In February 2017, (I know, I’m a bit behind…) with my travel partner in tow, we said goodbye to our home in Leeds and travelled even further north, where we spent two days exploring and experiencing the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.
I’d never been to Scotland before and was eager to experience the home of Loch Ness, haggis, golf, Shetland ponies and David Tennant. It was a country that had long been on my bucket list and I was very excited to have the chance to dip a toe in its pool, even if only for two days.
The weekend of our visit was cold and cloudy, and the wind blew with serious force. It was exactly the weather you’d expect when visiting moody and medieval Edinburgh, which only added to the mystic of the city. For two days, we crisscrossed the capital: from New Town to Old, from Edinburgh Castle to Carlton’s Hill, seeing all the sight, eating all the food, and experiencing as much of the city as we could.
Here is the Petite Adventures Guide to Two Days in Edinburgh.
From Leeds, UK, the easiest way to get to Edinburgh is by train. The trip takes just under three hours and the views of the East Coast and the countryside are spectacular. Trains run frequently from all major UK hubs and if booked far enough in advance, the fares are quite reasonable.
We booked our journey with Virgin Trains and it was delightful. The train was comfortable, the trip was fast and we arrived at Edinburgh Waverly Road Station, which is located right in the centre of Edinburgh. Overall, I had no complaints. In fact, the trip only further reinforced how much I enjoy travelling by train.
One of the advantages of travelling by train was that Dave and I could use our Two Together Rail Card, which saved us more than £86 off our tickets! The Two Together Rail Card costs just £30 for the whole year and saves you at least 1/3 off tickets when you and the person you travel with most travel together. We were reluctant to buy the card at first, worrying that we wouldn’t make use of it enough but the savings for this trip alone made it worth it. Beyond Edinburgh, we used the card for day trips, trips to London, the Manchester Airport and more. In the end, it was not only worth it but we kicked ourselves for not making the investment sooner. (This is honestly not an ad for the card; I just think it’s such a worthwhile investment for any couple or two people that travel together often by train in the UK).
What To See
The Old Town of Edinburgh represents the historical centre of the city and is home to the city’s most iconic attractions, from the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle. It’s cobblestone streets and alleyways are surrounded by medieval stone buildings, each of which burst with history, with every brick telling a different story.
Old Town is also home to a myriad of shops, pubs, restaurants and more, making it a great place to while away an afternoon, basking in the city’s history.
The New Town of Edinburgh represents the historical extension of Old Town that occurred in the late 18th century during the Georgian Period. Built in a very easy to navigate grid pattern, New Town is home to Edinburgh’s main commercial and business district. It is also where you will find attractions such as the Scott Monument, Carlton Hill, and the National Gallery of Scotland.
Edinburgh’s New Town is the city’s shopping district. From high street shops to high-end boutiques, if you’re looking to expand your wardrobe, Edinburgh’s New Town is the place to do it.
Whether sightseeing or shopping, New Town is the perfect place to spend an afternoon wandering the streets and experiencing modern Edinburgh.
The Royal Mile is a one-mile long road stretching throughout Old Town, starting at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and terminating at Edinburgh Castle.
The Royal Mile is home to sights such as the Scottish Parliament, St. Giles’ Cathedral, as well as a number of restaurants bars and shops. If you’re looking to pick up a souvenir from your trip to Edinburgh, there is no shortage of shops on the Royal Mile.
Situated on one of the city’s tallest hills at the end of the Royal Mile sits the magnificent Edinburgh Castle. Dating back to the 12th century, Edinburgh Castle has been continuously in use for more than 1,000 years. The castle, which is still in excellent condition, both inside and out, is open for tours throughout the year. If you’re not interested in learning more about the castle’s history, it’s still well worth a visit just to take in the views of the city below.
Arthur’s Seat stands 250.5 meters above Edinburgh, providing stunning and panoramic views of the city, the surrounding countryside and beyond. From what I’ve read, it’s an awesome sight and a definite can’t miss on any trip to Edinburgh (unless you’re me…)
One of my biggest regrets from our trip to Edinburgh is that I didn’t climb Arthur’s Seat and take it all in. I wrote about the experience here, but to recap: it was windy, my fear of heights kicked in, and I wussed out big time. Scaredy Kate 1: Brave Kate 0.
Although I didn’t make it to the top on my first visit to Edinburgh, on my next visit, I most certainly plan to climb all the way to the top and strike a mean power pose.
Carlton Hill is home to some of Edinburgh’s most iconic monuments, including The National Monument, the Nelson Monument and the Stewart Dugald Monument. Beyond these historic sights, Carlton Hill offers some incredibly impressive views of Edinburgh, the Castle as well as the surrounding countryside. The walk up the hill isn’t very strenuous or long, so it’s well worth a visit.
What to Eat
At the time of this writing, it’s been nearly a year since our visit and I can’t for the life of me remember where we ate, although I do have very fond memories of what we ate. So, instead of recommending restaurants or cafes, I thought I would recommend foods you just can’t leave Edinburgh without trying.
Haggis is a food that gets a really bad rap and understandably so. It is a dish comprised of sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs) boiled inside a sheep’s stomach alongside onions, oatmeal, and spices. Let’s be honest is not the most appetizing description, but trust me, if you can get beyond the basics of what haggis is, you’re in for a real treat. This dish, which is traditionally served with bashed neeps and tatties, is savoury, flavourful, and filling. It’s the perfect meal to eat after a long day of exploring in the cold, or before a long night in a warm pub.
Salmon, Scallops and Seafood Galore!
Thanks to its location surrounded by the sea, Scotland is the perfect place to sample fresh seafood, be it salmon, scallops, sea bass or shellfish. Whether you prefer it fresh, cured or raw, Edinburgh is host to a number of restaurants that can cater to your every taste.
Whisky is synonymous with Edinburgh and Scotland, and no trip to the city would be complete without sampling some of the local favourites.
Where to Stay
For our two days in the city, we chose to stay at the Travelodge Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh. Located just off the Royal Mile in Old Town, the Travelodge Edinburgh Central was a short walking distance to everything we needed for the perfect city break, including restaurants and bars, attractions, the train station and beyond! Seriously, everything we wanted to see, do and experience was just a few steps from our door.
Not only was the location great but our room was comfortable, quiet, clean and warm – which are really the most important features of any hotel.
On top of a great location and an awesome room, we were both really impressed with the morning breakfast offering, which we added to our Hotels.com booking for a nominal fee. The food, which ranged from eggs and sausage to fruits and vegetables, was hot, fresh, tasty, and plentiful, and laid the perfect foundation for a cold day of exploring the city.
While our two-day stay in Edinburgh was amazing, it wasn’t nearly enough. The city has so much to offer that we could have easily spent a week there without running out of activities to do, sights to see and food to eat. Although we won’t be returning to the UK for quite some time, I’m already looking forward to my next visit to the city and to exploring more of Scotland.
Have you been to Edinburgh? What do you recommend?
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