I'm a bit of a history geek. If this blog hasn't clued you in yet, now you know. I was the kid who dressed up as Anne Boleyn for halloween (okay, so I technically bought a "Juliet" costume and made some modifications to make it more accurate) and desperately wanted to be connected somehow to one of history's juicier bits of drama. Moral of the story: my obsession with history started young and shows no sign of slowing down. I while I was back in the States for Christmas, I saw Mary, Queen of Scots, which fueled my fire for this trip. I was so ready to see for myself where Mary lived the later part of her life as a controversial queen. Scotland was the perfect place for me to unashamedly nerd out about all the important historical figures who had once walked where I stood.
The city's castle has the most extensive (and expensive!) exhibit that I saw while I was in Edinburgh. I would recommend allotting at least two hours to truly take it all in. The variety of the collections at the castle was mind-boggling and there was really something for everyone. From historical prisons to stunning architecture, opulent living quarters to crown jewels, the castle would be a fantastic place to go if you're traveling with your family. I loved the simplicity of the royal honors and the rugged mysticism of the Stone of Destiny used in the coronation of Scottish and later British monarchs. It's only removed from Scotland to be taken to Westminster Abbey for coronations. I also was lucky enough to be there at sunset and got to take in some spectacular views of the city. I ended up paying for an audioguide, which I'm honestly not sure I needed. There are so many places with descriptions that I could have saved the three pounds and gone on my own.
The Royal Mile and Adjoining Streets
The Royal Mile stretches the length between the Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood. I'd definitely recommend walking it in its entirety and exploring a lot of the side streets. While shopping on this street can get unnecessarily expensive, many of the side streets offer locally-owned, small businesses that offer some really beautiful products for souvenirs. For me, the Royal Mile worked merely as a scenic footpath to home back to during my day. If you're into the more quirky, millennial minimalist aesthetic, definitely go to Miss Katie Cupcake. They have a beautifully curated selection of home decor, jewelry, body care and more. And the staff is super friendly. I'm thankful I packed pretty tightly in my backpack, or else I'd probably have spent too much money. Another local shop I'd recommend is Swish, on Victoria Street. They have lovely, high-quality clothing if you're like me and packed inappropriately for the Scottish weather. Victoria Street also brings you into Haymarket, where there are wonderful restaurants and vintage stores.
Holyrood was my favorite historical tour. Probably because this was where Mary Queen of Scots spent so much of her time. There are no pictures allowed on the inside, so you'll simply have to go see it yourself. I felt like this was the most polished royal site I saw in Edinburgh, showcasing royal living quarters and dining rooms and galleries. The audio guide with this tour was included in the ticket price and helped me understand so much more about this castle. Fun fact: the king's bedroom on the ceremonial walk was not actually where he slept. It was merely a show of wealth and power, and monarchs preferred to sleep in smaller, more modest chambers. Holyrood is also the site of the ruined Holyrood Abbey which was chillingly beautiful. I stood in awe of the massive, crumbling facade that was so beautiful in its own way. This was the best part of the whole tour. The larger park surrounding Holyrood is open to the public and also the easiest way to climb Arthur's Seat if you're looking for a fun and potentially scary challenge-- wear your hiking boots if this is part of your plan, and be ready to feel like you're being blown off the side of the hill!
Of all the things I can tell you I saw, it's so incredibly difficult to tell you how Edinburgh made me feel. There's something about the city that can only be felt. I felt wild and powerful and independent and somehow deeply connected to the history that makes Edinburgh so wonderful. The friendliness of the people fosters this sense of community that I, as a perpetual outsider, have yet to find anywhere. This is a city that makes you take a deep breath, what feels like the deepest in weeks and set off into the great unknown, a spring in your step and a grin that almost cracks your face in two. I don't know what I was expecting to find in Edinburgh, but this was a beautiful, fulfilling gift of grace I had no idea I needed.