at the 6th floor, you are out in the open to admire the views over the castle and beyond. You are allocated a time slot to visit the Obscura itself, a large scale periscope that projects live images of Edinburgh onto a viewing table for all to see. You can enjoy the unique panoramic view whilst listening to tales of the city, old and new, at your leisure.
Disclaimer: during school holidays, the queues can get very long! To avoid queuing, visit the attraction later in the evening, as they are open until 9pm.
The Royal Mile & Side Alleys
From the Palace at Holyrood all the way to the castle, the Royal Mile is the backbone of the city. The cobbled streets, narrow side alleys and windy staircases are the interlocking ribs of Edinburgh, linking one part to another with a Harry Potter-esque feel. Explore the mile and it’s touristy shops, pick up a shortbread and kilt or two to remember your trip by.
Below the Royal Mile sits the Blair Street Underground Vaults which can be explored by tour only. Not for the faint hearted, daily ghoulish ghost walks run throughout the day until midnight for only the brave who wish to step back in time and discover the sinister tales of yesteryear.
National Museum Of Scotland
Location: Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF
If, like me, you are a lover of taxidermy, botany, and geology – you cannot miss out on a trip to the National Museum of Scotland. The museum is situated in a beautiful glass building with a galore of floors and balconies, showcasing a diverse collection of natural wonders from across the world.
We were fascinated by the rare species on display, magnitude of geological matter as well as exquisite collections of artefacts from across the globe. Immerse yourself in culture and spend an afternoon exploring the spaces. The museum itself is free of charge however there are a number of exhibitions on display for a fee that helps to support the running and maintenance of the museum.
Location: Edinburgh EH99 1SP
Whether you are interested in Politics or not, visiting the Parliament building is well worth the trip. The distinctive building was designed by architect Enric Miralles and is positioned in Holyrood within the UNESCO world heritage site. Open to the public from Monday to Saturday, you can embark on a free tour of the building, sit in on First Ministers Questions every Thursday or watch the MSPs debate in the chamber. Debates take place on Tuesday to Thursday and to watch you have to reserve a ticket in advance.
It isn’t often that you stumble across a statue of a dog, let alone that of a Skye Terrier named Bobby. This famous landmark is located not far from The Royal Mile, situated in front of the watering hole named after the pup – Greyfriars Bobby Bar. The legendary tale is told throughout Edinburgh of a night watchman called John who kept Bobby by his side on the cold winter nights. John died of Tuberculosis in 1858 and was buried in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. For 14 years thereafter, come rain or shine, the canine kept watch over his owners grave until his own death in 1872. Known as the city’s most loyal dog, Bobby’s real life sculpture was erected in 1873 and has become a well known landscape ever since.
Haggis Haggis & More Haggis
You cannot visit Scotland without trying the National’s favourite dish; Haggis. Fear not fellow vegetarians or vegans, you will not be left behind. From mains, breakfast’s and even snacks, there is a vegan alternative for everything. Mackie’s of Scotland Haggis & cracked black pepper crisps are all vegan and taste delicious as an afternoon snack.
For something more filling, head to Henderson’s at one of their many restaurants and cafes across the city. They not only serve a delicious tofu and ‘haggis’ breakfast burrito, but also serve a vegan haggis and root mash main course. Made from a clever mix of pulses, beans, oats, onions, mushrooms and a selection of secret spices, this is a dish that you cannot miss when visiting the capital. For your tattie fix at lunch time, head over to the Baked Potato Shop for a hot haggis topping and delight in the wholesome crunch of lentils, oats and fresh herbs.
Whether you like cobbled streets, haggis crisps or a daily dose of politics, Edinburgh has something to offer for everyone. These were my top sights to see in Edinburgh.
What are yours?