First Snapshots of Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

It’s the weekend!! I hope everyone has a lot of fun plans in store for the next two days. It’s supposed to rain here tomorrow and Sunday, but we aren’t going to let that stop us. We have a couple of walks planned, some markets to visit and maybe a trip to the cinema if it gets too gross out. But speaking of weekends, it’s past time for me to share our pretty greats walk from Sunday with you!

After a lazy Saturday, we felt like we had to have an active Sunday. We had slept over sixteen hours when we first landed, and I was itching to get out and show Ryan Edinburgh. This was the city I fell in love with while in college, and I want him to love it too. It’s been over seven years since I’ve stepped foot in the city, but after this adventure it feels like I never left.

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, so you can imagine how many interesting places there are to see and how many fun things we need to do. I’ve been planning so much for the rest of our trip I haven’t really taken the time to put together a game plan for our time here. The best way to get started in my mind is to just go for it, which is what we did.

Our trip started with a bus ride downtown, followed by a short walk past Waverley Bridge. We had our destination in mind so we took the first street going up that we came to. Devil’s Advocate Close took us up, up, up plenty of steps and put us right on the Royal Mile. A close is an alleyway that leads off one of the main streets, heading towards residences or businesses, and there are a a ton in certain areas of the city. Since we don’t really have closes in Pittsburgh (or Seattle), I love taking these streets whenever I get the chance. They’re kind of creepy but full of history and I just love it.

It’s just begging you to take a closer look.

We took our time walking up the Royal Mile, enjoying all of the sights and sounds. We passed by street performers and multiple bagpipers, which Ryan had to drag me away from. I love bagpipe music. I could listen to it all day, much to my friends and family’s chagrin. I wanted to stay and listen to them play while people-watching, because to me that sounds like the perfect afternoon. But since this was the first chance Ryan had to see the castle up close, I continued onward.

I bet you can hear him through the screen, can’t you?
Welcome to the Royal Mile!
I love the old buildings.
The Royal Mile, looking away from the castle.

After stopping in some shops to look at scarves and sweaters, we made it to the front of Edinburgh Castle. There were so many people wandering in and out and all around the main gates. People were taking photos with the guards and selfies with the castle, so of course I had to do all of that too.

So serious, sir.
There isn’t really a good way to get a shot of the front of the castle.

Edinburgh Castle, built on the top of an extinct volcano, is probably Scotland’s most famous castle. The oldest part, St. Margaret’s Chapel, dates from the 12th century. Further additions were made to the castle such as the Great Hall (around 1510), the Half Moon Battery (late 16th century) and the Scottish National War Memorial (after WWI). The sheer size of the crowd going into the castle was a little daunting, so we decided to skip out on actually going inside this time. I know there will be a morning in my future where we wake up and head straight here, because touring a castle as the start of your day sounds pretty great to me.

Looking up from Grassmarket.

DSC_0097We wandered back down the Royal Mile for a bit before turning down some steps towards Grassmarket. This area of the city, directly under the castle, was traditionally used as a market space. It was also a place of public executions, and you can view a memorial in honor of those executed near the site once occupied by the gallows. There are still plenty of shops and pubs to peruse in this area with a beautiful backdrop just behind you.

A bench in Grassmarket.

From Grassmarket we walked up Victoria Street. This is one of my favorite streets in the city mostly because of the brightly colored buildings! It also happens to be easier going up this way than taking the stairs back towards the castle.

I want to live here.

Once we reached the top, our walk took us down past Greyfriars Bobby, where we stopped just to snap a photo and rub his nose. This little guy is famous for guarding his owner’s grave for 14 years before he himself moved on to the great dog park in the sky. You can go visit his and his owner’s graves at Greyfriar Kirk, which I hope we get the chance to do in the future.

Greyfriars Bobby, such a good pup!


It was at this point that we got distracted by a group of people wearing American flag gear  and ended up following them down into Grassmarket. I certainly didn’t mind because it gave me a whole new view of the castle that I had never seen before.

A brand new view! I didn’t think it could get better.

However, once you go down you have to go back up. Boy, this time it was rough. We chose to just cut straight across the bottom of the valley and walk back up all of the stairs leading back to the castle, which out us back exactly where we had been before. Since by this point we were retracing out steps, we decided to head back to Leith and get cleaned up for dinner. At one point I turned around,  and was amazed by what was behind me. It almost felt like I was in a real-world Diagon Alley.

Harry, is that you?

To me, I think this was the perfect introduction to Edinburgh for Ryan. We saw a lot of really great stuff without the pressure of having to explore it all at once. And this trip helped us start our list of places we want to see before we leave!

If you have any favorite places in Edinburgh (or Scotland) please let me know! Happy weekend!


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  1. Great! seems like a very fun day. And always assume it will rain- go do something outside anyway, the rain usually doesn’t last long 🙂 you can check out my post called “the first king of scotland” for more tips. there is a free walking tour and i went to this graveyard that JK Rowling likely got a lot of inspiration from – I saw your harry potter reference and thought you’d appreciate all that :). Also, the pub she wrote some of HP is in Edinburgh. And there is a huge fun museum near Greyfrairs Bobby I think, I forget the name. gosh! so fun!!! Enjoy!

    1. The Elephant House! I went there a few times when I was studying abroad here. And I think the museum you might be referring to is the National Museum of Scotland? I think we’re saving that for a weekday when we can’t look at our computer screens any longer.

      I’ll have to check out your post for some more tips – I am super intrigued by the graveyard! 🙂

  2. I cannot express enough how happy I am for you guys to take on this wonderful journey! Can you please live off a close so I can pretend to get lost in a maze and suddenly come upon your Scottish abode? And also, what about bag piping lessons while you’re there, McNulty?😉

    1. Kristine you’re a GENIUS! Bagpiping lessons!!!! That’s the best idea I’ve heard in a long time. I’m sure Ryan would love it! 😉

      As for living off of a close, I’d love to do that. You’ll be the first to know if we find a way to make it happen!

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