Edinburgh - Port Guide
Where is the ship/how to get to the sights?
- South Queensferry – The main place for the ship to dock is tendering in the river the Firth of Forth, where you have to take a tender boat into the town of South Queensferry. From here, you can get into Edinburgh in a number of ways. You can take a shore excursion, most of them have Edinburgh as their destination, or you can take public transport into the city, by train or bus. The simplest and fastest is to take the train from Dalmeny station (the station for South Queensferry), which is located just up the hill from the tender dock. It takes about 7-10 minutes to walk there and trains go into Edinburgh from there about every 15-20 minutes. Exact times can be found here: scotrail.co.uk It costs £8.40 for a return ticket into town. (£4.70 for a single ticket, so best to buy a return if you wont be traveling during peak times which means getting on the train before 9am).
- Leith – There is a new dock in the port of Leith, which is in Edinburgh city, due to open June 2018. Any ships docking here have the easiest job of getting into the city, as you can take any city bus – Lothian Buses – from there into the city centre to the main sights. Buses run every 15 minutes and single ticket costs £1.60 one-way or £4.00 for an all day ticket. If you are planning on taking more buses around the city, it is worth getting the day ticket as it lasts until midnight of the day purchased.
The weather in Scotland can be four seasons in one day, so bring layers. In theory, spring is March until May, with temperatures of between 12-20 degrees Celsius (about 54-70 degrees Fahrenheit), summer is from June-August with temperatures of around 15-28 degrees Celsius (about 60-86 degrees Fahrenheit), Autumn September-November, with temperatures around 10-20 Celsius (50-70 Fahrenheit), and winter December until February with temperatures on average around -5 to 10 degrees Celsius (20-50 degrees Fahrenheit) with snow sometimes, but much less in Edinburgh than up north. It can rain in any season, on any day, even days that look very sunny when you head out, but October to November, and February to March are usually the rainiest. Expect the unexpected with weather in Scotland though, never leave the ship without your umbrella and a rain jacket just in case.
Sights & Sites
- Edinburgh Castle – This is the main focal point that everyone wants to go to see, and with good reason. The over 800-year-old castle does not fail to impress, whatever the weather, and the views from it are stunning. If you go in, there are free-guided tours every hour, which are good with a great source of info on the history of the castle, so I’d recommend joining them. Don’t miss the dungeons, crown jewels in the Royal Apartments and the Great Hall. There are often actor dressed up as historical characters located in the Great Hall giving information about “their lives” and life in the castle, so this is always a good place to visit early on in your trip. If you can, be there for 1pm, as the ‘One O’clock Gun’ goes off from a canon on the main wall every day still. It used to signal to passing ships what the time was, (and to remind any potential passing enemies that they have lots of canons ready to defend the castle with if needs be). It’s great to be right beside it while it is fired, so try to aim for that timing if you can. The dungeon is my favorite part of the castle as its history is fascinating, and really shows what life was like there. The Great Hall is where all the important balls and banquets took place, and is beautiful, so worth stopping by to. Mons Meg is the largest canon in the UK, and you can see ‘her’ at the top of the castle, right beside St Mary’s Chapel, which is Scotland’s smallest chapel. Admission prices to the castle has went up quite a lot over the past few years and now is at £18.50 for adults on site (£17 advance) and £15 for concession (£13.50 advance). So, if you’re with a ship, if you go on tour as an escort, it’s a good way to see it without paying that, or if you have a group of 10 or more, you can get a group rate. Show your crew pass going in, as they should give student rates for crew. The other way round the high rates, is if you have any family who served in any of the wars in Edinburgh (I have a lot as my maiden name was MacRae), then you are allowed to go in to visit the Memorial Hall to pay respects without charge. You sign in saying the name of the family member you wish to pay respects to, and which platoon they were in if you know. Doing this you can’t visit anywhere else in the castle, you must walk straight to the Memorial Hall, look around to pay respects to family there, and then leave and walk the fastest route back out. If you have ancestors from here though, it is a way to pay respects either if you’re visiting the rest of the castle or not. Alternatively, if you don’t want to go into the castle, you can still take a great photo from just outside it and get the best views of the city all around form this viewpoint. edinburghcastle.scot
- The Royal Mile – The Royal Mile runs from Edinburgh Castle all the way down the street going downhill form there, to Holyrood Palace – a mile away – hence the name the Royal Mile. There are many interesting things to see here all the way down the hill. If you only have one day in Edinburgh, I’d definitely recommend taking in this historic street and as many of its attractions that take your fancy. I’ll detail some of them here, going from the castle down the hill all the way to Holyrood:
- The Tartan Weaving Mill and Museum – Free. This working museum and shop is where you can see how tartan (some people call it plaid elsewhere, but in Scotland, it is tartan), is made. Tartans are the design of each family clan used on kilts primarily, but also on scarves, clan crests, hats, etc. At the bottom floor of the museum there are looms where you can see the tartan actually being made, and there is an exhibition about the history of the art. Each old family – or clan – of Scotland, has their own design and you can learn what they, and the different colors etc. in them mean here. The upper floors are shops where you can buy your own tartan to take home. heritageofscotland.com
- The Whisky Experience – This is the only distillery in the center of Edinburgh. It is a smaller than the full ones out in the countryside where most Scottish whisky is made, but is a good way to see how the golden stuff is made by taking the tour which explains the entire distillation process and gives samples. scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk
- St Giles Cathedral – This is Edinburgh’s biggest and oldest cathedral and is very beautiful and worth seeing, whether from a religious or art viewpoint. The stain glass windows and paintings within it are impressive and there are often live music performances here, from the churches or other local choirs, or classical music performances, during the day and in evenings. There is usually a plaque outside the door detailing when the next event will take place. https://www.stgilescathedral.org.uk/
- The Royal Mile itself – Main drag after St Giles’s Cathedral and before reaching Cockburn Street. This is the ‘main drag’ of the Royal Mile, where you can almost always find street performers, especially during summer months. From acrobats, to magicians, musicians, actors and mines, you can find anything here. Always free to watch, but give a tip where you can. http://edinburgh.org/discover/explore-areas/the-royal-mile/
- Tron Kirk Market – This lovely building used to be a Church – the Tron Kirk – and after being altered for performances during the Fringe festival a few years ago, it has now been permanently changed into an artisan’s market. You’ll find local designers and artists selling their products, with things like repurposed tweed waistcoats and handbags, hand made soaps, paintings, and jewelry here, with unique and quirky gifts and souvenirs of the city. royalmilemarket.co.uk
- To look out for: Cockburn Street going down the hill – This quirky street was one of my favorite haunts growing up in the area. There are many artistic shops with galleries, a fairy store, locally designed and vintage clothes shops, a funky T-shirt shop, a poster shop with many posters of cult movies and large coffee table books, and a number of pubs and restaurants.
- Museum of Childhood – Continuing down the Royal Mile (if you don’t go down Cockburn Street), after crossing the road, on your right you’ll soon find this newly refurbished and reopened museum of nostalgia. The museum is free and is homage to the toys of yesteryear. It has just been done up to include more recent amusements in its collections and is fun for all ages, especially if you go in with more than one generation so each can reminisce on their favorite toys from their youngest days. My favorite here was the old sort of fairground machines that you put a penny in and they move with animatronics. The ‘Haunted House’ always amused my sister and I for ages. If you go in here, bring change to pop in it (I think it is 5 pence now), and they can get you change form the tills in the gift shop if you need it. Open 10am-5pm daily. Free. https://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/venue/museum-childhood
- Fudge Kitchen – Scotland isn’t known for being the capital of healthy food, but here is where you can sample and buy if you like, some of its most delicious sweet stuff – fudge. The Fudge Kitchen makes everything right there on site, and you can watch the process in action. There are always samples available to try being offered by friendly staff, and usually more than one flavor. They are also happy to oblige you tasting any other flavor too, and deals are to be had when buying more boxes. https://www.fudgekitchen.co.uk/
- National Storytelling Centre – This is an interesting stop where you can see one of Scotland’s talents at work – storytelling. Scottish people love a good story, telling one and hearing one, and professional storytellers tell some of the oldest and best stories of the country here for children and adults alike. Check the website for details of what’s happening when you’re there as the line up varies. http://www.tracscotland.org/scottish-storytelling-centre
- The People’s Story Museum – This is another free museum that I have been to many times. The People’s Story is housed in the city’s old Tollbooth, itself a historic building. Each room and floor tells the history of different parts of the city and different types of people that lived in it over the years. There are washer rooms, fancy houses, the docks, and the old fish market. Smell vision is here, and the fish market is especially good at taking you in and making you feel like you are really there. https://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/venue/peoples-story-museum
- Clarinda’s Tearoom – This is a terrific spot to try a real traditional Scottish tea and cake, and feel like you are in a real Scottish grandmother’s house. The décor, down to the plates on the walls, table cloths, music playing, tea cups and saucers, and generous use of doilies everywhere make it the real deal as far as granny teahouses go. It is cute, twee, adorable, over the top, chintzy, and I love it. Homemade cakes are a plenty and you can choose from the array on display on a table for the day’s offerings to nibble on with your proper cup of tea. Don’t order the coffee. 69 Canongate, Edinburgh. Oen daily 10am-4.30pm.
- Scottish Parliament Building – This ‘ugliest building in Scotland’ cost the country £4 million of taxpayer’s money and I don’t think any of them were happy to have even paid a penny for it. It is a sight to see though, looking like a metallic prison surrounded by sharp bamboo giant sticks for extra protection making it look like one of the prickliest and unfriendly edifices around. This is where Scotland’s Parliament gathers and makes decisions, and plans things – Scotland’s Westminster. Tours are available if you’re interested to see how it all works inside. Tours are free, but have to be booked in advance. Contact – https://www.visitparliament.scot/
- Arthur’s Seat – At the bottom of the hill you’ll see the duck pond at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, the large hill that looms above Edinburgh right smack bang in the middle of the city. This provides a welcome green space, which people utilize daily for walking up, jogging up or around, family visits to feed the ducks at, or just admiring from the bottom. If you have time, it is a lovely walk to the top, with spectacular views of the entire area.
- Holyrood Palace – This is the Queen’s Scottish home, where she, and the rest of the UK Royal family stay when they are in Edinburgh. However, as Queenie isn’t around that often, most of the time, it is open as a museum. (Not all of it of course, the private Royal Apartments are closed to the public) but the main rooms are open to enjoy on a guided tour. https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/palace-of-holyroodhouse
- Ghost Tours – Before leaving the Royal Mile, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Edinburgh’s most popular after dark tourist activity after frequenting any of the copious amounts of local pubs, going on a ghost tour. Edinburgh is supposedly one of the world’s most haunted cities – in no small part thanks to the hundreds of terminally ill of plague people being walled in underground in the now underground city of the old town, to die. This happened during the black plague, and the people who were dying were shut in to protect the rest of the city from the disease and so as not to keep it spreading. It worked, the city was saved, however the souls trapped underground died a slow and awful death, and it is said their angry souls are trapped there still, roaming the alleyways and haunting the living that dare to enter their domain. There are many ghost tours to choose from, most of them departing from somewhere on the Royal Mile, with the most popular going from Mary King’s Close, or departing from outside St Giles Cathedral. There are daytime tours if you are there only in the day with the ship, but the ones that depart are the scariest if that’s what you’re looking for and you’re there still of an evening. If you get the Haunted Edinburgh App, you get £2 off the ticket prices for the City of the Dead and other ghostly tours for everyone in your party. The app costs 99 pence, so is worth it with just one ticket. https://www.cityofthedeadtours.com/ For more info on the Mary King’s Close tours, see their site here: https://www.realmarykingsclose.com/
- Camera Obscura is another fun thing to see along the Royal Mile. Located very close to the Castle, it is a favourite with school and tour groups, and you get a great bird’s eye concave view of the city from it. https://www.camera-obscura.co.uk/
- Just round corner – Dynamic Earth – Dynamic Earth is situated just around the corner from the palace, and is a geological attraction for all the family. It showcases earth’s progress from primordial swamp, through the era of the dinosaurs, ice ages, to various landscapes of today such as rainforests, which have real rain in them! This is an interactive learning haven for anyone interested in how the earth has formed and changed. http://www.dynamicearth.co.uk/
- Princes Street – This is Edinburgh’s main shopping street, and the main street, which is beneath the castle. It has mostly large high street chain stores, but some of the city’s nicest hotels are here too and worth a look in the lobbies for photos, like the Balmoral and The Caledonian. Jenner’s department store, which is like Scotland’s Harrods (incidentally, there is also now a Harrods, just around the corner from here on St Andrews Square) is in a handsome Victorian building with many floors, and the food court is worth a visit. Now run by Valvona and Crolla, a once down to earth Italian deli, and now fancy shop, does still sell the best shortbread I have ever had – the Edinburgh House of Shortbread shortbread – with flavors like original (butter and sugar and so melt in the mouth), stem ginger, orange chocolate chip, you should not leave without at least one small box. It makes a fantastic gift with the tasty treat inside a pretty souvenir tin, or if it’s for yourself, you get more shortbread for you buck in the plastic wrap 170g sizes.
- Princes Street Gardens – The gardens are right across the road from the shops of Princes Street, and are a beautiful and well-used green space in the middle of the city center. The castle looms right above here, perched on the craggy rocks of the extinct volcano that is beneath it, and makes for quite a breathtaking view. The gardens are Victorian, and a pride of the city. They exist after the lake that once stood here was drained to make way for the Waverley train station and railway line right into the heart of the city over a century ago. There are music concerts, open-air parties and Ceilidhs here frequently throughout the year, so look out for what’s happening on the day you’re there. It is a perennial picnic spot favorite with locals taking a lunch break from work getting out in the fresh air, to mothers with little ones who want to play in the play park area and maybe even get an ice cream to tourists having a wee bite alike. Check the website for the gardens to see what’s on here: http://www.dynamicearth.co.uk/
- Edinburgh Dungeons – Continuing Edinburgh’s macabre fetish, the Edinburgh Dungeons are another place where you can learn about it’s gruesome past. With many exhibits on real life horrors such as grave robbers Burke and Hare, cannibal Sawny Bean and family, very vibrant ghosts, and even a good old fashioned hanging, the dungeons are very well done. There are actors everywhere as you go around the exhibits, who will never break character and bring you into their world and tell the tales of old, even bringing some of the unwitting visitors into the stories. https://www.thedungeons.com/edinburgh/en/
- Rose Street – Rose Street is situated directly behind parallel to Princes Street. The mile long street, which stretches the same length as Princes Street, is home to a multitude of pubs, restaurants and quirky little shops. It is home to the ‘Rose Street Pub Crawl’ where if you manage to have a drink (alcoholic) in each of the pubs along the entire street, you get them all for free, plus a free T-shirt. Some of the best pubs include the Amber Rose, Scotts of Rose Street and the Rose Street Brewery. See the full info on the street here with a map and info on businesses here: http://www.edinburgh-rosestreet.com/rose-street-map.html
- George Street – Directly behind Rose Street, parallel to that, you’ll find the fancier address of George Street. This is the place to find the most upmarket designer stores, like DKNY, Phase Eight, and Whistles. It is also where the hippest cocktail bars and most ‘popular’ restaurants are. This is the place to be for people watching, long waits and lots of standing to have a fancy cocktail where the ‘cool’ people are in the evenings at weekends. Some of the most popular venues are; Tiger Lily, Le Monde (which is beautiful inside, especially at Christmas time), and Rick’s. http://www.edinburghgeorgestreet.co.uk/
- Leith – Leith is Edinburgh’s Brooklyn – once scruffy and odd, is now becoming more gentrified, but still retains a good dose of weirdness, just less dangerous and stabby, and a bit more hipster and beardy. I live in this area and love it. Down by the water are some great quality seafood restaurants, while Leith Walk is probably the most international part of the whole city. Many of the city’s emigrants traditionally settled here, which is reflected in the array of supermarkets available – Mediterranean, African, Polish, a Portuguese bakery, two Chinese supermarkets, and restaurants from all of these cultures plus many more. Many charity and ‘vintage’ stores feature with refurbished furniture taking a center role too. The Saturday Leith Market is quite a character and a great spot to find something you never knew you wanted but had to have. Some of the city’s best food spots are here too, which I’ll mention in the food section. It even has it’s own complimentary periodical, The Leither, which has all the info on the happenings in the area. https://issuu.com/theleither
- Royal Yacht Britannia – If you like the glamour of old style cruising, you can’t get better than a visit on to the Royal Yacht Britannia herself. She’s been moored in Leith for several years now, right next to the Ocean Terminal shopping center, and is available for tours and afternoon teas. http://www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk/
- Ocean Terminal – If your ship is docked in Leith, this is the closest large mall, which is within 10 minutes walking distance and has many high street stores, and the top floor has a lot of decent international restaurants and a cinema. https://www.oceanterminal.com/
- Edinburgh Zoo – The zoo is situated in the far west of the city, so it depends on how much time you have if you’ll make it there. But you can take a Lothian Buses local city bus out here very easily within about 20 minutes of leaving Princes Street. This large, very spacious zoo, which cares well for the animals, always has a lot going on, with educational events and cultural events, so take a peek to see what’s happening where you’re there. Some highlights include the penguins, which go on parade most days walking (or waddling) right through the zoo beside visitors, the big cats area, the polar bear enclosure, and the pandas – a present from China. The female panda gave birth to a baby at the start of the year, and the birth was celebrated with fireworks, giant lanterns and acrobatics from groups from Shanghai. https://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/
- Stockbridge – This is one of Edinburgh’s most sought after addresses. Along with Morningside, and Ravelston, it has some of the city’s priciest addresses, due to the appeal of living there. Stockbridge is currently full of boutiques, charity shops filled with designer clothes, fancy cheese mongers, dapper pubs with craft beers, cute bakeries, and delicate restaurants, as well as the Stockbridge Sunday Market, which delivers on local produce, with fresh fish, cute cupcakes, nice noodles, as well as crafts, art and dog treats. http://www.stockbridgemarket.com/
- The National Museum of Scotland – Locally known the ‘Chamber Street Museum’ due to its location, this huge museum is one of the treats of the city, it is again free, and appeals to all ages. It houses regular events such as traditional dancing, singing and poetry reading for any Scottish occasion such as Robert Burn’s Day and St Andrew’s Day, has a huge wing dedicated to the history of Scotland over four floors, a massive natural history and science section, along with changing exhibitions on other cultures, such as Ancient Egypt with real sarcophagi containing ancient mummies, and China’s great dynasties brought to life with some of the original Terracotta warriors visiting. Other more modern exhibitions such as Lego Wonders, with many of the world’s wonders, ancients and modern, recreated in Lego, where the progress and work and be watched real time right there with architects building it over a period of weeks. https://www.nms.ac.uk/national-museum-of-scotland/
- Scottish National Gallery – Scotland’s National Gallery is situated on ‘The Mound’ in the middle of Princes Street, within the Princes Street Gardens. The main part of the museum is free to visit, with only special certain touring exhibits having a cost. Some of Scotland’s finest and most enduring artist’s works can be admired here, as well as many paintings by European masters such as Canaletto, Van Gogh and Monet.There is a Modern Art section for those who enjoy that also. https://www.nationalgalleries.org/visit/scottish-national-gallery
- Portrait Gallery – This gallery is situated on Queen Street, right behind St Andrews Square and parallel to George Street on the East side, just around the corner from the bus station and Harrods. This slightly stuffier gallery showcases much of the portraiture art that was the only way to preserve your fame, looks and your name for posterity pre-camera. Galleries show many Scottish lords and ladies looking far prettier than in actual fact (sort of like old fashioned photos shop), creepy portraits of Victorian children, along side some modern portraits of prominent people as well as lesser or unknown people who represent the community well. https://www.nationalgalleries.org/visit/scottish-national-portrait-gallery
- The Jazz Bar and All Live Music – Edinburgh has a thriving live music scene, where you can enjoy live music any night of the week. Some of the venues have afternoon shows and most play well into the night. Some of the top places to hear the local talent are;
- The Jazz Bar, on Chambers Street – right across the road form the museum, this little hole in the wall down the stairs, proper jazz venue has live music on every night until 3am, with jazz, funk, soul, lindy hop and big band on offer, and Saturday and Sunday afternoon sessions as well starting from midday. http://www.thejazzbar.co.uk/
- Whistle Binkies – on North bridge?? – This bar is downstairs too and reached by going down the steps into the very ‘pubby’ lair. Live music here is mostly rock and alternative, with mostly free or cheap performances by new bands, and sometimes afternoon sessions on the weekends. http://whistlebinkies.com/
- Brewhemia – This large German style brew house has a lot of beer and a lot of music on offer. Live music, especially good offerings from the local jazz scene play here nightly, and Sundays host the local Edinburgh Lindy Hop club, so the place is really jumping! https://brewhemia.co.uk/
- Fingers Piano Bar – on Frederick Street. This small piano bar is less classy piano bar with slick suited clientele and jazz standards nowaways and more of a ‘cool’ hangout with slightly rowdier crowds, and Ed Sheeran, and Spice Girls covers. https://www.edinburghguide.com/venue/fingerspianobar
- Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and Statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby – On George IV Brigde, at the top of Candlemaker Row, you can see, and pet, the statue of Edinburgh’s most famous wee doggy – Greyfriar’s Bobby. Bobby was the beloved pet of local man, John Gray who was a wee scamp and character in the area. When his master died and was buried in the kirk (church) yard behind the pub he used to frequent, the wee dog had no owner and no one to look after him. Locals took pity on him and fed him, but he wouldn’t live with anyone and loyally slept on the grave of his master for 14 more years until he passed away in 1872. The true story inspired the book, Greyfriar’s Bobby, which later was made into a Disney movie. Bobby’s inspiring tail of friendship and man’s best friend being loyal long after his friend had left this world even, has touched so many hearts, that he is as popular as ever, with hundreds of visitors rubbing his wee nose every day for luck, so much so, that the colour has worn off many times over. After you’ve ‘petted’ Bobby and taken your photo with him, you should visit Greyfriar’s Kirkyard to see the graves of both John Gray, where Bobby slept for so many years, and the final resting place of the wee local hero himself. There are historical tours of the church and grounds too available inside. https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofScotland/Greyfriars-Bobby/
- Panda and Sons – Another local which is fun to visit is the ‘speakeasy’ right on the corner of Charlotte Square and Queen Street, which is Panda & Sons. Hidden away in a fascade that looks like a Barber’s Shop form the street, this increasingly popular local venue is a cool both hipster, posh, and welcoming pub at the same time 20s style speakeasy beneath. Go in past the “hairdryer”, down the steps and through the bookcase to find the tres chic bar. It isn’t the cheapest of places, but the cocktails are exquisite, and they do a cocktail of the day for £5. At the weekends you have to book a table, even at 4pm! (I found out the hard way). http://pandaandsons.com/
- The Stand Comedy Club – Located on York Place at the opposite side of Queen Street to Panda & Sons, right by St Andrews Square, is one of my favourite places ot hang out in Edinburgh. This world renowned comedy club has acts on every night, and a free improv show every Sunday lunchtime which has been running for years and is excellent with the hilarious Stu and Gary. Monday and Tuesday nights are cheap with Red Raw showcasing new comics, for only £2, and you take your chances with what you’ll get, but there’s always some very funny people with about ten acts. Weekends have the big names performing here, and definitely worth seeing if you have an evening. Check out the line up for when you’re there here: http://www.thestand.co.uk/
Edinburgh has a lot of souvenirs. The Royal Mile has so many tartan and tweed clothes for sale, you wont be able to leave without buying something in the style (I myself, being from there even, bought a Tweedy jacket from the church market last time I spent a few hours in the ‘Mile’.) Highland cows are one of Scotland’s most beloved animals and also a great stuffed toy. There are key chains, T-shirts, ‘Tammy Hats’ (Tweed hats with bright ginger hair attached to wear like a cap) and kilt towels a plenty are available. If you have any Scottish roots in your family anywhere, I’d suggest a souvenir from your clan in some way, a small book or pin with the clan crest is a great memento.
If you only have two hours
If your ship is docked in South Queensferry – you wont really have time to get into Edinburgh and see much, so stay in Queensferry and enjoy the small cute town and what is has to offer. What does it have? Right next to the tender spot is the Hawes Inn, which has tasty local beers and ciders on tap, a menu of hearty local fare, and a crackling fire to sit around (and free Wi-Fi). https://www.vintageinn.co.uk/restaurants/scotland-northern-ireland/thehawesinnsouthqueensferry?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=gmb The main street of ‘the Ferry’ has lots of cute little shops with home made crafts, small galleries, cute cake shops and fancy clothes shops. The local museum is free and tells the stories of the town’s seafaring past, and the beach is sandy and smells of seaweed and a pleasant walk, whatever the weather. https://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/venue/queensferry-museum The Maid of the Forth boat trip around the islands goes from here too, right next to the tender stop, and trips are 60 or 90 minutes, so worth asking when the next trip out if as this could be a good choice too. https://www.maidoftheforth.co.uk/
If your ship is docked in Leith – This is much easier to see more of Edinburgh itself from here. You can take one of the local buses into town directly from the ship’s terminal. They run every 15 minutes and cost the same local one way far of £1.60 (but remember they don’t give change, so have some handy if you can). Docked here in this time, you can either visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, shop in Ocean Terminal, if it is Saturday you can browse Leith Market, or head into town and you’ll get a good hour at least in the city center to take photos of the castle and have a look around Princes Street Gardens, or shop on Princes Street. https://www.lothianbuses.com/timetables/
What is it known for?
Edinburgh is known for being the very beautiful and historical capital of Scotland. Edinburgh Castle sits proudly right in the heart of it all, with the city growing up around it over the past 800 years. The ‘new town’ is almost 300 years old, and the history is living and apparent everywhere you look. It is the artistic and picturesque capital, which always seems to hit a cord with anyone who visits it.
It is also known for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which is the world’s largest military tattoo, with hundreds of performers each year involved, and the spectacle happening in the courtyard of the castle only add to the drama of it all. The Tattoo coincides with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which involves the entire city going crazy for the whole month of August. https://www.edintattoo.co.uk/ Every theatre, bar, restaurant, pub, corner, park, nook and cranny, is turned into a performance space with people coming from all over the world hoping to get famous performing as comedian, singer, dancer, actor in any of the hundreds of shows on. Edinburgh becomes an international smorgasbord of entertainment and fun. Throughout the year, entertainment is everywhere, including a lot of live music nightly and Ceilidhs (Scottish traditional parties with traditional music and dancing) on weekly at several venues. www.edfringe.com
Food & Drink
Despite Scotland not having the best reputation as a culinary haven, Edinburgh has a lot of varied, delicious and often gourmet dining available. From the three Michelin Starred restaurants, to the humble fish and chip shop, and local sweetie shops, there is something for every palate and price point. Seafood is great in Edinburgh, and mussels, scallops and salmon, along with Cullen skink – haddock and potato soup – are some highlights. The Mussel and Steak Inn, in the Grass Market, is one of my favorite places to try real Scottish seafood, and they do great lunch specials including a bucket of mussels in the sauce of your choice, with fries and warm fresh bread. Scots have a sweet tooth, which can be satiated at any of the myriad of bakeries around the city, or wee sweetie shops. To drink, whisky is of course a favorite, along with many locally brewed beers and ciders, while the soft drink of choice is the ubiquitous Irn Bru – originally made from real iron, hence the name, no one knows exactly what goes into the bright orange sugary soda, but it is the nation’s favorite, and especially touted to go well with vodka of an evening and on a Sunday morning ice cold as a hangover cure all.
Internet is available now in almost every pub, restaurant, bar, coffee ship and big shop in the city. There is Edinburgh public Wi-Fi in the main street areas too but the signal for this can be weak, depending on how busy and well used it is at the time. If you will be in the UK for more than a couple of weeks with the ship, or on land there for over a week, it could be worth getting a local SIM card to use to calls, texts and to get data. Phone shops are scattered around Edinburgh, with 02 and Three offering some of the best deals for SIM only.
There are plenty of places to exchange money to pounds, in Edinburgh, but they are not equal! The airport (like most places) can pretty much guaranteed have the worst rate of exchange, followed next by the banks. The best place I have found to exchange money (which I do with any personal cash I have with me going home after a contract) in Edinburgh, is at Currency Converters – with offices at Waveryley Mall, the High Street and Queensferry Street. https://www.no1currency.com/edinburgh-money-exchange/ If you order the exchange online before going in (this can be just minutes before using the local Wi-Fi signal), then you get an even better rate. If you aren’t near these spots, other good options for exchanging are; Marks and Spencer shop’s currency exchange booth (inside the store accessed on Princes Street or from Rose Street), at the currency exchange in Debenhams (inside the department store on the third floor – and this store gives a reliably decent rate of exchange around the UK too), the post office (this can be a good bet all around the UK too usually actually), then go to travel agent’s like Thomas Cook. Where they exchange holiday money and the rate is usually decent, and then the actual banks – whose rate is usually, lower.
Karen’s Top Tip
Walk the city. Edinburgh is a really beautiful historic city, which is lovely to get to know just wandering around it. Start with the Royal Mile, getting to taste a bit of all the main highlights of the city there with the castle, palace, some museums, a pub or two, some tartan, shopping, and some good local grub, then take it from there.
My experience here
I grew up in a small village, about 20 miles north of Edinburgh, and so spent many day trips here growing up. I recently moved here as my base with my husband Nick, and so we’ve been getting to know the city even more in different ways.
Therefore, I’ve spent so many days here, doing so many things, that it would take too long to describe them all here. Suffice to say, I think very highly of Edinburgh, and would encourage visitors to enjoy the place. There are so many things to do here, that whatever your style – be it foodie, history buff, nature lover, ghost hunter, party goer, music lover, culture vulture, tradition enthusiast etc., you’ll find many options that will surely float your boat.
My Most Memorable Moment
I have a ton of these, but one of my favorite spots in the city is up by the castle looking around the city. You don’t need to be inside the walls for these views, just look over the walls on the way to the gate, in the large area before going in. on one side you see Princes Street and Princes Street Gardens, with it feeding out to Rose Street, George Street and Queen Street behind it before the hill dips down, and the city sprawls out all the way to the river the Firth of Forth, and from this vantage point, you can see all the way over to sunny Fife. From the other side, you can see Arthur’s Seat, the huge hill and park a little ways away, and see the south side of the city spreading as far as the Pentland Hills, with the dry ski slope on the hills at Hillend in the distance. Closer at hand you can see the fun Grassmarket down the hill from the castle, and see the old buildings and grand private schools and hospitals which look like (and actually are, as they are the inspiration for) Hogwarts.
Video coming soon…