Okay, seriously, who hasn’t dreamt of visiting Scotland and her famous, beautiful landscapes? Edinburgh should be high up on your bucket list if you decide to travel around the northernmost country of the UK! Scotland quickly made a home in my heart, and it's a place I looked forward to visiting again before I left! Edinburgh in particular, though, just had this seductive thing going with its Pagan festivals, haunted history, and great Scotch.
Here are some reasons why you should definitely plan a trip to Edinburgh: Mother Nature is a hop away
While in Edinburgh, we, of course, wanted to see the highlands. We took a train to Glencoe and had what was one of the best hiking trips of our lives. We were there for four days, and despite Scotlands fickle weather this time of year, it was perfect! On our train to Glencoe, we stopped in Oban. An adorable seaside town with a great distillery! Check it out! Aside from Glencoe and Oban, Edinburgh is a great connection for trains throughout the rest of Scotland and to other great spots in the highlands!
Lot's of Pagan goodness!
It's no secret that Scotland is home to many colorful Celtic, druid, and general pagan traditions. We visited Scotland particularly for the Samhain or (Samhuinn in Scotland) Fire Festival which celebrates the cycle of death and rebirth with a heavy emphasis on the death part. You may know this holiday as Halloween! Celebrating one of my favorite Pagan holidays in a country where it has been observed for millennia has been on my witchy to-do for quite some time. Aside from Samhain every October, you've also got huge festivals for all the other turns of the wheel! Check out Beltane in May or Lughnasadh in August for some more Pagan craziness!
Got a soft spot for cemeteries like me? Edinburgh will not disappoint. Greyfriar's Kirk is home the famous Mackenzie poltergeist. It's also home to a grave for a dog named Bobby. More on that later. Aside from the Mackenzie poltergeist, there are several other notoriously ghoulish places such as Mary King's Close, The Banshee Labyrinth, The Missing Piper and of course, Edinburgh Castle. Each one of these carries with their own long and historical spooky tale that is sure to leave even the most prominent skeptics scratching their heads.
Ready to be sad as Hell? Great! Over 160 years ago, Greyfriar's Bobby was a Scottish terrier who, after his owner died, stayed at his grave for 14 years. Locals took turns feeding him and taking him in on days with bad weather. One guy actually trained him to know the one o’clock gun as dinner time. At one, he would run over to a local pub and be fed by the owner and scraps from plates. The community cared for him and he stayed by his masters grave until he died. Now people from all over the world leave fetch sticks at his headstone to remember a once very good boy.
I’m not crying. You’re crying.
Agh, so I could write an entire post on this castle alone. Maybe I will. But to give you a few points, Castle Hill (where Edinburgh Castle is located) has been inhabited for over 2,800 years. Yep, that's right! There were early settlers on the rock dating back to the Bronze Age in 850 BC. Little did they know that it would later be a massive castle where witch trials would later be held and that only 500 some years after that, I'd be there snapping selfies for the gram.
Haggis for everyone!
Being vegetarian, I was SO excited to check out Edinburgh's meatless scene. I'd heard great things from all over and was not disappointed. For starters, pretty much everywhere has a vegetarian or vegan form of haggis. I didn't have a single bad plate! They were all so savory and delicious. Aside from Haggis, there are several other vegan or vegetarian options everywhere. More than your average salad. (Whew) I recommend World's End for a great plate of Haggis! The staff is excellent, and the food is even better. Have the Veg Haggis with a big ol' Innis & Gunn.
Fun fact: The pub got its name because of it's location at what used to be the ending walls of the Old City. Because of this, as far as they were concerned, this was the worlds end.
"Two-fingers of your finest Scotch, please."
Scotland, of course, home to Scotch, you are guaranteed to have some DAMN good sips in Edinburgh. I particularly enjoyed the Cragganmore 12 year at The Whiski. It's located on the Royal Mile and is right next to another great pub called The Royal Mile that I also recommend. Both pubs have live music every night and great service. Two things I look for at any drinking establishment (pinky up). The picture above was taken at Whiski and I fell in love with the interior! I couldn't stop looking around at all the pictures and I was so taken with the atmosphere. And this hunk ;)
The Royal Mile
You could easily spend an entire day strolling up and down the Royal Mile and its many charming side streets. This lovely and ancient street is full of all you could want to see in Edinburgh. The Royal Mile connects Edinburgh Castle and Hollyrood Palace, two MUST-SEEs on your Scottish vacay. Not to mention, loads of great pubs and restaurants in between!
At first glance, it looks like just another breathtaking hill surrounding Edinburgh. But it's actually a dormant volcano! If you're up for a walk, the views from the top are (allegedly) unmatched! We didn't make it up there, but we got a great view of it from Castle Hill. I definitely plan on walking up to Arthur's Seat on our next go around!
A Paradise for Bookworms
Edinburgh has long been hailed as a literary haven. Edinburgh has inspired authors and poets alike for centuries. Robert Burns, Robert Louise Stevenson, Walter Scott... Any of these ring a bell? All three of these fantastic authors were home to Scotland. There is even a festival in honor of Burns every winter! You should check out the Writers Museum and the Scot Monument. The Scot Monument, which can only be described as a gothic spaceship, is the largest monument dedicated to a writer (Sir Walter Scott) in the world; you can tell Edinburgh takes it's authors very seriously.
Speaking of book lovers, it's any Harry Potter fans dream
Check out The Elephant Cafe where JK Rowling wrote most of Harry Potter in a corner table sipping tea and gazing out at Edinburgh Castle! Aside from the Elephant Cafe, there are tons of Harry Potter shops and tours to check out! Psst. The graveyard I mentioned earlier, Greyfriar's Kirkyard, has a headstone belonging to a Thomas Riddle. It's been said to have inspired the name for the infamous Lord Voldemort (Tom Riddle).
Before I go, here's where we stayed in Edinburgh and Glencoe. I highly recommend both!
The staff here were AMAZING! Such great Scottish hospitality. It's not some old historic building, but only paid 49 pound/night and were right on the Royal Mile! This Inn was perfect walking distance to everything you could want to see in Edinburgh!
If I could give this place 6 stars, I would. It has such a cute B&B feel and each room had its own historic charm. It's situated right on Loch Leven and if you've got a car you are within 5 minutes drive of all the great scenery in the area!
Well, there you have it! I really can't preach this Gaelic haven enough! We are planning on heading back for the Beltane Fire Festival which takes place in May, depending on where we are living once that time comes. Edinburgh is perfect for any history buff, beverage enthusiast, foodie or just someone looking for adventure.
I'd love to know if you've been to Scotland! If not, is it on your list? It better be ;)