Edinburgh is a city steeped in history. Just look around you. Cobbled streets, architecture older than the oldest of whiskies and historic sites left, right and centre. As the Scottish capital since the early 15th century, it’s no surprise to learn that parts of the city have changed drastically over time, as the traditional old town was joined by the arrival of the neoclassical new town in the 18th century, fusing old and new to create an explosion of character. Two days in the city is the perfect amount of time to get to grips with it all, and the beauty is, you can do it all on foot. Here’s how we spent 48 hours in Edinburgh.
9 am: Arthur’s Seat
More than just a big, grassy hill plonked next to a historic city, Arthur’s Seat is in fact one of Europe’s few accessible, extinct volcanoes. The climb itself is not taxing, nor is it lengthy. In fact, it’s so easy that as the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, groups of ever so slightly intoxicated Scots scale its majesty and continue the celebrations from the peak. The climb begins among the green of Holyrood Park and makes its way upwards via dirt tracks, grass and at the peak, rocks, which will require some scrambling. The very top of Arthur’s Seat will reward you with sweeping views of the city and doubles up as the ideal spot to kick back and enjoy a picnic.
12pm: Gaia Deli
Okay, so we went slightly out of our way to reach this deli having read rave reviews, but it was more than worth it. The walk from Holyrood towards the coast is around 25 minutes, but it’s a good opportunity to see some more of the city. I ordered a ciabatta with black pepper, lemon and carppacio of beef, and after the climb to the peak, it was just what the doctor ordered.
1pm: Calton Hill
Retreat back towards the city centre via Calton Hill. If you were paying any attention at the peak of Arthur’s Seat, you’ll have noticed this hill and its collection of Greek looking monuments perched boldly upon it. I’ll admit I got more of a sweat on tackling this hill than the previous, but again, the views from the top are worth every step. Home to two observatories and Nelson’s Monument, it’s a quiet place to come and take in the panoramic views and absorb a history lesson or two.
4pm: Whisky Tasting, via Scott Monument
Book yourself onto a whisky tasting session at Castlehill Whisky- don’t deny it, it’s what you came for. If you have time before dinner and feel like you need any more alcohol, head to Brewdog. You might have noticed this slick microbrewery’s beers popping up in niche venues all over the country and they’re destined for the big time, so why not try it at the source?
Edinburgh is home to some seriously diverse cuisine. To put it in perspective, we dined on Lebanese, Indian, Brazilian, Mexican and traditional Scottish fare all within the space of a few days. Find a cosy pub along the Royal Mile and indulge in a dram of whisky accompanied by a hearty Scottish meal and the crackle of a roaring fire.
8pm: Ghost Tour
Being a city of old, when darkness falls upon Edinburgh, it transforms into a truly eery place. If the idea of a an overly enthusiastic man acting like a 19th century gentleman carrying a plastic sword sounds like your cup of tea- book onto a ghost tour and explore the streets at night guided by a local in the know, who will regale you in tales of old with a seriously spooky edge. You’ll visit the darkness of the underground city, graveyards drenched in silence and pockets of the city where you wouldn’t want to walk alone at night. I don’t believe in ghosts, but it sent a shiver down my pine. If anything, it’s a fantastic history lesson delivered in an incredibly animated fashion!
The most iconic of the city’s landmarks, Edinburgh Castle sits boldly at the very peak of the Royal Mile overlooking the expanse of the city. If you’re a lover of history, this will fullfill all your wildest dreams, but for a whistle stop tour, head to what I deem the most exciting bits; the armoury and dungeons. Hang around until 1pm if you want to witness the ‘One ‘o’clock Gun’.
12pm: Edinburgh Gin Distillery
Located in a basement on the outskirts of the city centre, the Edinburgh Gin Distillery is a gin connoisseur’s dream. A tour costs £10 and will allow you to hear all about production, the secret ingredients, the company’s history and most importantly, you’ll get to try the goods. As a gin-lover, it’s safe to say my suitcase weighed a little extra on the way home.
2pm: Botanical Gardens
Round of your trip with a casual stroll through the vibrant surroundings of the botanical gardens. Even for non-garden lovers, it’s worth the trip just to unwind. Head to the herb gardens and take in the aromas before ambling through the butterfly garden to play spot the butterfly!