What to say about Edinburgh? Well, first and foremost it is a 3-dimensional city. Most capitals worth their salt are a bit flat, but Edinburgh has high hills and crags mixed into the very fabric of the town, hills that are still wild and natural, providing a great counterpoint to the grand historic urban development.
Secondly, its architecture reflects so well the grand sweep of national history. The castle, which is spectacular, with a great set of exhibits, dominates the city. It's a citadel which stood watch over the highs and lows of the Scottish nation. Held by lowland Scots, Highlanders, the English and sundry others, this castle saw it all and was fully a part of the Edinburgh folks' life. When Scotland and England joined forces it was not long before the British Empire really began to show it was a world power, and Edinburgh really reflects this. Is there any other city in the UK whose architecture is so dominated by the wealth that empire brought? The 18th and 19th-century buildings are dripping with imperial grandeur. The monuments and statues to the great and good are present at every turn. When the great cities of northern England were building factories to exploit the working man, Edinburgh was apparently building to celebrate empire.
But, what is it like to visit? Well the city itself really is beautiful with fantastic views and panoramas at every turn. If you have any level of inquisitiveness you will find things to pique your interest every couple of yards, each point of interest leading down a new path of discovery. The buildings are grand, the roads are wide and majestic and the tourists are drowning the place. Yes, it is a bit of a tourist hellhole, and many of these tourists seem to be driven by a desire to reinforce the tartan prejudices created by watching some TV silliness and Edinburgh is more than happy to sell its soul to pander to this desire. It is a bit of a shame but every Scottish cliche is on display and is lapped up by most of the tourists. You do need to try hard to get a more nuanced and sophisticated view of history, a view that would disappoint most tourists as their prejudices were challenged.
Now, if you are English, don't be surprised to come across Anglophobia, it's a Scottish pastime. My advice is make the most of it. No wan smiles, feeble nods and self-deprecating humour… No that's not what your hosts want. Man up and take on the challenge, be vigorous in your defence of England. Your Scottish hosts won't agree, but you and them will have damn fine sport!
We stayed at Glasgow Central SYHA: vibrant, nice clean room, very helpful staff, good self catering kitchen and good cafe too. About a 15 minute walk down from Edinburgh Waverly station and Princes/Waterloo Road (https://www.syha.org.uk/where-to-stay/lowlands/edinburgh-central.aspx)
Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel | SYHA Hostelling Scotland
Edinburgh Central is a 5 star youth hostel located in the heart of Scotland's capital, offering a range of shared accommodation and private rooms, all en-suite.
Castle Tour which included the entrance price for the castle and finishes inside the castle, so you can explore the history and exhibits in more depth after listening to the guide's accounts. Thought this was good.
Edinburgh Castle Tour | SANDEMANs NEW Edinburgh Tours
This Skip-The-Line tour provides expert insight into Scotland’s most famous fortress. You will hear stories of bloody battles and dramatic conquests while seeing historic sites including the One O’Clock Gun and Mons Meg, and even the crown jewels of Scotland.
Dark Side of Edinburgh tour - this was really good; moving out from the Royal Mile to the former wastelands of Calton Hill, it was both informative and creepy, with an excellent delivery ()
Edinburgh's Dark Side Tour - SANDEMANs NEW Europe Tours
The Dark Side Tour covers Edinburgh’s creepiest sites and darkest tales. Feel the hair on the back of your neck stand on end as you explore gruesome graveyards and narrow alleyways hiding secrets from deep in Edinburgh’s dark history.
Written and photos by; Archibald Leikie
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