After living in the north of England for several weeks, traveling to Scotland for a weekend break was like a refreshing blast of icy sea air — literally.
Located on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, where the river Forth runs into the North Sea, the city of Edinburgh is famous for its culture, writers and — as chilly travelers will certainly tell you — its brisk coastal weather.
With all the museums, pubs and tea rooms about, it is all too easy to find a welcoming place to come in from the cold. And, if you walk far enough away from the Royal Mile where thousands of tourists converge every day, you might even meet some of the locals.
As entertaining and touristy as Edinburgh’s city center is today, it is hard to imagine the hardships that befell people living there in centuries past. The “closes,” or alleyways, that snake through the city center display chilling plaques of noted murders that happened down their darkened stairs. They provide a grim reminder into the hard life of the common people, if you leave the hustle-and-bustle of the Royal Mile long enough to read them.
Ghost tours aplenty take advantage of this dark history. Real Mary King’s Close offers a more historical look into the life of common figures, such as maids. Actors portraying these characters lead tour groups through the once-secret passages beneath the city to give them a look into what life was like in time gone by.
Many famous artists and writers once called Edinburgh home, too. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author and creator of Sherlock Holmes, was born and lived there. Author J. K. Rowling also lived in Edinburgh while working on “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” writing at several local cafes. The Elephant House is particularly famous because of her and is quite busy during the day.
For those who really get excited about books, this city has two large libraries and literary tours which take bibliophiles to famous literary landmarks across the city.
Generations of royalty have also called this historic city home. The Palace of Holyroodhouse is located at one end of the Royal Mile. It is still a working palace, and the Queen spends a week there every summer. However, Holyrood is more famous for the historic apartments of
Mary, Queen of Scots, a tragic figure in Scottish history. Tourists can tour the building for a price, but it is definitely worth it.
A climb up to Arthur’s Seat also gives travelers a magnificent sight of the entire landscape and is well worth the effort. Vaguely tied to the legend of King Arthur, this wild spot is, ironically, perhaps the best place to fully comprehend this wonderful city. Just do not get blown off the top — the winds really are brutal.