Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!

We packed for Scotland expecting this:

scottish-seasons

But once we landed, it seemed like we completely lucked out (minus a minor plane mishap). We were welcomed by sunny blue skies and started stripping layers faster than well, fill in the blank. After dumping our stuff at our hotel, we immediately set out to explore Edinburgh’s charming Old Town, heading westward down the Royal Mile – the famous street that runs horizontally through Edinburgh.

I fell in love with the historic Old Town, preferring it to the New Town’s wide boulevards and grid layout. Although the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe Festival didn’t start until the end of the week, the streets were already teeming with tourists and street performers warming up their acts.

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Edinburgh’s charming Old Town – the center of Edinburgh life until the latter half of the eighteenth century when construction on the New Town began.

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A bird hanging out with St. Giles’ Cathedral in the background.

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The famous Scottish economist and a personal favorite of mine. LOOK AT THAT BLUE SKY!!!!

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Bagpipers – of course!

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Street performers getting ready for Edinburgh’s festivals.

The west end of the Royal Mile collides with Edinburgh’s most famous and imposing site – Edinburgh Castle. The castle is not just a pretty tourist attraction. It was the royal residence for Scotland’s kings and queens and played a crucial role in the many battles between Scotland and England. Built on volcanic rock, the castle provided an obvious strategic advantage. It is not surprising that it is one of the most besieged places in the world. Warning: With the pound’s soaring value, admission is a pricey 30 U.S. dollars.

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Drumroll please – entrance to Edinburgh Castle.

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Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle provides stunning views of the city – when the weather cooperates – and its many landmarks. Touring Edinburgh Castle on our first day was a great way to orient ourselves and get a sense of the city. Here is a helpful map:

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You can make out a lot of Edinburgh’s key landmarks in this photo. The funky, gothic spire on the left is Scott Monument, honoring the writer Sir Walter Scott. According to Wikipedia, it is the largest monument to a writer in the world. The ugly railway area is Waverly Station – named after Scott’s most famous novel. The imposing building with the clock tower is the ritzy Balmoral Hotel. The museum building in the left-hand corner is the Scottish National Gallery. And in the distance you can make out Nelson Monument high up on Calton Hill.

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Here we are looking down on Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh’s New Town. Even from this height, you can notice how starkly different the New Town looks from its older counterpart.

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The New Town’s grid structure and wide boulevards

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A view of the New Town with Scott Monument and the ferris wheel dominating the skyline.

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Looking north on the New Town and westward toward outer Edinburgh.

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Looking out towards Old Town.

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It was a struggle to get pictures of the castle without random people in them. Here is a valiant attempt.

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The Scottish National War Memorial

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In the 17th century, Edinburgh Castle was used primarily as military barracks. The accommodations were not exactly five star.

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One of the rooms inside the Royal Palace

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Stained glass windows in the Royal Palace.

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Hanging out on a cannon, because, well, why not?

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I managed to convince Lisa to climb up here with me. I can be very persuasive.

@Lisa Prison - Edinburgh

Lisa taking a nap in the military jail. At this point we had not slept in over 24 hours.

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Me taking a silly picture in the bread oven at the military barracks.

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18 thoughts on “Scotland #1: Welcome to Edinburgh!

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