It is hard to believe it is drawing close to almost two-years ago now, but with the Edinburgh Fringe kicking off this month, I though I’d revisit some of my own memories from Scotland’s creative capital. Back in December 2015, I was hurriedly handing in the last of my university assignments, in preparation for my first visit to Edinburgh. Throughout my childhood, my family and I would visit bonnie Scotland regularly, as it was an easy to reach holiday on the ferry from Belfast. But we never got as far as Edinburgh, it was always Ayrshire or Glasgow, never further.
I found it hard to conceal my excitement at the prospect, the festive break was welcomed further by the fact it broke up the first term of my final year. Though, in honesty, it wasn’t plain sailing, with our trouble starting before we’d even left England. Dashing up to security, fearing we were running late for our flight, I took a glance over our boarding passes, only to find myself confudled by the printed dates. I began to doubt the return airline ticket matched with the check-out date of our hotel. Flooded by a sudden state of panic, I wasn’t going to turn back now, we were already in the queue and I wasn’t going to let my vacation pass me by. My partner suggested we go back, I stated it was paid for now, that we might as well go and try and sort it with the airline on the other side. To my partner’s dismay I got my way and so haphazardly made off for Edinburgh anyway.
Upon landing we tried to grasp our bearings and attempted to sort out our ticket problem at the airline desk. In the end we were going to be quite a bit worse off in our pockets, but doggedly determined, I found the extra day a sort of blessing in disguise. In the end, we avoided the extra airfare and instead agreed to pay for an extra night in a Travelodge, leaving the sore point settled.
We boarded a bus and set off for the city, entering through the industrial backstreets and onto Princes Street, where we were treated to a first glimpse of Edinburgh Castle. I tried to contain my excitement. As we had timed our visit in the run-up to the festive season, we were greeted by the colourful sight of Edinburgh’s Winter Wonderland, which sprawled out across the gardens by Waverley Station.
We were lucky enough to have stayed close to Waverley, at the edge of the old town, which was an ideal location from which to explore both sides of the historic city. Admittedly, it was the old town that I really wanted to venture through first. So, in the evening we set about wandering the city’s cobbled streets, venturing into cathedrals and past secret eerie stairwells, shadowed under the light of the moon.
We didn’t get an opportunity to explore the interior walls of the castle grounds, but did venture up the steep hill to the gateway, which boasted star-lit views over the city, to the all encompassing green hillocks beyond. Perplexed by the silhouettes in the dark, I took a few moments to gaze at the skies.
Another special feature that was around for the festive season, was the Virgin Money ‘Street of Light’ tunnel. The vivid spectacle draws in crowds for its daily light shows, wowing visitors with its LED display, led along with festive sounds. We visited at dusk and found ourselves in a good position to view, stood by the bottom entrance on George Street.
One of my true highlights however, was our trip to The Elephant Café. As an avid writer and keen Potterhead, it was a personal dream to pop-by the café in which JK Rowling is claimed to have written many of the scenes from her fantasy series. We were lucky to be seated at a spacious table towards the back, where large windows give views toward the back of Edinburgh Castle. Whilst there you must check out the toilets, I ‘ll not tell you why (I’ll keep that as a surprise for you to uncover), but I must also add, that their hot chocolate is highly recommended!
Unfortunately ongoing deadlines for uni, meant we were often tied by time, having to cut-short our excursions to find nearby wifi in branded coffee chains, but at least the likes of Starbucks had winning views (over the castle, no less). Honestly, I fell in love with the hickledy pickledy layout of the stores here. Admittedly, not great if you don’t do stairs, but the architectural design gave a slight variation on the small, confined branches found elsewhere at home.
We also found some time to wander up to Calton Hill, where we took in the scenic views across the rooftops of Edinburgh and out to the Firth of Forth. The weather as you could expect up north in winter, was bleak (you may notice from the photos), it would be wonderful to revisit on a brighter day and spend more time upon the hill.
Before we left for home, we of-course made time to wander round the rides and wares of the Winter Wonderland. I sampled some gorgeous mini apple strudel pancakes and we had fun drinking on the carousel bar. There was a great chill however and at one point I starting losing all sensation in my hands (despite my mittens). Sore though I was, it doubled up as an ideal excuse to check-out the Baileys tree-house and warm my icy being with a hot shot of chocolate liqueur. I’ve got to say that there was a good selection of craft and food stalls, which can be hard to find at other Christmas markets, we were well catered for and the layout of the paths in the gardens made the layout easy to follow as well.
I did enjoy Edinburgh, I just wish we’d had more time to cross off other iconic sites, such as Arthur’s Seat, or walk round the Royal Yacht Britannia. We sadly didn’t even find the time to check out of the old-worldy pubs off the Royal Mile. Never mind, it all serves to an ample excuse to re-visit again in future and I’ll know my way around at least! Maybe I best check the dates on my flights match my hotel booking next time though!