Edinburgh; the heart of Scotland, the capital city and one place on my bucket list I just could not ignore.
I’ve been drawn the city and its architecture since my days playing PGR2 on the Xbox 360, where you’re given the chance to drive along Princes Street up towards Royal Mile and back around. Now, not everyone can say a travel destination was earmarked because of a video game…
Being based in Cornwall, the long 500-mile journey involves a three and a half hour car journey to Bristol followed by a short 45-minute flight to Edinburgh Airport – an absolute bargain at £60 return.
Transfers are easy as pie thanks to the Airlink buses which take you right into the heart of Edinburgh and onto multiple connections, we decided to walk to our accommodation from Princes Street. Based next to Surgeon’s Hall, we were actually on Edinburgh University campus and just a 10-minute walk from Royal Mile.
The accommodation itself was self-catering, comprising of a self-contained mini-flat complete with small kitchenette area and a mezzanine bedroom with storage.
The main aim of our trip was to see a panda and on our first full day in the city, we were on a bus full of commuters, en route to see Edinburgh Zoo’s resident pandas: Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine).
With scheduled viewing times for prepaid visitors only, we were first in line to see them in all their glory.
Unfortunately, the female, Tian Tian wasn’t out in her enclosure but the male, Yang Guang was out and chomping his way through and absolute forest of bamboo.
We were given a talk from one of the handlers, who was able to answer all the questions thrown at her!
Have to admit, I was in awe when I first saw Yang Guang – 21 stone of bear just sat there completely ignoring us, despite being timid creatures.
Although the general consensus of zoos isn’t always wholly positive, there’ve been some fantastic efforts to increase panda populations in China and the research carried out at Edinburgh being a key part of that.
The rest of the zoo is pretty expansive, set on a hillside you’ve got to be prepared to get a hike on but there’s a range of animals if captive animals are on your to-do list.
With that done we were able to fully roam the city and take in the culture – which actually meant visiting the mainstream restaurants we don’t have in Cornwall.
Sad as it sounds, we’re somewhat deprived of them down in the far reaches of the South West, so sadly I can’t report on any local delicacies (other than lemon flavoured shortbread).
Royal Mile is simply gorgeous, albeit rammed with tourists, it makes taking in the buildings all the easier as everyone else is too!
You can definitely see the inspiration J.K. Rowling took from Edinburgh whilst writing the Harry Potter books, there are hints of Diagon Alley around every corner as you meander through the cobbled streets.
Away from Royal Mile and towards Princes Street, you’re reminded of the proud Scottish history at every turn, not unlike being in Cornwall; Celtic brethren showing off their roots.
Our final day saw us tackle the imposing figure of Arthur’s Seat lying 251m tall and about a mile east of Edinburgh Castle, the highest peak of Holyrood Park.
After just a 15 minute walk from where we were staying, we found ourselves at the fringes of Holyrood.
The climb itself took little under 45 minutes at a gentle pace, I’d love to say we got to the top however my vertigo got the better of me after scaling the steps. At least I tried!
Regardless of a few metres, the view from where we reached was stunning nonetheless.
Getting back down wasn’t as easy as we’d first hoped – meeting many people who were on the ascent with unsure footing, it was best to take it easy.
We found ourselves at two niche bars where cocktails were a no.1 priority, the first being a small and almost impossible to find basement bar just off Princes Street, Bramble. This place is low key, low lighting (so low in fact, I couldn’t get any decent photos) with absolutely gorgeous cocktails.
The other was The Whistle Stop Barber Shop Bar and Diner (pictured), they’ve a small novel filled with cocktails to the point we ordered four at one time to make the most of our drinking time.
These two bars are an absolute must try when visiting.
Edinburgh is a place which you could become accustomed to visiting over and over again, the city is a buzz of activity and for this young Celt – felt like home from home…
If only there were so many other places on that damned bucket list.