Before I begin, I wanted to offer a quick disclaimer. I'm not a professional designer, photographer or writer..if that isn't already readily apparent. Therefore, please forgive me if my photos and posts leave something to be desired.
I started creating these photographic collages on my Instagram profile after my most recent trip to Stockholm. It's a great way for me to encapsulate my experiences and learn to appreciate the quirky details waiting to be discovered in every city. So without further ado, I present to you my Destination in a Box: Edinburgh Edition! I have provided a numbered image so you can follow along.
1. My primary reason for visiting Edinburgh was to run in the EMF Half Marathon. I registered for the race soon after moving to London, because I was going through a severe bout of laziness. This was just the impulsive decision I needed to force myself back into (serviceable) shape. I ran a personal best of 1:48! The race was a great guilt-free excuse for traveling to a new destination. With that said, I'll probably choose a "milder" city for my next race. When sightseeing in Edinburgh, you feel like you're perpetually walking uphill in the face of blistering winds and rain. Not a great combination pre or post race.
2. Speaking of sightseeing, Edinburgh offers breathtaking views from any vantage point. The mix of old and "new" architecture was fascinating. I use quotations because they consider 18th century neo-classical architecture as "new". Edinburgh Castle is a gorgeous backdrop for any panoramic photo. However, I wouldn't bother actually visiting the castle. It's a massive tourist trap with uninspiring interiors. Instead, head to Princes Street Gardens at the foot of the castle for awesome views of the imposing facade.
3. For ever better views of the city, head to Calton Hill just east of Princes Street. It's a fairly leisurely climb with some interesting sights, like the National Monument, to explore. I originally wanted to visit Arthur's Seat, but the peak was too daunting for my race-fatigued legs. On a side note, this postcard and the accompanying magnet were purchased at Old Town Context - a quirky shop with far better gifts than your run-of-the-mill souvenir stands.
4. I love hitting up various cafes in each new city I visit. Even more so than bars or restaurants, coffee shops provide a great indicator of a city's cultural pulse. Baristas tend to be super friendly and passionate about their city. They can often recommend lesser known, "insider" spots to check out. Two of my favorite coffee shops in Edinburgh are Fortitude Coffee and Brew Lab Artisan Coffee Bar. Big thanks to the barista at Fortitude for giving me an impromptu demonstration of the perfect pour-over method!
5. One of my favorite meals during the trip was at Edinburgh Larder Cafe in Old Town. My mom (did I mention she came on this trip? I'll save that for an entirely separate post...) and I passed by the tiny storefront multiple times before finally going in for a post-race meal. The potato salad, seasonal mushroom soup and pasties are just a few of the standouts. All the ingredients are locally sourced.
6. Similar to my obsession with coffee shops, my mom loves finding locally produced chocolates. She even did some research on Google before our trip! We found a great shop called Coco Chocolate. The Haggis Spice Bar is particularly flavorful and unique.
7. Right before we hopped on the train back to London, I popped into the Fruitmarket Gallery outside Waverley Station. If you don't have enough time to visit the gallery, make sure to stop by the book store. That's where I picked up this free Grid Edinburgh Art Map. I'll have to save it for my next visit.
8. Did I mention that it rains (a lot) in Edinburgh? You need to find strategically located attractions so you always have somewhere to duck into when it starts pouring. One of these should definitely be the National Museum of Scotland. The massive building includes a wide array of exhibits, all of which are free to visit. Moreover, the museum itself is gorgeous with a beautifully renovated central gallery. When it stops raining, head up to the rooftop for some nice views of the city, including Arthur's Seat.
9. For something completely different, head to the Scottish Parliament Building. Designed by Enric Miralles, the building sits in stark contrast to the neighboring Palace of Holyrood House. Again, entrance is free, and visitors are encouraged to navigate the various corridors and rooms throughout.
10. When paying with cash, you will quickly realize that some notes in distribution are actually printed by the Bank of Scotland. These can be used throughout the UK, but I've opted to keep some notes as souvenir :)
11. Check out my last post with some photos from our train ride to and from Edinburgh. Travel can be difficult for dog owners. However, I was shocked to find that almost all public transportation in the UK (including the National Rail) allow dogs to ride for free as long as they are on a lead.
12. Finding a dog-friendly accommodation is even harder. Thankfully, we found a centrally located Holiday Inn Express that allowed for pets in the room. Was it the nicest hotel in the world? No. Did I get SPG points for my stay? No :( However, the hotel was more than satisfactory. For a fairly reasonable price, you get complimentary Wi-FI, breakfast and a happy dog.
All in all, I had an amazing time in Edinburgh. It's a truly unique city - one that I will be returning to sooner rather than later. If you've been, I'd love to hear about your experience and places you would recommend. For a more detailed guide, you can also check out my Wandering Edinburgh map. Happy travels!