How To Get There
Plane or Train
Obvs depending on where you're coming from at first, a plane may be your only option. I flew in from London Heathrow and it took about an hour and change. I had limited time in London and Edinburgh so flying was the quickest and best way for me to get there this time around. My friend Sam took the train and loved it. I plan on going back to the UK this fall and go from London to Scotland and I'll def be taking the train. I'll have the time and I want that scenery of the English countryside. I also want to feel like I'm on the Hogwarts Express.
What To Do
HogmanayHogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year and in Edinburgh they turn it into a 3-day festival. If you ever get the chance to do this, grab it by the plaid and run with it! The main street in New Town has festival rides, food, a German Christmas market, it's wonderful. The florescent lights of the carnival rides was a little jarring to my eyes but what can you do? The day before NYE, December 30, they have a torchlight procession, with men and boys in full kilt regalia. There are bagpipes playing and the others carry huge flame torches. It is incredible to see. It makes you really feel like you're in Scotland. I've read about its history and so many other historical romance novels set here that it felt like it was all coming to life. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. That alone was worth the trip!
The New Year's eve celebration is a street party that they block off and you need to have a wristband to enter. You can bring one 20 oz bottle of alcohol in--not even kidding--which is awesome because drinks are SUPER expensive. There are different stages set up with different bands or artists playing. I didn't go to any of the stages. We got close to one but it was so crowded we moved back towards the main street and I knew nobody playing. Anyways. There is a massive firework show at midnight and it's beautiful. Regardless of the lack of music, it was one of the best times ever. I met amazing people I hung out with and it was so much fun. Seriously, do this if you can. You might freeze your balls off, proverbial or real, but it's worth it!
The Elephant House CafeYesssssss! The cafe where JK Rowling wrote the first two Harry Potter books does in fact exist and it was incredible. I did not go in for a drink or snack because my time in Edinburgh was limited but next time I know I'll be stopping inside to soak up the amazing. Don't worry about missing it, as you can see in the picture it enjoys its claim to fame and has a sign outside saying it's the right one. You won't miss it.
Greyfriars KirkyardThe location of more Harry Potter amazingness and where you can find a real Tom Riddle grave. The cemetery is quite beautiful and a really lovely, if not morbid, place to walk around. The gravestones are all very intricate and interesting to look at. Tip: Google where the freaking grave is before you go because I did not, because I didn't think it would be that hard to find but it is, and when you don't have wifi or network service at your fingertips you might not find it. I will tell you where it is but still. Far back left where markers are on the walls and it's on the wall to your right that faces the back of the cemetery and it's almost the last one. Phew. And help me out HP fans, I could have sworn I read somewhere the Peverell gravestones also existed and were there but I found nothing and Google came up with naught. Maybe I'm making it up.
There's also a really cute story about a Skye Terrier they have dubbed Greyfriars Bobby who, as legend tells it, guarded his master's grave inside the cemetery for 14 years until he himself died. There's a life-size statue on the street in front of Greyfriars Kirkyard and they say that if you rub his nose you'll have good luck. I rubbed it on NYE and let's just say my NYE kiss was taken care of a few hours later. Thanks, pup.
The Real Diagon AlleyI stumbled upon this by total accident. We were walking up from the Grassmarket--see below--and saw this steep crooked street and I thought, wow it's like Diagon Alley and ta da! There's a plaque at the entrance to the street that says this is the 'real' Diagon Alley because it is the street that inspired JK Rowling. Holla!
Edinburgh CastleTHIS was a huge highlight of my Edinburgh experience. Located on top of the Royal Mile in Old Town, its a massive fortress and the site of a lot of Mary, Queen of Scots history. There's also quite a bit of American history in there at the section where they talk about WWII and what POW were held prisoners in the castle. The Crown Jewels are also here which are pretty cool to see. I'm pretty meh about jewels but they're still pretty cool. The best part was seeing the room where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI of Scotland also known as King James I of England. History tidbit I learned: The story goes that at this time it was proper for the Queen to have her birth witnessed by nobles--gross--and she was all, I ain't havin none of that shit. So she locked herself in this room with one of her ladies and gave birth solo. I mean...what a Queen. I love that bitch.
Mary King's CloseThe Edinburgh we visit now is actually built on top of the original city. After the plague ravaged the city and with how dirty and inhabitable it was, there is a section of hidden streets that are now underneath the city and you can tour them. The Real Mary King's Cross is a tour that takes you into the underground city and through some of the old homes. It is ridiculously creepy and cool. The tour guide is an actor that speaks in Old English and dresses in clothes from that time. He tells stories of the plague and infamous ghosts of the Close. It's a little claustrophobic so if you truly suffer from enclosed or tight spaces you might want to skip this one but if your'e not, it's so freaking cool.
*No photos were allowed underground so sadly no pics. Sorry guys*
Stirling CastleAbout 45 minutes outside of Edinburgh, Stirling Castle was another highlight. Mary, Queen of Scots spent most of her time in Scotland here as well as raising her son James IV. The Great Hall features two thrones and obvs I took more pictures than necessary sitting in them, I am not ashamed. The King and Queen's rooms were also really beautiful. While some people might say a castle is a castle, I never get sick of seeing the different ones. If you love historical sites and Royal rooms, make a trip up here, if not Edinburgh Castle is probably enough for you.
The Royal MileThe main street that leads up to Edinburgh Castle is filled with shops and cafes and restaurants. Personally, I loved shopping and buying of all things plaid and winter gear. I came away with a scarf, hat, and mittens and I will keep them forever. Plus, they kept me hella warm on NYE so pretty and warm. We stopped for a snack and hot chocolate at Deacon's Cafe along The Royal Mile. It's a cute cafe hidden in a Close (small walking street) between buildings. Indoor and outdoor seating and while the hot chocolate wasn't very good, the service was fantastic. Very friendly people and it was a great place to stop for a break and chat.
The GrassmarketThe former place of execution and public gatherings, the Grassmarket is a wide, open street directly below Edinburgh Castle. There's a ton of pubs lining the area and the coolest thing about it is each pub is named after someone or something or an event and they having really interesting stories! There's usually a plaque or sign outside each pub that you can read about the story behind the name. Shops are also located here and on a sunny day--it was drizzling for us--it would be a great place to eat outside or just sit in the sun and enjoy the outside.
Have you been to Edinburgh?
Do you want to?
What are you favorite spots or places you want to go?
Don't forget to post on Instagram with the hashtag #WanderlustWednesday! It can be anything--a throwback travel photo of a place you've been, a Google image of where you want to go, an inspirational quote, a travel themed trinket you have, anything that inspires your wanderlust.