Edinburgh: Palaces, Castles, Yachts, and …. Dolly the Sheep

The first time I visited Edinburgh, I was there for all of a whopping 36 hours. I loved the city and I packed a lot into my time there, but obviously it was far too brief. I’ve wanted to make my way back to Edinburgh – and to explore more of Scotland beyond Edinburgh – ever since. Last fall, accompanied by my mom, I finally did just that.

We arrived and set out shortly thereafter for a walk around town, going past Princes Street Gardens (and catching some very pretty golden hour views along the way) and then making our way along the Royal Mile before grabbing dinner.

In the morning, we began at Holyrood Palace. While I think the palace itself is interesting – I mean, Mary Queen of Scots lived there! That’s pretty legit! – my favorite part was actually outdoors. The ruins of Holyrood Abbey are gorgeous and the gardens there impeccable.

After stocking up at the giftshop – the royal shops always have the BEST stuff and I gladly would trade away all my money for a trove of royal-themed Christmas ornaments – we made our way back up the Royal Mile. Our destination was the Colonnades at the Signet for afternoon tea. The Signet is a library, and the tea takes places among the bookshelves – what a fun setting!

In the afternoon, we took a bit of a jetlag-induced rest before heading back out for dinner. After a short (and pretty) walk, we made our way to the Scran and Scallie for some fish ‘n chips. As far as I’m concerned, you just can’t beat a good fish ‘n chips when in the UK!

The next day, we made our way to the Royal Yacht Britannia. Formerly the British royal family’s yacht, the ship is now docked in Edinburgh and a museum, open to the public. It was fun to explore and have a peek into how the royal family vacations – it was all rather simple and surprisingly un-fancy. When we visited, it was drizzly, so we also made sure to duck into the ship’s café for tea and scones.

In the afternoon, we met up with our tour group, as we were on a Rick Steves tour for the remainder of our time in Scotland. We took a group walk around the neighborhood (alas, again in the rain) before tucking into dinner at a local pub.

The next morning, we took a walk around Edinburgh’s old town. We started by cutting through Princes Street Garden, which was gorgeous in the early morning sunshine.

Next, we made our way up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle. The area was (predictably) mobbed with tourists, but you can still elbow your way past them to get some sweet views of the surrounding city. As for the castle’s buildings themselves, they’re interesting enough, but not really wow-worthy (to me at least).

We stopped next at Victoria Street, which is said to be J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley. I don’t know if that’s true, but with all its colorful buildings, you can certainly see why that might be the case!

We also made our way to Greyfriars Kirkyard, where we poked around the beautiful old cemetery for a bit. There are more connections to Harry Potter here – graves bearing the names of McGonagall and Riddle, for example. Kind of cool!

We finished up our walking tour at the National Museum of Scotland. Besides having a truly stunning main hall (that light!), the museum also features an embalmed Dolly the Sheep and a rooftop with some pretty cool views.

For lunch, we popped over to Timberyard, where we had a fantastic meal (one of my favorites of the year, in fact). The highlight for me – as it always is – were the oysters. These were particularly good; I swear they tasted like they were fresh out of the sea.

In the evening, we grabbed a dinner (complete with our very favorite sticky toffee pudding) before turning in. The next morning, we were off to see more of Scotland!

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