Scotland: Edinburgh and the Highlands in 3 days

 

Visiting Edinburgh in August

This past week I visited Edinburgh with my family – we were only in town for a few days so we tried our best to see as much as possible! Our trip was planned for early August which also happens to be the city’s biggest tourism month of the year – there is a huge festival called the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with street performers, concerts, comedy shows, and much more! We didn’t realize just how big the festival is (it’s actually the largest arts festival in the world) so this made reserving an apartment and finding a place to eat a bit difficult at times; if you’re not a fan of big crowds I would choose another time to visit the city but if you love free concerts and lots of young people then it’s a perfect time to go!

We stumbled upon a free concert in an old church with an artist painting a giant mural of people in the audience – amazing!

Accommodation

I found reserving a place to be quite difficult this trip; AirBnb is my go-to site for finding accommodation whenever I travel but this time it appeared that most of the rentals had been reserved for the festival. We found an apartment for the 5 of us using a local rental site called edlets.com and got a place right across from the meadows. This rental was a new experience for me as we did not meet the owner – we simply showed up, found the lock box with the keys, and let ourselves in. The place was fine for a few nights but was way more expensive than what I’m used to in other parts of Europe (almost $1200 USD for 3 nights), I assumed the high prices were associated with the festival because there is such a high demand for housing. If you can’t find anything on AirBnB I’d give edlets.com a try – it worked for us!

Food

Haggis is Scotland’s national dish – it’s actually quite delicious despite what it’s made of (click here if you must know). I’d recommend ordering it at least once while you’re there! I enjoyed some tasty fish n’ chips while we were in Scotland as well – just make sure that the fish you’re ordering is Haddock (it’s the best!). And be sure to order a traditional Scottish breakfast at least once, you might need to share this plate as the portions tend to be big; a full breakfast usually includes a link sausage, bacon, eggs, tattie scone (potato scone), fried mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, buttered toast and the Scottish favourite – black pudding.

I’m serious – make sure it’s Haddock! 😛

Tours

The only way to see the Scottish Highlands is to rent a car or take a tour; seeing as we didn’t want to deal with renting and navigating a car in the UK (steering wheel is on opposite side of the vehicle and they drive on the other side of the road!) we opted for the tour. I selected the “Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Highlands Small Group Day Trip” which I found on Viator.com (useful site for finding different kinds of tours). The tour is run by a company called Rabbie’s which organizes a lot of great trips all over the UK.

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Sadly we didn’t see Nessie! 🙁

Our tour guide Alan was awesome – he gave us all the gory details about the real William Wallace (Braveheart), Robert the Bruce, the Romans that invaded hundreds of years ago and the history of the Gaelic tribes that inhabited the highlands. The tour was about 10 hours or so (we were worn out by the end) but it was a really great way to get through the highlands, Glencoe, and try to see if we could spot Nessie at Loch Ness.

Things to see in Edinburgh

There are a ton of sights to see but these were the ones that stood out to me the most!

Holyroodhouse Palace

The palace was one of my favorite sights within the city; when you visit the palace they give you a free headset that explains a lot of interesting history related to the items as you walk by them. You even get to see the bedroom of Mary Queen of Scots (and hear about her scandalous reign!).

 

Castle of Edinburgh

The castle was an absolute madhouse full of tourists. I’m not sure if the castle is always so crowded but I thought it was more impressive from the outside than it was inside. The highlights of the castle were the war museum and “The Honours of the Kindgom” or crown jewels – also getting to watch the guard fire off the cannon at 1pm was interesting.

nice view from within the castle walls

war museum

There is a nightly performance of Military Tattoo (Edinburgh Military Tattoo) during the month of August, which is definitely something to see! We caught the end of the shows and watched the soldiers march out of the castle in full uniform (kilts and all) with bagpipes in tow – really great!

Calton Hill

Calton Hill was one of my favorite spots in Edinburgh. Make sure to climb to the top and snap some panoramic photos of the city below!

The Royal Mile

We walked The Royal Mile daily as we passed through the city on our way to different sights. The street is lined with lots of shops and restaurants and is the main hub of the Fringe Festival; the streets are full of street performers, locals, tourists, and crazies!

Greyfriars Bobby

This little pooch was located just across the meadows as we entered the town; we made sure to give his nose a rub each time we passed by (it’s good luck!). He kind of reminded me of Manneken Pis in Brussels, as he was quite small, but it was a fun thing to see and there’s a sweet story behind the statue 😉

touch his nose for good luck!

touch his nose for good luck!

National Museum of Scotland

The national museum was great! There is no entry free and the place is filled with fascinating things!

My favorite exhibit was about the ancient Egyptians and was filled with sarcophagi, mummies, jewelry, trinkets, and explained important customs that took place during the different Egyptian empires. There were many different exhibits to view; one included items and information about cultures from around the world (past and current cultures – clothing, customs, etc.), another one featured space (big bang, meteors, etc.), another one focused on animals (including a t-rex skeleton), and the list goes on!

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