Historic Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands by Ray Raposo

Ray standing at the approach to Edinburgh Castle's entrance

Edinburgh is Scotland’s enthralling capital city and second most populous behind Glasgow. Edinburgh’s Old Town is filled with medieval charm, and its Georgian New Town with old world elegance. Scotland is part of Great Britain, and shares the mainland with England to the south. We flew from London to Edinburgh and took just over an hour. From the airport a shuttle bus can take you into the center of the city for a reasonable fee.

Peg by Edinburgh Castle’s Scots Memorial Building

Dominating the city is Edinburgh Castle, Scotland’s most visited paid tourist attraction. The historic Scottish castle built on volcanic rock easily dominates the skyline of the city. The castle dates to at least the 12th century and had been the royal residence until 1633. It houses many buildings and regalia including the oldest edifice, St. Margaret’s Chapel from the 12th century. There’s also the Royal Palace, the Great Hall, the Crown Jewels, and the Scottish National War Memorial, built after World War I.

Just part of the Edinburgh Castle’s interior

It is a most fascinating fortress and one can spend many hours taking it all in, as well as checking out it’s marvelous views of the city. History and movie buffs will enjoy seeing the statues of Scottish heroes King Robert the Bruce and Sir William Wallace (Braveheart) which are on either side of the Gatehouse entrance walls; they were added in 1929.

Peg inside Edinburgh Castle

From the Castle you can head down on the famous Royal Mile, full of local shops, restaurants and pubs as well as historic buildings, churches and monumental statues.

Some of the colorful restaurants and shops on the Royal Mile

At the bottom end of the Royal Mile you’ll find the 17th century Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is The Queen’s official residence while in Scotland.

Peg outside the Palace of Holyroodhouse

The most well known was Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived in the palace for her short reign. You can tour the ground’s gardens and the ornate rooms of the castle. They also have a nice souvenir shop. Located across the street is the very modern parliament building.

You can view the bay from the top of Calton Hill

Climbing to the top of Canton Hill or to the larger volcanic mountain known as Arthur’s Seat gives you a fantastic panoramic view of the city and towards the river and bay. The bay is known by the interesting name of the Firth of Forth (Firth meaning water and Forth meaning black), it eventually flows into the North Sea.

View of Edinburgh to the water from it’s famous castle
Inside the National Museum of Scotland

History and art lovers will also enjoy visiting the National Museum of Scotland, a world class museum full of natural Scottish heritage, world cultures and technological innovations through the ages. The museum is housed in two connecting buildings, a historic front building on the Chambers Street entrance and a more modern entrance at the end of the block. It also houses the Tower Restaurant in that corner.

The cast iron interior of The Museum of Scotland

The museum also has an interesting grand central hall inspired by the Crystal House, with a Victorian style cast iron shell interior that rises the three stories of the building and features glass skylights at the top. The free museum is definitely one to take in if one has the time to spend a few hours wondering inside.

Greyfriers Bobby Restaurant Bar… the small dog’s statue is at far right of photo.

Near the museum where Chambers Street meets Forest Street and Candlemaker Row you’ll find Greyfriars Kirk (church) and the adjacent graveyard where many notable Edinburgh residents from the 16th century and later are buried. A Restaurant Bar just outside of the Kirk called Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar also features a small statue monument out front of a loyal little dog who guarded his master’s grave for 14 years.

View of Princes Street
If shopping is your thing, the city center’s shopping district of Princes and Georges Streets are really grand. There you’ll also find the Princes Street Gardens and the Scott Monument, a very striking Gothic style structure which you can climb its stairs for a terrific view of the surroundings.
Scottish highland bagpiper in the traditional dress.
There’s sure to be a Scottish highland bagpipe player nearby dressed in the traditional dress featuring a tartan pattern on a kilt. Beneath Edinburgh Castle the lively Market Street and the narrow Victoria Street are full of shops and eateries all along it’s winding path. Numerous bars and pubs line the area, featuring traditional interiors to modern designs. The are numerous American themed restaurants as well. If you’re adventurous you might want to try some Cullen Skink Soup, which tastes much better that it sounds… you can actually find just about any type of food around town, from a large tasty burger to the British favorite of bangers and mash.
By the Falls of Dochart
If you have time during your visit you should try to take in a side trip outside Edinburgh to the Scottish Highlands and some of the numerous Lochs (Lakes). We were able to visit Stirling Castle as well as Doune Castle, which you might have seen in a movie or TV show over the years. Doune Castle has been featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Game of Thrones and Outlander more recently. We also travelled to the see the panoramic views around Loch Lomond and the countryside mountains of The Trossachs National Park.
Ray and some sheep, with Stirling Castle in the background
Edinburgh is a most fascinating city, one that offers an enormous glimpse into Scottish history and a taste of its very proud people. When planning on places to visit… Edinburgh and Scotland, they definitely offer truly royal dream vacation locations to enjoy.
Duke of Buccleuch Walter Scott statue outside St. Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile
Statue of William “Braveheart” Wallace outside Edinburgh Castle
At center is The Hub a grand 1840s building once a church, and now houses a cafe-diner.