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Edinburgh, Scotland – Things to See and Do in 24 Hours/1 Day

Edinburgh Castle Being a frequent visitor (and admirer) of Edinburgh, I thought that I would be a lovely opportunity to take my mother and grandfather there. Unfortunately, we had a tight schedule to stick to and could only spend a full day in the beautiful old part of Edinburgh. Most travellers I come across either train to Edinburgh for the day, or only get a full 24 hours to spend in the majestic and historic city of Edinburgh. For those who haven’t been and plan to visit Scotland, I highly recommend that you visit Edinburgh as it is one of the most magical and medieval-like cities I’ve ever been too.

HOW LONG SHOULD I VISIT EDINBURGH?

If I’m going to be completely honest, you can see most of the sights and experience a glimpse of the scottish culture in less then two days. I took my family there for the 36 hours before our train to York and we saw most of the touristy sights, as well as some non-touristy things recommended by locals. There are some cities in the world that you couldn’t do in a day: London, Paris, Toronto, etc. However, Edinburgh is among those cities that you could experience in a day or two. If you have the time, I would definitely recommend staying longer, because Edinburgh makes my top 5 most favourite cities in the UK. It has a small town feel (which can be more welcoming and less stressful to get around), and makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time to the medieval era. It’s a majestical and magical little city; not to mention, the capital of Scotland.

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I HAVE A DAY IN EDINBURGH, WHAT SHOULD I SEE?

As my family only had a day in Edinburgh, I constructed  a solid itinerary of things to do and see in Edinburgh for those travellers who are limited of time.

  1. Start with a lovely FREE Tour of Edinburgh! Depending at what time you wake up or arrive in Edinburgh, but a great way to get a feel of Edinburgh and a guided walk of the city is to join the 11am or 2pm FREE tours of Edinburgh. Most cities have these “free” tours, which are one of the best things for those travelling on a budget. These tours are tipped-based, so if you do get a great tour guide, do tip them, because this is how they make a living. These tours can offer a great historical learning experience as most tour guides will delve into the Scottish history while showing you the importance of buildings, monuments and other sights. (To join one of these tours, meet outside the Starbucks on the royal mile before the set time; ask the locals to point you in the right direction if you get lost. It’s in a prime location and is easy to find once you find the royal mile leading up to the Edinburgh Castle.)If you aren’t into history, or don’t find the tour as interesting, don’t be afraid to leave the 2-3 hour tour early. Just inform your tour guide.
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  2. Take a Walk Up The Royal High Mile and Visit St. Giles’ Cathedral Walking up the Royal High Mile is the most historic and scenic route to take in Edinburgh, as it is literally a straight stretch of cobble-stone road that ends at the Edinburgh Castle. The St. Giles’ Cathedral is located on the Royal Mile. The cathedral was on the free tour of Edinburgh, however, if you don’t plan to go on the free tour, do visit this cathedral. If you are into seeing cathedrals, do visit The High Kirk of Edinburgh (formerly named). This cathedral has a very interesting scottish history, and is one of the best cathedrals to see in Edinburgh.
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  3. Calton Hill If you would like to begin your day with a walk, hike, or some sort of exercise, then head on over to Calton Hill. If you don’t have the time or courage to climb Arthur’s Seat, then do make the effort to hike up Calton Hill. It’s only 10% of the effort to climb (as opposed to climbing Arthur’s Seat), and you get the best view of Edinburgh. There are lots of beautiful arches, towers, buildings and monuments on top of Calton Hill, as well as the most breath-taking view of both the old town, and new town of Edinburgh. *Calton Hill is by far my most favourite place to go to in Edinburgh.*976582_10152851288435032_2065276491_o322722_10152152315010032_1938980750_o
  4. The Elephant House Fancy a place to have lunch or dinner in between sightseeing? Check out The Elephant House on George IV street. This intimate restaurant claims to be “The Birthplace of Harry Potter”, and has lots of articles, quotes and photos of J.K. Rowling on the walls. If you use the toilet here, you will notice that the walls are filled with Harry Potter quotes, sayings and fan messages to JK Rowling; it’s interesting to see all the fans that have visited this restaurant from all around the world. The food isn’t focused on Harry Potter-esque meals, but serves delicious wraps, soups and various meals. It’s always a great place to take a break for lunch, and you may even sit in the same seat that JK Rowling, herself, began writing the idea of Harry Potter.413278_10152152308585032_2017410743_o
  5. The Greyfriars Bobby The Greyfriars Bobby is a very tourist-ie sight and is placed in front of Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar. Basically, the historical story goes as follows: Back in the day, the original owner passed away and his dog wouldn’t leave his side or grave for the longest time: 14 years to be exact. Truly this dog exemplifies the stereotype of man’s best friend. Consequently, they kept the restaurant open in memory of him and have a statue of the dog situated in front of Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar ! If you touch the statue of the dog, it’s suppose to bring you good luck, so make sure you visit this sight in Candlemaker Row, off of George IV Bridge.209951_10152152307530032_1417612011_o
  6. The Edinburgh Castle Be aware that you could spend hours at the Edinburgh castle and all that there is to see, read and experience. However, if you just want to see and experience the castle and skim through the reading, then 2-3 hours should be sufficient. The Edinburgh Castle is one of my favourite castles, and highly recommend that every visitor of Edinburgh should visit. Unfortunately, it is fairly expensive to go inside and see the exhibits (including the Scottish Royal Jewels and most interesting Scottish history), so if you are on a budget, just make sure you snap a picture in front of the beautiful castle and experience the view on both sides of the castle. Absolutely breathtaking.176219_10152152312265032_2134796337_o

By The End of the Night, Go To a Scottish Pub Fancy ending your night in Edinburgh by experiencing a Scottish Pub for food or drinks? In terms of food, I have two recommendations: one is an authentic scottish experience, and the other a delicious alternative.

  1. Grassmarket– This area was recommended to me by one of my best friends who lives in Edinburgh. From a wide selection of scottish cuisine (yes, this includes haggis), to traditional pub food, this area has a variety of scottish restaurants that carry a variety of dishes and authentic experiences for everyone and won’t disappoint.
  2. Kismot – This Bangladeshi/Indian restaurant is probably one of the best restaurants I have ever been to in the United Kingdom (and possibly Europe). With the best, polite and humorous service, Kismot carries some of the most delicious dishes my family or I have ever had. The restaurant is owned and ran by a dedicated and polite family who are known for maintaining the #1 most voted restaurant in Edinburgh, according to TripAdvisor. They don’t believe in serving alcohol in the restaurant, but instead, have a BYOB policy, which is one of the most brilliant ideas for those trying to save money. By a bottle of wine, or bring in your own pints, and enjoy some of the best Bangladeshi/Indian dishes you will ever have with the best, and most friendly service. A MUST for those who want to try something different or craving this type of food. Delicious.469178_10152851294745032_1677450337_o

For those wanting to go for a pint or experience some scottish whisky at a local pub. I have two recommendations based on your type of ‘scene’.

  1. For a younger audience, I love going to the Brass Monkey with my friends. With chill music, reasonably priced drinks, and a chilled atmosphere, this pub is by far my favourite place to go for drinks with my mates. It’s not touristy at all, and overall a great place to chill for those into a hip and chilled scene.
  2. For a mature audience, I would suggest a traditional scottish pub in the Grassmarket, such as The Black Bull or The White Hart Inn! There are many choices to choose from in this area, so venture out and try out a few pubs!

It may only seem like a few things to do and see in Edinburgh, but you will be surprised how fast the time goes when you venture to these sights and restaurants as well as indulge in your first scottish experience in Edinburgh.

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If you have any comments or suggestions about going to Edinburgh (How to get there, where to stay, what else to do, etc.), please leave them in the comment section below!

If you have been to Edinburgh, please let me know what your personal favourite things to do, see and eat! If you plan to visit Edinburgh, what are you most excited to see and do?

Check out the video of my first time in Edinburgh here

Categories: Blog, Edinburgh, Fall, Holidays, Night Life, Scotland, Seasons, Spring, Survival Guide, Travel Sights, Travel Tips, United Kingdom, Youtube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Next Stop: Belfast, Northern Ireland

So begins my 10 day tour of Ireland!

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~ Day 1 ~

With Paddy Wagon Tours (which I highly recommend taking if you really want see a lot in Ireland in a short amount of time) we started our day by driving to Belfast, which is actually in Northern Ireland and the only part of Ireland that is sectioned off and part of the UK. Ireland is its own country with euros as their currency, while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and uses pounds. This is a bit of a hassle to carry both euros and pounds, but its interesting at the same time. Not only is currency the only thing that separates Northern Ireland from Ireland, but also the road markings and signs. It’s interesting to note that driving in Ireland, you will have yellow lines on the left side of the road, where all of a sudden, when you enter Northern Ireland, the line turns white; indicating that you are now in a different country. There isn’t really a border or border patrol to enter each country, so that saves you the hassle of talking to the typically scary and intimidating officers at a country’s border.

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At the start of our tour, we stopped in Drogheda to see the preserved head of St. Oliver Plunkett (death: 1681) in St. Peter’s Cathedral. It felt extremely eerie to see an actual head right near theater of the cathedral and I felt weird talking a picture of it, but I did. You know it’s going to be a good day when you start your morning with a viewing of a preserved dead man’s head. Afterwards, we stopped at a really beautiful cemetery called Monasterboice.

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On our drive to Belfast, we had one of the most cheerful, spontaneous and enthusiastic tour guide who sang Irish songs that some people knew, but most people didn’t. He would tell us all about the stories and interesting myths of Ireland and we would all laugh when he said a word that ended in “-th” because the Irish don’t pronounce “-th” and just pronounce the “-t”. For example, the say three as “tree” or say thirty as “terty”. It’s quite humorous fun.

Once we arrived, we all took a Black Taxi Tour around Belfast. This tour option is the cheapest and best way to get around the city. The Black Taxi Tour is the most recommended thing to do in Belfast, and it only costed £8 for each person to get driven around all the unique places of Belfast and told of all the history and events that have taken place around the city.

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Even though it’s the 21st century, there is still religious conflict and riots in Belfast. There have been bombings, gun fires, murders, and distress between the Catholics and Protestants, who a mainly separated from each other in the own encased communities. Literally, there are walls that have been there for decades separating the Catholics and Protestants within the city. You would never have a Protestant living within the Catholic walls, and vice versa.

They have gates within each enclosed community and come Saturday night at 11:59, the gates close for 24 hours. For the entire Sunday, nobody is to leave or enter the gates because it is God’s day. Only one gate is left open for security and evacuation reasons, but still, I could not believe that this is going on in Northern Ireland. There is a peace wall in between the two religious communities with colourful political murals and graffiti where visitors can leave messages of peace and hope for the people of Belfast.

Photo 10-12-2012 09 01 17After the Black Taxi tour, we all went to the Christmas market. After we all got hot drinks and Christmas goodies, we began our walk around the city. Some people went to the Titanic museum, but it was beyond my money budget (plus I’ve already been to a lot of titanic museums). On the walk around the city, we saw the city centre, city hall, Albert clock, and Europia (the most bombed hotel in Europe).

Photo 10-12-2012 09 03 24Across from the hotel was a convenient store that sold something surprising and amazing: Tim Hortons. This was the only place in Ireland and in the UK where I saw Tim Hortons being sold. Tim Hortons is a very Canadian novelty and seeing Timmy’s in another country made me feel like I was back home again in Canada. I miss my Tim Hortons.

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In the evening, all the paddy wagoners went out Photo 10-12-2012 11 01 22for dinner at an Irish pub and had a great time getting to know everyone. The hostel we stayed at was the sketchiest hostel I’ve ever stayed at. Barely any of keys would work and one room had to get the door broken into, because the none of the keys would work. I also had these guys knocking on the window in the middle of the night asking me to let them in, because they forgot their key. We were told not to let anyone from the outside in, because the last time some foolish tourist did that…

The outcome was horrific.

Important travel tip:

Bring Earplugs. They were literally a godsend with people knocking on the nearby window and the restless noises of 11 other people in your 12 person room. Perks of staying at a hostel for cheap.

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Overall, Belfast was full of surprises, turmoil, history, and even beauty. If you are one for religious and political conflicts or the history surrounding it, check out Belfast, because although it’s the 21st century, it seems like they still live in the 19th or 20th century. It’s quite an interesting and unique city.

Check out my journey in Dublin, Ireland

Check out Day 2 on my Paddy Wagon Tour!

Categories: Autumn, Belfast, Blog, Canada, Dublin, Fall, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Seasons, Survival Guide, Travel Sights, Travel Tips, United Kingdom, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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