Travelling across Scotland, we discovered a country of amazing beauty and rich history, with enchanting old castles and picturesque ruins, endless green landscapes dotted by lakes and villages, and warm welcoming people.

This post is part of a longer series detailing on our one week trip to Scotland in the summer of 2012.

Loch and fog near the island of Skye
Loch and fog near the island of Skye

Our journey through Scotland begins with its beautiful capital, Edinburgh. Built on the Lothian coast and bordered by majestic green hills, the city welcomes us with a captivating blend of architecture, history and natural beauty. There is something new to discover with every pace. From its castle to its parks and its churches to its pubs, from the hills shrouded in mists and the blue flashes of the sea, Edinburgh has something for everyone.

 We started our walk close to our hotel in the Haymarket area by visiting St. Mary’s cathedral. It was completed in 1879, in the style of the early Gothic churches and abbeys of Scotland.  You can see its three spires from most places in Edinburgh but my favourite view of the cathedral is from Melville Street (first picture below). If you follow along this street and turn right at the end, you will reach another church, that of St. John’s. It is much smaller than St. Mary’s but has one of the most beautiful ceilings I have ever seen inside a church.

St. Mary's Cathedral and interior of St. John's church
St. Mary’s Cathedral and interior of St. John’s church

We continued with a stroll through the Princess Street Gardens that offer stunning views towards the castle. The gardens are a great place to relax in the shade of century old trees or even stop for a picnic. One of the main attractions in the area is the Scott Monument, which was build in memory of the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott and is the largest monument in the world dedicated to a writer.

From Princess Street we followed The Mound, passed by the National Gallery and started climbing towards Edinburgh Castle. This is the perfect place to learn more about the history of Scotland as you discover the Great Hall of James IV, St Margaret’s Chapel, The Scottish Crown Jewels or the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son. You will learn about the most notable battles such as the War of Independence between the Scots and the English in the 14th century or how the nephew of Robert the Bruce recaptured the castle from the English in a daring raid under the cover of darkness. We spent about two hours here and the absolute highlight was the view of the city from atop the walls.

Edinburgh Castle seen from Princess Street Gardens and Me
Edinburgh Castle seen from Princess Street Gardens and Me

We went for a short visit at St. Giles’ Cathedral and then stopped for lunch along the Royal Mile. This street is a mix of shops, restaurants, pubs and visitor attractions. If you have time to wander around, there is plenty to do here. Next on our list was the Palace of Holyroodhouse which has served as the main residence of the Kings and Queens of the Scots since the 16th century and it is presently a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.

We crossed the North Bridge back towards Princess Street and turned right towards Calton hill. To get to the top of the hill you need to climb quite a few stairs, but the view from there is totally worth it. The most iconic photo of Edinburgh is taken from the Dugald Stewart Monument, so we were glad not to miss it. Calton hill became my favourite spot in Edinburgh as we experienced sun, rain, clouds and rainbows, all in under 20 minutes, painting the city in different lights and colours right before our eyes.

Double rainbow on Calton Hill
Double rainbow on Calton Hill

If you visit this area you should know that the hill is also the location of several iconic monuments and buildings: the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, the old Royal High School, the Robert Burns Monument, the Political Martyrs’ Monument and the City Observatory. Enjoy your visit here then slowly start your way back to the hotel.

We returned to Edinburgh six days later, at the end of our trip, to admire the iconic Forth Bridge, take a short walk on the beach and visit the Lothians region.

Read more about our Scottish road trip, including plans and expenses by following the posts in the ‘Scotland’ category.


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