26th September 2018

Navigating Edinburgh in 24 hours

Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates
Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates

Edinburgh, you wee beauty!

It's been 7 years since I last visited Edinburgh.

Back when I first came, it was for a Youth Theatre trip during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I fell in love with the city, it's culture and how everything looked like something out of Harry Potter.

Now I'm older, wiser and put a lot more research into where I want to go and what I want to see, I can definitely say this time topped the first time.

Josh and I made the 6-hour drive from Milton Keynes to Edinburgh as one of our stops on our Scottish road adventure.

As I've been once and Josh has never been, it was nice to show Josh around and take him to places I had been to before.

We only had one day here, so we had to make sure we made the most of it.

Thanks to plenty of blog post recommendations, TripAdvisor reviews, and general research, we made our first trip to Edinburgh together a memorable one.

Here's what we got up to in 24 hours.

Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates

How we got there and where we stayed

Edinburgh was the first destination as part of mine and Josh's Scottish road trip from Milton Keynes to Westray, Orkney Islands, to visit Josh's mum and stepdad.

As we decided to drive, we wanted to make a few stops along the way. That's when we decided that Edinburgh would be the best place, as it was practically on the way.

Therefore, we took the 6-hour drive from Milton Keynes to Edinburgh on the M6, which offers some of the most beautiful views of the Lake District and Cumbria along the way.

Fun fact: As we are about a 40-minute drive away from the first junction of the M6, we started and finished the whole motorway on the first day of our trip - pretty cool!

We stayed in a very modern apartment in Edinburgh which we booked through Airbnb - in fact, it was my first Airbnb home experience ever! (bad travel blogger!)

The home was very clean, modern and we had a lovely host who had a friendly Beagle called Aston (always a winner when there's dog's involved!) We arrived at our apartment at around 8pm and basically, crashed after the long car drive.

But it was convenient for us, as it was only a 10-minute walk into the centre, where we got up nice and early to begin our day in the city.

Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates

Breakfast at The Birchwood

We arrived at our Airbnb at 8pm the previous night, so I spent the evening researching the best places to go for breakfast.

I can say that for the first time, I researched places to eat via Instagram to see what places were the most Instagramable; something which I had never done before.

It paid off, as I discovered The Birchwood, which looked incredible and the food and drink didn't disappoint.

It was about a 20-minute walk from our Airbnb apartment and about 10 minutes away from the city centre, so we were pretty pleased to have found somewhere outside of the busy centre.

I went for an Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon, whilst Josh went for Potato Rosti with parma ham and a poached egg on top, which looked awesome (I was slightly jealous).

All washed down with coffee and a mixed berry smoothie each. It was the perfect set up to start a busy day of exploring and I highly recommend The Birchwood for breakfast if you fancy the scenic walk in the morning.

Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates
Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates
Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates
Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates

Victoria Street and The Royal Mile

If you're heading to Edinburgh for the first time, you have to visit the historic Victoria Street.

I remember walking down it the last time I visited Edinburgh, but back then, I didn't appreciate it as much as I did this time around.

It's one of Edinburgh's prettiest and most colourful streets and is an iconic area for mosaic history.

One thing that I loved about this street was all the independent shops; including all the Harry Potter ones!

If you're a Potter head like me, make sure you head into The Boy Wizard and Diagon House - both are fantastic for Harry Potter fan's and include all the franchise and gifts you could want.

I am GUTTED I didn't get a Hufflepuff scarf (yes, I'm a proud Hufflepuff) but they were very expensive, so just be warned.

Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates
Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates
Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates

Head around the corner and you will find the famous Royal Mile which is bursting with a buzzing atmosphere.

The Royal Mile is a succession of streets which forms the Old Town of Edinburgh, from the Edinburgh Castle doors, all the way down to Holyrood Palace, which is exactly a Scottish mile; hence the name 'The Royal Mile'.

If you have time, I highly recommend doing the whole walk, as this is where you really get to see the best of the city and you can pop into all the independent shops along the way.

For example, we went down one street where we found the Edinburgh Gin shop where we purchased some mini bottles of the Raspberry Edinburgh Gin.

Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates
Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates
Edinburgh | Nicole Navigates

Edinburgh Castle

Did you even visit Edinburgh without at least seeing the front and going inside Edinburgh Castle?

We didn't have enough time to buy tickets to go inside the castle itself, plus, it was a Sunday and it was incredibly busy and overpacked with tourists (I mean, A LOT of tourists).

But it is well worth getting a photo in front of and heading inside to look around the first section, which is free, plus browse the castle shop.

I have to say, it is an impressive castle from the outside, despite some maintenance work happening, it really does blow you away.

Next time when we have more time, we will definitely purchase tickets to go inside and explore it properly.


Ale and Nacho's at The Castle Arms

By this point, we had done so much walking, so we wanted to find somewhere nice to have a drink.

Luckily, just around the corner from the castle was a nice looking traditional bar called, The Castle Arms, which also has an outside area that has an amazing view of Victoria Street (we sadly found this out afterwards!)

Since we had such a big breakfast, we were only looking for a drink of something and a small bite to eat.

We each got a pint of Edinburgh's local ale and a plate of cheesy nachos. You know, something light!

But I highly recommend The Castle Arms as it was rustic and you really felt like you were part of Edinburgh's culture.


Camera Obscura and World of Illusions


Josh and I are all about having a fun time and acting like big kids, so Camera Obscura and World of Illusions definitely brought our inner kid sides out and I highly recommend it to everyone, as it will certainly keep you occupied for a couple of hours.

The Camera Obscura itself is an old camera that was created in the 1850's which was essentially a periscope that captured everything that was going on outside by projecting it in a dark room.

It was so cool to listen to its creation and fascinating to discover that it doesn't use any modern technology.

But after that, The World of Illusions is your playground to enjoy for hours. Basically, it's a huge museum full of magic, surprises, funny mirrors and illusions which will keep you guessing for ages on how they all work.

Plus, get yourself on the top view for some incredible city views of Edinburgh.


Greyfriars Bobby and Grassmarket

If you love dogs, this story will pull on your heartstrings a bit.

Bobby was the name of the Skye Terrier who belonged to John Gray, a night watchman for Edinburgh police and the two were inseparable.

Cut a long story short, John Gray shortly died and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, where Bobby spent the rest of his life sitting on his master's grave, despite the gardener and keeper of the graveyard attempting to get rid of him several times.

In the end, they gave up and Bobby spent the rest of his days on his masters grave, even in the most dismal of weather conditions.

And sadly, Bobby died 14 years later. He wasn't able to be buried next to him, so they buried him just inside the gate of the Greyfriars Kirkyard and made a statue to commemorate him.

Now, visitors can see the statue and can view the grave of John Gray, plus many other rather exquisite and elaborate gravestones, including the ones that gave J.K Rowling the inspiration to name some of her characters in the Harry Potter books.

Keep an eye out for names like Thomas Riddel and William McGonagall on some of the gravestones.

Walking around a graveyard usually would be pretty creepy, but Greyfriars is an exception as you can't help but admire all the grand gravestones and tombstones, as well as admire the autumnal surroundings.


Afterwards, we headed into Grassmarket, which is literally around the corner from Victoria Street and the Old Town.

We couldn't help but notice all the pubs situated on Grassmarkets, which is something Josh and I appreciate and we were looking for places to dine for dinner that evening.

Grassmarkets definitely has lots going for it food and drink wise, including the famous Mary's Milk Bar (which sadly, we didn't go in this time round!)

However, just by the side of Mary's Milk bar is a flight of stairs leading up to the most stunning view of the castle (and tourist free, may I add!)

As you climb up the stairs, on your right, there is a small house, once you reach the house, turn around and voila! You'll be treated to the best view of the castle and a prime opportunity for photos.

The stairs are called The Jean Brodie Steps, which I found out were named in honour of Muriel Spark, Edinburgh's best-known female novelist, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of her birth and her most famous character, Jean Brodie, from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.


Dinner at The Fiddlers Arms

By 4pm, we had already done over 10,000 steps just from walking around Edinburgh, so we felt it was time to head back to our Airbnb apartment for a quick power nap.

Afterwards, we got dressed up and ordered an Uber into Grassmarkets and went for dinner at the Fiddlers Arms, which is right on the corner of Grassmarkets and right opposite the castle.

The Fiddlers Arms was a traditional Scottish bar, serving traditional pub grub and Scottish delicacies, including Haggis.

And sadly no, I wasn't brave enough on this occasion to try it. However, we did try a deep-fried Mars Bar for dessert, which was much better, tastier and less greasy than I thought it would be.

Afterwards, we wondered up Grassmarkets and found The Smallest Pub in Scotland, which literally is the smallest pub I've ever been to.

It consists of a room, a few seats and a small bar. But we were treated to some Scottish live acoustic music, as we enjoyed our drinks. We had planned to go on a pub crawl and see the night through...

But by 8.30pm, we were beaten. So literally, we had spent exactly 24 hours in the city and by 8.30pm, we were ready to go back to our apartment and head to bed. Is this a sign of us getting old!?

Even though we didn't tick off everything that there is to do in Edinburgh, including Arthur's seat, Calton Hill and see more Harry Potter sights, I feel we had the best day out in Edinburgh together and did as much as we possibly could before our feet gave in.

Edinburgh is a beautiful city and we couldn't have wished for a better day - we loved it so much that we are thinking of coming back for a night on our way back from our Scottish road trip. So I may be adding more to this blog post!

What do you think of Edinburgh? Have you been before?



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