Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Royal Mile (Edinburgh, Scotland)

 After you've had breakfast, make your way to Edinburgh castle to start your journey along The Royal Mile.  Edinburgh Castle is certainly majestic in nature, and boasts what might be the best panoramic view the city has to offer.  Edinburgh castle guards the Scottish Crown Jewels, as well as, the Stone of Destiny.  You can elect to purchase an audio tour for a fee that is additional to your entrance fee.  I didn't choose to do make this purchase.  There are 20 minute guided tours that you can join for free, therefore, that was the route I chose.  This brief guided tour provides a wealth of information on a variety of aspects of the castle being, special attributes of The Great Hall, how prisoners of war lived there in the 1700's and 1800's in the Prisons of War exhibit, and much more.  If you happen to be there still at 1.00, join the gathering to see the master gunner fire The One O'Clock Gun.

Edinburgh Castle

Note:  There is a special pass that you could purchase called the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass.  It comes in 3-day and 7-day varieties.  The prices range from approximately $40-$55 (USD).  This pass gains you access to over 70 attractions including Edinburgh & Stirling Castles.  If you simply do both castles, this pass more or less pays for itself.  That being said, I have to be honest with you that I did not use this pass.  Because I was visiting my cousin, we were able to use a pass that she had as a resident, which worked a bit differently, and gained us access to many of these attractions as well.

I bought my absolute favorite souvenir just outside Edinburgh Castle.  As you leave the castle there are a number of street vendors sitting, and sell a variety of things.  One of which was selling tiny, silver earrings in a variety of Celtic designs.  They only cost me around $7 (USD), but I have to admit, they are one of my all-time favorite souvenirs.

After the castle, you maybe ready to take a bit of a moment to just digest all that you've seen.  In that case, take a slight detour and stroll through The Princess Street Gardens.  The Princess Street Gardens have been in existence since the 1700's and contain a number of beautiful monuments.  It manages to be both serene and regal at the same time, making it the perfect place to stop and process some of what you've just taken in.  If you're wanting to save money on your mid-day meal, I might recommend packing a snack to eat in the gardens if the weather is nice.

Otherwise, upon returning to the Royal Mile, I recommend lunch at the Tollbooth Tavern.  The building itself is a part of the original Cannongate Tollbooth, built in 1591.  It has also been a courthouse, and a prison. In 1654, Cromwell detained Scottish enemies of the state in this location.  If you're looking for some traditional Scottish fare, I highly recommend trying to some local beers, and possibly some Bangers and Mash.  For a bite on the lighter side, there are vegetarian delights as well.

If you continue down the Royal Mile, near the end you will find the Scottish Parliament.  Parliament is open to the public every day except Sunday.  There are many public areas that are free of charge and do not require booking.  Advanced booking is required if you would like to attend a guided tour or a committee meeting of sorts.

Holyrood Palace
Next, stroll by Holyrood Palace, the Scottish home to Queen Elizabeth II.  This is also where Mary, Queen of Scots was married and lived.  Side note: If you purchased the Explorer Pass, this attraction should be included.  I didn't tour the palace; I was satisfied having seen it, and continued on, making my way to Arthur's Seat.  Arthur's Seat is a "mini-mountain" that  makes for a gorgeous hike.  Once you make it to the top, you are rewarded greatly with another breathtaking view.

Arthur's Seat
At the end of this day, I recommend making your way to The Meadows for dinner at the Golf Tavern.  This quaint, sporty tavern has an old-world, truly Scottish feel.  While, I opted for a vegetarian option, I would say that this would be the opportunity for a more adventurous foodie might consider an order of Haggis Nachos.  In fact, the Golf Tavern has a variety of creative Haggis dishes that you can try, if Haggis happens to be on your bucket list!

Budget Savers:
  • Explorer Pass:  While this will set you back 40-55 USD, it can quickly save you money on attractions.
  • Princess Street Gardens (free)
  • Optional: Tollbooth Tavern (moderately priced) or Pack a lunch/snack (cheap)
  • Scottish Parliament (free)
  • Arthur's Seat (free)
  • Golf Tavern (moderately priced)

Budget Splurges:
  • Edinburgh Castle & Holyrood Palace: While not entirely spendy on their own, if you don't get the pass, these attractions will add up quickly.

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