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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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