Two Days is Not Enough for Enchanting Edinburgh

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EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND, dramatic and unspoiled, is now among my favorite cities, one to which I would gladly return. Windy but not cold during my 36-hour visit, it has more greenery and longer days than I imagined possible in mid-March.

Edinburgh wears its stony grime proudly. It’s an irresistible tourist magnet, yet very real. It has an Old Town, where ancient cobbled streets are linked by often-steep alleys, and a New Town, where elegant townhouses built in the late 18th century form uniform rows along geometrically laid-out streets, crescents and squares.

The two areas are separated by a wide valley of vegetation, the Princes Street Gardens, that contain some of the city’s key museums and serve as a venue for Edinburgh’s famous summer cultural festivals, which make the city the second most visited in Europe after Paris.

I circumnavigated Edinburgh on foot to see as much as I could in my brief time there, hitting several of the literal and figurative high spots, starting with Calton Hill, right behind my very comfortable guest house. The 15-minute climb is rewarded by the view from the summit, where a replica Parthenon intended to honor Napoleonic war dead was abandoned incomplete for lack of funds in 1826 but still makes a striking landmark, and the city spreads out below to the Firth of Forth, an estuary in the distance.

Then I walked the Royal Mile in Old Town, a cobbled road that runs from Hollyroodhouse, the Queen’s Palace when she’s in Scotland, to Edinburgh Castle, a skyline-dominating fortress with parts as old as the 12th century, and through the ordered Georgian streets of New Town.

Toward evening of my only full day, my legs aching and my iPhone step counter registering the equivalent of 45 flights of stairs, I fell into a cushy seat at the American-style multiplex right around the corner from my guest house and caught a showing of T2 Trainspotting, set on some of the same atmospheric streets I had just been treading.

The centerpiece of Day 2 was a good modern Scottish lunch at The Gardener’s Cottage, a four-year-old restaurant with its own kitchen garden out front. I willed myself not to rush but to savor my meal and the serene ambience of the restaurant, before regretfully saying goodbye, too soon, to Edinburgh.

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My highly recommended guest house, below, the family-run Adria House, is at the top of the street, above.

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My room had ceilings at least 15 feet high and a garden view (£60 a night, including breakfast).

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After breakfast, I climbed Calton Hill, below, which felt like a taste of the wild Scottish moors.

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At the very top, an unfinished Greek-temple-like monument and other Neo-classical buildings have given Edinburgh the occasional title “Athens of the North.”

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I descended into the heart of the city, where there’s a dearth of modern buildings…

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and strolled along the Royal Mile, where there’s no dearth of shopping.

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Stepping into an  archway and then a courtyard, I was intrigued by the building, below, which turned out to be Lady Stair’s late 17th century house, now a museum celebrating Scotland’s three literary luminaries: Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns.

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The city milks its Goth splendor and Harry Potter connection with all manner of ‘haunted’ tours and attractions.

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I crossed the bowl-shaped Princes Street Gardens, below, to New Town, which has a very different feel, and walked around enjoying the row houses and old storefronts.

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I walked along a stream too small to be called a river; they call it The Water of Leith.

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Below, the utterly charming Gardener’s Cottage, scene of my best meal in Edinburgh.

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Below, cod and mussels with barley, parsnips and broccoli.

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The Doric, one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs, where I passed a little time before heading across the road to the train station for my 4 hour 20 minute ride back to London.

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About cara

I blog for fun here at casaCARA, and write about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites. My recently published posts and articles can be found here: https://casacara.wordpress.com/recent-articles/
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9 Responses to Two Days is Not Enough for Enchanting Edinburgh

  1. debrasdan says:

    Thanks for this. I concur – two days is not enough. It’s a lovely, enchanting place.

  2. Judith Dean says:

    What a fabulous trip! Thanks for making it so real.

  3. Diana says:

    Thanks Cara…my friend’s daughter is at Edinburgh University!

  4. coppermaven says:

    I’ve read several mysteries set in Edinburgh and have always wanted to go. Your blog post made me even more determined to get there!

  5. Martha Kelly says:

    What a good traveler you are, my friend! Also, I might add, you have been lucky with the weather. Roger and I made the mistake of visiting Edinburgh during the Fringe when it was it bit like trying to see New Orleans at Mardi Gras. And it RAINED and RAINED. I felt I never cared to return. We were far more charmed by Glasgow. Your photos, as usual, make me consider giving Edinburgh another chance.

  6. Harriet Bell says:

    Loving your trip. Highly recommend Antonia Fraser’s Mary, Queen of Scots.

  7. Jenny M says:

    Great photos of your trip. We loved Edinburgh, we were visiting from Australia, to see our daughter, who at the time was working & living there for 2 years. Surprising how many young people from other countries were there on work visas, our daughter told us the place was full of entertainment, love music, meeting in the pubs, having picnics at The Meadow…..all set in amongst the amazing historical buildings.

  8. Stacie R Sinder says:

    Beautiful post, thanks for taking me along! I love the Writers’ Museum sign and the eponymous SRS staircase! Also the Gardener’s Cottage and the Doric — would meet you there right away! It’s all so old and dark (does it look different when the sun shines?). I love Jenny’s description above of the Edinburgh life of young people — does the magic exist for the mature crowd as well? xo

  9. cara says:

    Knew you would love that Gardener’s Cottage, SRS. Actually I think what I experienced in Edinburgh passed for sunny weather– at least it changed very quickly from one thing to another. Yes, I met a couple of young Spanish people working in Edinburgh – they said they had come to learn English! Odd place to choose for that purpose, considering the distinctive regional accent. And Brexit may put an end to such opportunities. Re the mature crowd, I don’t think so :-( It seems the international “magic” of Edinburgh is a youth phenomenon.

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