Edinburgh is such a magical place.
Though every city is different in its own right, I can honestly say that Edinburgh is so stunning, so full of sights, so full of Harry Potter connections, so whimsical, that it’s my new favourite place in the whole wide world.
I still absolutely love London and everything it entails, but Edinburgh has it beat just because of its insanely gorgeous landscapes. The crags, castles on each side of the bridge (one is Holyrood House), and the utter beauty of the University of Edinburgh (Iggy, do you realise how lucky you were to study here for a year?!) – I was mesmerised.
The 6:30am train journey from York was absolutely stunning – though I was bummed that it was still dark when we passed Newcastle, and I didn’t realise it was a pretty amazing city that I overlooked and didn’t put in my itinerary. Next time perhaps – there’s never enough time to see every single place.
It was apparent that we had crossed the Scottish border from England since there were suddenly crags, a beautiful coastline, and rolling green hills, similar to New Zealand. Quite frankly, countryside out here is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen – I can’t really describe how it makes me feel so happy, but it just does. It’s also strange since it’s still so similar to England – but different in its own way.
I was a bit overwhelmed when I got off at Edinburgh Waverley station – I only had 10 min. to grab my adjoining train to Haymarket (which I could have walked, but with my stupid suitcase, it just makes everything a nuisance) and definitely almost missed it by a hair. Waverley is the biggest station I’ve been in thus far (about 20 platforms and a lot less signage than London), so I stood there looking like an idiot before finding my correct platform.
I didn’t know what to expect upon arriving in Edinburgh. I was so focused on England and had heard from many friends that Scotland was their favourite, but I was gutted to leave England (I’ll still pass through several times on my way to Wales and late Feb. as well). Before reaching Victoria St., the buildings and streets looked quite similar to everything I had seen in England – but then I saw the Edinburgh Castle sitting atop a giant hill, right in the city centre, and I was sold.
My first two hours in the city were spent racing around finding Harry Potter-related things, since J.K. Rowling moved to Edinburgh in the ’90s and therefore is connected to half the landmarks. For example – Victoria Street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley (as was the “AHAHAHA” joke shop, which Zonko’s Joke Shop and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes was probably modelled after); The Elephant House was “the birthplace of Harry Potter;” Spoon cafe was where Rowling wrote the first book; The Balmoral is the hotel where Rowling finished the last book; Greyfriar’s Kirkyard has a Tom Riddell gravestone (not quite Tom Riddle but close enough for fans to acknowledge that it’s almost Voldemort); Potterow of University of Edinburgh (the college Rowling studied at for a bit); and George Heriot’s School, which Hogwarts may have been modelled after.
I tried proper haggis in The Elephant House (it was delicious) and then went crazy on Google Maps just wandering everywhere as mentioned above. Edinburgh seems incredibly massive, when in reality it’s not – it takes a maximum of 25 min to walk from one end of the city to another, so you never have too far to walk. Or maybe it’s because all the landmarks are laid out really close to each other? Anyhow, I was constantly amazed with every corner I turned.
Calton Hill is my favourite. The landmarks on the hill are also pretty amazing – Nelson Monument and the National Monument (honouring those killed in the Napoleonic Wars). The panoramic view is just like Mount Victoria in Wellington. I’ll have to go back during the day since I only saw the view at night, which was still breathtaking. I loved it so much that I even went back at 11pm, when no one else was up there, just for some personal reflection and to take it in that I was actually on this dream trip of mine. Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m here. It’s going to be so hard to leave.
While I also don’t like museums that much, the National Museum of Scotland (all museums here are free!) is a beauty. One side of its interior looks like a Victorian palace, another is a section dedicated to historical artifacts and animals. My favourite was the science & technology wing (aka the kid-friendly section). I just can’t get over how beautiful everything is in the UK – American museums aren’t even half as nice (and we don’t have the history for anything either).
Edinburgh Castle was absolutely incredible. How many city centres have a GIANT castle perched on a hill?! Plus, the fact that it’s filled with so much history dating back to the 1700s is just surreal. I was still bloody terrible with reading all the signage in the war museum, royal military museum, etc. but enjoyed pottering around just admiring all the displays. Castles make my eyes light up with glee.
I began realising halfway through the day that Edinburgh is like the UK’s Melbourne – except better. Princes Street is almost identical to Flinders St., except that only one side of the street is dedicated to shops (with the same Victorian-type buildings) and the other has Princes Street Gardens with the castle as its backdrop. Pretty striking. The trams on Princes St. and its quick pace just reinforced its similarity to Melbourne.
The energy was a bit different, though – very laid back in comparison to Melbourne and London (obviously not as chaotic as London). I was surprised by how quiet the city seemed around 8pm – perhaps because it’s winter (even though it’s a really mild winter). I think the city is buzzing during festivals and other seasons, but it just depends. It’s still very much a magical place, and I finally understand why so many love it.
My evening ended with my friend’s old flatmate who currently lives in Edinburgh, and we chatted over delicious pizza and drinks in Haymarket. I’m coming back for Burns Night next week and then staying for four more nights (with a day trip to Glasgow). Not sure if that’s too much in one spot (like my entire week in London), but at least I absolutely love the place. I figure that one could spend a whole year in Edinburgh and still not see everything it has to offer – that’s my impression of it. Such a stunner of a city.
Touché, Edinburgh xx