The time has come to get yourself ready for an eventful Scottish getaway as Edinburgh Fringe Festival has started; literally eventful- as most artists and tourists all over the world are coming into the cultural melting pot of Scotland. Edinburgh can be potentially crowded and expensive especially in the month of July and August. With many landmarks and unique architecture to unfold, with world class festivals that dominates the city, you might want to consider some of the factors like the costs of transportation, availability of the hotel, and what’s going on.
Being a tourist can be one of the best feelings you can experience, because you have nothing to worry about while you’re in “Vacation mode”-but sometimes be sure to soak up the scenes and experiences like a local does is all you need. I have put together some great ideas on how you can have a real authentic Scottish experience in Edinburgh.
Let’s start with breakfast:
Woke up and started my morning with a very filling and full Scottish breakfast prepared by my Host, Karen. Full is definitely what you will feel after the last bite of black pudding. Some people might not fancy having black pudding as the ingredients sounded sickening; pigs’ blood,oats, fats, barley and spices, all stuffed in a pig’s intestine. But I honestly enjoyed it, it tastes like a local cuisine back home in the Philippines called “dinuguan”. She also made a really nice strong coffee to kick start my day and offered me a pot of yoghurt. It was such a huge meal in the morning, so I was good until afternoon tea and I didn’t spend much for my lunch.
Let’s explore the city
Karen’s house is 20 minutes away from the city centre so I had to take a bus to get to the centre. I bought an all-day ticket for 4pounds so I can use it with any of the local buses in the city. I got off at Princes Street and made my way to the Scotts Monument.
I visited Princes Street to delight myself with the monuments and architecture in the area. Scotts Monument stands in Princes Street Garden near the Waverly Train Station; this is one of the first things you will notice when you get out of the train station. Scotts Monument commemorates Sir Walter Scott, an author of great Scottish literature, and it is considered as one of the world’s largest monument to a writer in the world. George Meikle Kemp, a self-taught architect built this 200ft high sandstone monument with a Victorian Gothic design. As i took in the aura of the building, I wandered around and took some photos. But if your feeling fit enough to climb 287 steps to the top you will have a fantastic clear view of Edinburgh Castle that makes it more than worth the effort to get to the top.
Admission: 5 pounds
I just stayed below so it’s free.
Scottish National Gallery
If art is more of your thing, The Scottish National Gallery houses some of the nations finest collections of art there since the Renaissance period. Famous art pieces like “The Madonna and Child” by Lorenzo Monaco and Jacopo Basano’s “The Good Samaritan” are worth visiting. As time goes by, they add more collections of modern and contemporary art to inspire young audiences from all over the world.
Admission: Free*Princes Street
It is well worth strolling along Princes Street to have a look at it’s stunning monuments to fill your mind with Scottish History
Lunch in Edinburgh is best enjoyed in Princes Park. With the British classic fish and chips and an ice cold beer, in the height of summer is highly recommended.
After I finished my quick refreshment, I started walking to the opposite side of the road heading to East Princes Street. Along the way I’ve stopped to watch some of Edinburgh Fringe’s live performances on the street, which was excellent and did not cost a thing!
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival
It is the world’s largest arts festival that features thousands of artists and performers around the globe. It lasts for 25 days in the month of August. It showcases many different types of performances from comedy, dance, musicals, theatre, music, opera, circus,and the likes. You can see the participants along the Royal Mile as this is the permanent place for the Fringe Festival.
- The big four (10-20pounds) they occupy the large venue and lasts for a good hour. They specialise in Comedy and has been performing for more than 15 years.
- Other paid-venue (5-7 pounds) the mid-range operators performing on the several room and specialises on a particular genre.
- Free venues (donations) It’s up to you how much you can stretch to donate, They perform for free and let people give a donation at the end of the show. They usually operate in pubs or clubs or venues that are free to use as it is a way of getting people in drinks and generating revenue.
- Pay what you want- you could pay how much you want at the end of the play.
Admission: Free. I just watched some street performances.
Walking along the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is about Mile long as what the name says. It can be very crowded during the Fringe period, as they make this a permanent venue of the festival. Avoid the chain stores if you want to buy some souvenirs as the price does tend to go up depending on the location. Alternatively, you could head along to local shops in Grassmarket and Lawnmarket and save your pennies for some more exciting things to do. Want to feel like a real Scots man or lady? Grab yourself a pulled pork and haggis served in a soft brown roll, or try to find a local pub that serves Haggis, Nippies and Tatties. Haggis consists of sheep offal mixed with oats, onion and spices traditionally serve with mashed Nippies (turnips) and Tatties (Potatoes).
There’s a lot of things you need to take note of while walking the along the Royal Mile, as you walk along there are several streets which connect to the Royal Mile such as Lawnmarket, Castlehill, High Street, Abby Strand, and Cannongate. At one end is where the Castle stands and at the other end is the well-kept Holyrood Palace. Royal Mile is also rich with history, it is very recognisable due to it’s geographical location, because of glacial activity in the Ice Age period and became the place, where the open trading market was located in the 11th century.
There are also some little details to see in Royal mile that give us more knowledge about their culture and history, like the golden eagle, the water fountain that sustained and poisoned the medieval town, the world’s end close that was considered as the poorest area long time ago, and most of all the cobblestones that were used for pavements, streets, and buildings.
The Edinburgh Castle
After being pushed and hit like a punch bag along the crowded street of Royal Mile, I finally made my way up to the castle. Edinburgh castle is one of the most beautiful castles in the UK, sitting on top of a rock formed from a volcanic eruption in the Ice age period. Nowadays, It’s the venue for the famous Military Tattoo, that happens annually to designates Military exhibitions, the one o’clock gun that happens every 13:00 daily (except on Sundays and Bank Holidays) as a time signal for the ships in the harbour of Leith and the Firth of Forth,and it is also the main place for the annual fireworks display for the New Year’s celebrations.
Way back then, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical wars and claimed to be one of the most besieged place in Great Britain and most attacked fortress in the world.
Unfortunately, I didn’t managed to go inside and explore the castle. As I can possibly spend all day reading the history of the whole place. But if you have a love affair with History, it is worth a visit because it has a very interesting story to unfold. It opens from 09:30 and until 18:00 and last entry to the castle is at 17:00.
Admission: 16.50pounds/adult and 9pounds/child
I just stayed outside and it was FREE.
The Holyrood Palace
After I visited the castle, I walked to the other end of the Royal mile and ended up in Abby Strand Street to see the Holyrood Palace.
It is the official residence of the British Royal family in Scotland. This Georgian and Jacobean architectural building is one of the main venues for royal gatherings and ceremonies. Along with Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, the Holyrood Palace is open to public managed by the Royal Collection Trust. Opens daily from 09:30AM until 18:00, last entry is at 16:30. The tour lasts for a good hour and a half.
Admission: Ticket ranges from 12pounds to 20pounds for an adult depending on combined tour chosen. You can have an option of visiting the Holyrood Palace, Queen’s Gallery, and a Garden History Tour.
Opposite the Holyrood Palace is the Scottish Parliament. I’m not going to talk about politics because it ambiguous.
The Dynamic Earth
Here is the eye catching building of Dynamic Earth. It is a Science Mu-seum that provides better insights about Big Bang theory, volcanic erup-tion, and glaciation. Open daily from 10:00AM until 17:30PM.
Admission: 13.50pounds/adult and 9pounds/child
With it’s 250metres elevation, it is the highest point in the city. It is where you will find the best panoramic view of Edinburgh and it is more stunning when the sun is setting. If you’re feeling brave, you can climb the grassy slope on the east side, and don’t ever complain about the shaky legs after seeing the spectacular view from above.
On top of Calton Hill
After walking around the Holyrood area, I made my way up to the famous Calton Hill. Aside from Arthur’s seat, it is also one of the best spots to view the city minus the shaky legs. There are important landmarks on top of the hill such as the Dugald Stewart Monument, the National Monument, and the Nelson Monument. These landmarks gives justice to the beauty of Edinburgh city for being known as The Athens of the North.
The Dugald Stewart Monument
The monument commemorates the Scottish Philosopher Dugald Stewart. It was designed with architecture of ancient Greece by William Henry Playfair, the same person who planned the National Monument.
The Scottish National Monument
It was built to pay tribute to the heroism of Scottish soldiers fallen in the Napoleonic war. A chip off old block of the Parthenon of Athens that could give you a good feeling about Greek architecture,but due to lack of funds it was left unfinished. But on the positive side, its a great place to relax and be sociable.
The Nelson Monument
The monument was constructed to pay homage to Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson’s victory at the battle of Trafalgar. The monument is 32 metres high, and gives you a spectacular view of the city and the sea. It looks like an upturned telescope with a time ball on top that dropped from atop for One O’clock Gun to give signal to ships at the anchorage of Leith and Firth of Forth. If you’re fit enough you can climb the tower which has 170 spiral steps and a small trapdoor leading to the observation deck. Open to public from Monday to Saturday, 10:00am until 15:00.
Admission: 4pounds/ adult or child
After a very long day in Edinburgh…
For a truly local experience, I headed to St.Andrew Square after watch-ing the soul-stirring sunset for some delicious casual fare. You can trust that the locals know where to go for some homestyle cooking. Don’t for-get to sup your pint with some city’s craft beer like Pilot’s Mochaccino Stout or Campervan’s Blonde Voyage. You will also find some musicians and performers ramping up the atmosphere. Sit back, relax, and enjoy people watching.
The key here is to fully immerse yourself to the culture of a place you are visiting. You can dedicate your day for local vibes and forget the up-scale environment for some tourists. Staying with local residents will give you local insights about their lifestyle and they will make sure to give you a day you’ll love.Explore and get lost, it’s time to ditch your guide book.If you’re struggling looking for a particular place why not ask a local, this could be a good chance to get some great ideas of what’s on. Make your trip memorable and this will change your way of thinking .One day, I will remember sitting on top of Calton hill watching the beau-tiful Scottish sunset.
So, how are you going to spend your day in Edinburgh?
About the Writer
Arione Stewart’s passion for travel was ignited when she persuaded her mother to allow her to leave her home in the Philippines and go study for a post graduate degree in England. She then braved the uncertainties of a complex, new environment living in a new country, and exploring a new culture, which has become now her second home. Her feet has been itchy ever since and luckily, being a free spirited person allows her to indulge her travel lust. Always yearning for nothing but a sack on her back and shoes on her feet (sometimes). She has been to over 30 countries and still craving for more adventures. For a long time living abroad, Arione used to dread being asked: ‘Where do you come from?”, to which she learned to reply, “I’m a citizen of the world!”