Things To See And Do On A Day In Edinburgh

A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

A Quick Visit To Edinburgh

The first port on the second leg of our cruise through the Nordic countries was in Edinburgh. This was our first visit to Scotland and we were excited to spend a day in Edinburgh. It certainly was a great tease to want us to return.

When we saw that there was a stop in Edinburgh, I reached out to fellow travel blogger Hannah from HH Lifestyle Travel. She gave us a list of things to do if we only had one day in Edinburgh. It was great to have input from a local.

Getting Into Edinburgh From Leith

The cruise port for Edinburgh was in Leith. Once we were docked, we were interested to see the HMY Britannia at the dock. It was no longer used as the Queen’s yacht. But was now a very popular tourist attraction.

Leith Port Britannia - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

From the deck of our Oceania Cruises Nautica ship, we saw Edinburgh far in the distance. Edinburgh Castle was perched high on Castle Rock, one of the seven hills of Edinburgh. The flat Firth of Forth and the lands around the city were the result of early volcanic activity and then periods of intensive glacier activity.

Leith Port View to Edinburgh.jpg

While only 4km (2.5 miles), it was about a 30 minute trip to get from the port of Leith to Edinburgh city centre. Before we landed, we were uncertain whether there was a shuttle bus, so we explored other options. A taxi or Uber was always an option. But we found that the local Leith bus #22 went past the port and right into Edinburgh. The bus stopped right on Princes Street in the heart of the old town.

We were happy to learn that the ship had a shuttle bus that dropped us at Waterloo Place on the edge of the old town. But we knew we had several options to get back to the ship after we enjoyed our day in Edinburgh.

Walking Princes Street

We started our walk along Princes Street in the rain. The stunning architectural views hit us immediately. We saw the clock tower high on the Balmoral Hotel. If we finished our tour in time, we wanted to try to have Afternoon Tea there.

Balmoral Hotel - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

The outside of buildings were intricate. The decorative memorial tower with the statue of Sir Walter Scott stretched up to the sky. Behind these older buildings we saw the Festival Wheel. We were sure there would be great views from the top of that. Colourful pillars decorated the front of the Royal Scottish Academy art gallery. Behind this we walked around the Scottish National Gallery. And we found statues everywhere we looked.

Architecture - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Architecture - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Royal Scottish Academy - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Festival Wheel - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Statue - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Statue - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Above the city sights and the Princes Garden, we saw Edinburgh Castle sitting high on Castle Rock. That was our next stop on our day in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

A Sweet Break

As we wandered in Edinburgh for the day, we made a quick stop at a Starbucks for wifi. While we travel with our KnowRoaming international SIMs to get connected, we still sometimes have a lot of data transfers to catch up on to synch photos.

But when we wanted a snack, we looked for a more local option. And then we saw the sign for Hotel Chocolat! We first visited Hotel Chocolat in Copenhagen. And then we did a tour of the cacao plantation in St Lucia. The cacao for the various stores come from this location. We loved our chocolate treats at Hotel Chocolat in St Lucia. So we did not pass this up.

David drooled over the chocolate selections. But he gave in to my desire for the Billionaire’s Sundae loaded with salted caramel. The sugar gave us enough energy to continue our exploration of Edinburgh.

Hotel Chocolate Edinburgh.jpg

Hotel Chocolate Edinburgh.jpg

Walk Up To Edinburgh Castle

We began our walk up the Mound to Edinburgh Castle. At points along the walk we stopped to enjoy views of the New College Church, the Edinburgh Museum and other historic buildings on the hill. As we continued up we saw rows of houses and small gardens.

Castle Hill Edinburgh Castle - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Castle Hill Edinburgh Castle - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

We continued to walk up and through the gateway into the castle. A large parade ground was set up in the courtyard for the annual Tattoo ceremony. We were sure this brought some of the crowds to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Tattoo Sign.jpg

Edinburgh Tattoo Sign.jpg

Wandering The Grounds Of The Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle was a busy spot this day. The bridge over the old moat was a popular spot for people to stop for pictures of the gate and the statues posed on either side of the gate.

Edinburgh Castle.jpg

Castle Hill Edinburgh Castle - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Castle Hill Edinburgh Castle - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

We wandered through the gate to find the ticket booth to go inside. Without a ticket we could only stroll the outer courtyard. It was immediately obvious that we should have purchased tickets in advance. The lines were very long. And we really did not have time to wait.

The viewpoint inside the courtyard provided us with a great view out over Edinburgh. We could see Leith far off in the distance. And with a zoom lens, we picked out the two Oceania Cruises ships in the port.

Edinburgh Castle View.jpg

As we walked around the courtyard, we studied the details in the walls of the castle. It was clear that this was a royal spot. And that the walls held many historic tales.

Castle Hill Edinburgh Castle - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Edinburgh Castle View.jpg

Edinburgh Castle View.jpg

On this day in Edinburgh, we missed the chance to visit inside the Edinburgh Castle. The grounds also housed the National War Museum and the Prisoners of War Museum. On a return visit, we would set aside a whole day to wander inside the castle.

Walking Along The Royal Mile

After we left the Edinburgh Castle, we strolled down what is known as the Royal Mile. It was a very crowded street. There were several cruise ships in town on a busy summer day. And we arrived right in the middle of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Every few steps we were enticed to buy tickets for a different show.

Edinburgh Royal Mile - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Edinburgh Royal Mile - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Edinburgh Royal Mile Fringe Festival - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Edinburgh Royal Mile Fringe Festival - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

As we slowly strolled along the street, we stopped at the Hub Church. Further down we walked around St Giles Cathedral. We were sure that the interior of the churches would be great to explore.

 St Giles Cathedral - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

All along the Royal Mile we found small alleys or “close”. We poked our heads into a few. But we sought out Mary King’s Close. This are was named for a merchant named Mary King who lived on the Close in the 17th century. Much history is associated with this close. And over the years it became shrouded in urban legends about hauntings and murders. There is a tour available that provided much more history about this area of Old Town. But we did ran out of time .

 Royal Mile Mary Kings Close - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

It was fun to wander down the Royal Mile. With the shoulder to shoulder crowds, it was hard to really explore much along the street. But it provided a great tease of treasures we might want to explore on a return visit.

Visiting Greyfriars Bobby

Hannah suggested we do a detour from the Royal Mile to see Greyfriars Bobby. I marked this as one of many spots on my offline map. And we wandered down George IV Bridge Road to see what we would find.

We first spotted the colourful pub named Greyfriars Bobby. But then noticed the small dog statue. People stopped to rub his nose for luck. This was the dog that this area was named for. He spent 14 years guarding the grave of his owner before he died.

Edinburgh Greyfriars Bobby Dog - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

From then we wandered into the ground of the Greyfriars Church. A large cemetery was on the grounds. And we saw the grave of Greyfriars Bobby.

Edinburgh Greyfriars Church - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Edinburgh Greyfriars Bobby Dog Grave.jpg

Edinburgh Greyfriars Church Cemetery.jpg

The church was open and we wandered in for a few moments. A group of girls practiced a dance routine by the altar. So we did not stay long to photograph the church.

Edinburgh Greyfriars Church - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Edinburgh Greyfriars Church - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Edinburgh Greyfriars Church - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

It was an interesting stop to see Greyfriars Bobby on our day in Edinburgh.

Posing With The Wullies

We saw many historical statues as we wandered during our day in Edinburgh. But we also found a number of colourful statues of Wullie. The Oor Wullie Bucket Trail contains about 200 life-sized sculptures in the streets of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness in a bid to raise awareness for Scotland’s children’s hospital charities.

Each of the statues we found were dressed in a different way. But each of them had Wullie leaned back laughing with hands on his belly. Of course I could not miss the chance to pose with a few of the Wullies on our walk.

Edinburgh Wullies.jpg

On our short visit to Edinburgh, we found a few ways to have a laugh.

Finishing Up Under Calton Hill

As we drove in we saw Calton Hill high above us. It was a great spot for a panoramic view over Edinburgh. While we waited for our shuttle bus, David quickly went over to the Old Calton Burial Grounds. But did not make it to the top of this hill in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Calton Hill - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

Edinburgh Calton Hill - A Day In Edinburgh.jpg

On our drive back to the port in Leith, David kept his camera up. We passed a number of interesting sights that warranted more attention. Just another tease on our day in Edinburgh.

Leith City Mural.jpg

A Fascinating Departure From The Port Of Leith

When we arrived in the morning, David caught images of the sunrise over what he thought was the port pier-side. When we later looked at our offline maps, we realized that we had in fact transited in through a narrow inlet. We learned that this was really a small lock.

Leith Port Sunrise.jpg

During the morning transit it seemed fairly easy to line up to the tiny lock. But the captain and local pilot had their job cut out for them on the way out. The ship was nudged with the bow thrusters to get lined up. As we moved in, we were sure that the ship took up pretty much all of the space in the lock. We were close to the biggest ship that entered the inner harbour at Leith.

Leith Port Lock.jpg

Leith Port Lock.jpg

After we exited the lock, we sailed past the Oceania Cruises Marina ship. Marina was a much bigger ship than Nautica. So we were not surprised she was anchored in the bay. And had to tender passengers to shore. We left Marina to move to Nautica after our cruise through the Norway fjords. So we toasted and waved goodbye to Marina as we left after our short stay in Edinburgh.

Leith Port Lock.jpg

Such A Great Day In Edinburgh

It was a quick day in Edinburgh. We needed to factor in time to transit from the port. And not miss our ship’s departure. But we loved the chance to wander and got a small taste test of this historic city. We certainly saw enough that we know we want to return for a longer visit. But we wanted to do it when it was a bit less crowded in town.

Edinburgh was our first port in Scotland. But the next day we stopped and got an entirely different view in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. It was great to have these two ports on our cruise to the Nordic countries.

Have you spent a day in Edinburgh? Or did you enjoy much more time?

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  1. Edinburgh, I used to love this city in Scotland but its got too touristy now. But I think my mind changed after doing a road trip to other cities in this part of the British Isles and found out that I prefer places like Inverness, Perth, Stirling etc (but not Glasgow…ugh. Not a huge fan of that place). I do like Edinburgh but after a couple of visits, I just got fed up with the crowds especially on the royal mile and castle. But that’s just me, not putting anyone off here, if you haven’t been to Edinburgh, its gotta be done (especially having a Haggis roll with a fried egg in one of the cafes there!). Great post here and great tips for the first time visitors.

    • Danik, We were surprised at how busy Edinburgh was – the tattoo, Fringe Festival and a few cruise ships stretched the city beyond capacity. We would like to return when it is quieter. But it was a great teaser for us to return to see more of Scotland. Linda

  2. Darcee & I absolutely loved our adventure in Edinburgh but we did it over a few days. You guys really crammed in a ton of fun stuff all in one day in Edinburgh. The Royal Mile is an absolute must as it leads you to so many cool things and ultimately to the Castle which is amazing. We too went to see Greyfriars Bobby but sadly we missed heading into the church. Really need to go back and see that. Also, how did I not know about the Hotel Chocolat! That shake looks amazing!

    • Eric, We had a really busy day running around Edinburgh. It was a good taste test. And we saw enough to know we want to come back and spend a little more time here. And vising more of Scotland. Linda

  3. Edinburgh continues to be one of the places I’d love to visit in the next year or so, and your article makes that even more true. I want to see the galleries, have afternoon tea and walk around Princes Street. And, of course, a visit to Edinburgh Castle would be a must. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  4. It must have been great to see Edinburgh Castle high on Castle Rock from the shore. It sure looks beautiful on your photo. A true tease, you’re so right. 🙂
    Good to know that #22 bus goes directly to the old town. And how about that Hotel Chocolat, didn’t even know about it. That cup looks delicious.
    Love your photos of the Castle, you made me want to go sooner than I’ve planned. 🙂

  5. I just love the big belly laugh of the Wullies. Great shot of you Linda. Edinburgh is not somewhere I have visited, and I’m very intrigued reading your article. From your shots, it looks like it would be best to visit Edinburgh Castle, off season with fewer travelers. Great recommendations and look forward to using them soon 🙂

    • Rosemary, I could not resist posing with he Wullies. I totally recommend visiting off season. Or at least not when a lot of stuff is happening at once. Would let you enjoy more of Edinburgh. Linda

  6. So fun to read your post on Edinburgh, because it looks as if we were there at similar times! When we visited the castle, it still had the stadium up because of the Tattoo, and they were just taking down the barricades for the Fringe festival outside our apartment. We loved Edinburgh, especially exploring the Royal Mile. I also had a chance to take a quick tour of Holyrood Palace which was another highlight. We enjoyed the food we ate there, too! You can do Edinburgh inone day, but I wish we’d had a bit more time!

    • Tami, It does sound like we were there at the same time. I wish we had a chance to visit Holyrood Palace. But our little taste test certainly means we will go back again. You are right – one day was not enough. Linda

  7. Edinburgh has so much history to see! I would love to visit the Hotel chocolate, The Billionaire sundae looks absolutely scrumptious! I feel like that is something I need to try on my next visit there! xo – Kam

  8. OMG, Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities! I spent a few days there and would love to go back, so I can imagine how you must feel after only a day. Your pictures are beautiful and I see a few things that weren’t there when I visited a few years ago. Those Wullies are hilarious!

  9. Edinburgh is full of history and the architecture looks amazing there. The Edinburgh castle perched on the top of hill looks great and we would surely love to make a visit there. The Hotel Chocolat Sundae is so tempting. I am drooling over it now and surely want one for myself now. Great pictures and narration as always.

  10. What a lovely city! A friend of mine used to live here and he told a lot of things about Edinburgh but he never clicked photographs! Finally I get to see what he had been talking about!

    • Jitaditja, I am so glad I was able to share some pics of Edinburgh. It was certainly much more charming and interesting than we expected. Hope you get to visit. Linda

  11. We love Scotland, and Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in this country. But I never tried to understand Edinburgh from the marina side. Of course, walking princess street is a must to admire this lovely city. Architecture is fantastic. One thing I must agree with you is that Starbucks has the best wifi all over the world, so we are using it frequently as well. I love those British pubs as well. The only problem is I do not recognize which one I visited – all of them are the same, so I’m not sure about Greyfriars Bobby… Love your pictures, especially the sunrise!

  12. I didn’t know Edinburgh was so rich in History. There seem to be incredible buildings all over the place! I only went to Glasgow but definitely gave me FOMO and I should organised a week end in this beautiful city. Do you think it is worth going in winter though?

    • Jenny, I am not sure about visiting Edinburgh in the winter. For me the damp cold might be too much. But late fall or early spring might be great and have less crowds. Linda

  13. Reading this brought back such fond memories for me of Edinburgh. The castle is a sight I never tire of seeing, and it’s great that you managed to see plenty of it on your day trip. Hotel Chocolat is something we have in Europe, and one place I frequent a lot ha! Edinburgh is a beautiful city, and one I plan to re-visit again soon.

    • Lisa, I am glad this post brought back good memories of Edinburgh. We certainly enjoyed our visit. And we were so glad to find Hotel Chocolat here! We will definitely be back too. Linda

  14. I haven’t been to Edinburgh for years. Despite the seemingly constant grey skies, its still a beautiful city. The Edinburgh Ferris wheel wasn’t there when I visited, nor were those cute statues of Wullies, never heard of them before lol.

  15. You certainly packed a lot in, in one day. Edinburgh is high on our travel wish list. I loved the cute wullies. A visit to the Castle and a walk down the Royal Mile is something I would love to see and do if I only had a day to visit. Edinburgh probably needs about a week to really enjoy all that it has to travel.

  16. Great list!! I haven’t been to Edinburgh yet but i don’t think that there is anyway you can visit all the great places in Edinburgh. But nevertheless it is a great list and I would love to visit some of it when I decide to take trip to Edinburgh.

    • Daniel, One day was absolutely not enough to see all there is in Edinburgh. But it was enough of a taste test to know that we want to go back on a longer trip to see more of Scotland. Linda

  17. I visited Edinburgh years ago on a day trip from London – I wish I had read this before. I remember the castle especially looking at your photos. I would have liked to see the Greyfriar Church. The life size sculptures on the streets are so interesting too! What a nice cruise stop.

  18. Wow, Edinburgh looks so cool! Hotel Chocolat would definitely be my first stop! That drink looks especially delicious. That’s pretty awesome that you got to go to the source in St Lucia first.

  19. Edinburgh looks absolutely beautiful. I have been planning Scotland for years- I have several friends that live there. The culture the history so exciting! I believe my first would be also hotel chocolat… that looks AMAZING!

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