Edinburgh Express: What To See & Do In 48 Hours (Pt. 1)

March 20, 2016

Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours


Make like a Flying Scotsman and

EXPERIENCE EDINBURGH IN 48 HOURS

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Scotland may seem like a landscape of mountains and magic - monsters in the Lochs and Hogwarts castle, for starts - but don't let the mystique surrounding the country intimidate you. Unless you're heading for the Highlands - in which case, pack your walking stick, hip flask, and buddy up with Hagrid. Scotland's cities are very much accessible by foot and their sights easily reached even for prissy urbanites such as yours truly. Case in point: Edinburgh. Though Scotland's capital may be built on different levels - giving this UNESCO site the dreamy appearance of a floating city of clouds - I managed to visit most of Edinburgh's great attractions in just over two days, with little difficulty. That said, all the hill-ascending, close-climbing, and stair-stomping does burn off a great deal of calories - all the better to stuff one's haggis hole with no post-holiday overindulgence-regret-self-flagellation.

 So now you know, there really is no excuse for you to ignore Edinburgh if you are in the immediate vicinity of, um, Europe, especially if - like I am - you're based in London. Getting to Edinburgh has never been easier what with direct trains from Platform 9¾ Kings Cross, although it's actually cheaper to fly there via Easyjet or Ryanair. Either way, you've no reason not to pack your bags and haul ass to Edinburgh for at least a city break, not when I've laid out a guide to seeing the sights and stuffing your haggis hole - all of it easily done in 48 hours. Walking shoes at the ready...

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PHOTOS 14 & 17 BY HENRY RIDLEY-COOK, 25 BY MERCAT TOURS




Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours

I have no doubt that you possess fine taste with an appreciation for both aethestics and history, so naturally you will have checked yourself into The Scotsman Hotel for a room with an unbeatable view of Edinburgh - from your turret with its very own bath, no less. To be sure, ask for Room 902 and don't just take my word for it - see for yourself.

FURTHER READING  - MY REVIEW OF THE SCOTSMAN HOTEL


Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours
"Bagged me a piper...!" 
Having snagged yourself a base camp with a prime location on the iconic North Bridge, you'll find yourself mere footsteps from The Royal Mile and inevitably just a few notes away from the evocative strains of the bagpipes. Consider the ever-present tune of Scotland The Brave, the national anthem, your personal soundtrack.
Be warned, the gorgeous sounds of the bagpipes might just make you want to take up the instrument.
My boyfriend is seriously considering buying a set and lessons. God help my neighbours.

Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours

Snacks ahoy! Treat yourself to a deep fried Mars Bar with ice-cream (Irn Bru optional) from Clam Shell, 148 High Street.
Don't worry, you'll burn off the 600 calories from all the walking you'll be doing.

Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours
 Marvel at the architectural wonder that is St Giles' Cathedral - or as it is properly named 'The High Kirk of Edinburgh'. You'll recognise the church's distinctive and iconic crown steeple from views of Edinburgh's skyline. The 14th century church - extensively restored in the 19th century and protected as a category A listed building - is the principal place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. Dedicated to Saint Giles, the patron saint of Edinburgh, the church has been one of Edinburgh's religious focal points for approximately 900 years. Today, St Giles' Cathedral is regarded as the "Mother Church of Presbyterianism". 
Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours

Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours

Whether you're religious, atheist, or agnostic you'll more than likely be moved by the the cathedral's beauty - from stained glass windows depicting Scottish saints to the chill-inducing* reverance of the Thistle Chapel.
The Thistle Chapel is the chapel of The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Scotland's foremost Order of Chivalry.  Built in 1911, designed by Sir Robert Lorimer and tucked away in south-east corner of the church, the chapel is small and exquisite with every nook, cranny, and ceiling filled with extraordinary detailed carvings. A favourite game for visitors is to spot the angel playing bagpipes. The Order was founded by King James VII in 1687 and is an exclusive club of the Scottish monarch and 16 knights. To join their ranks, one has to be personally appointed by a monarch, and the knights tend to be Scots who have made a significant contribution to national or international affairs. Membership priviledges include what must be the most lavish private stall (below) decorated with your insignia plaque of your own design - a certain (now stolen by vandals) plaque depicted a very voluptuous mermaid...
*said chills may also be thanks to the eerily cold temperatures of the chapel, which our guide cheerfully described as 'hypothermia-inducing'.

Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours

Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours
Fuel up at The Devil's Advocate with their fresh, monthly menu and inventive seasonal cocktails.
THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, 9 ADVOCATES CLOSE

Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours
Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours

Head over to The Mound for a (free!) few idyllic hours of art at The Scottish National Gallery. 
The neoclassical building, designed by William Henry Playfair, is home to one of the world's finest art collections with 96,000 works in the permanent collection from major works by Titian, and Rembrandt to Picasso and Warhol. 




After your sojourn at The Scottish National Gallery, exit through the cafe then climb the stairs to Princes Street. From there it's a brief walk to CALTON HILL where the view of the city - often depicted in paintings and photographs of Edinburgh - is best seen bathed in the dusky glow of sunset. Don't be daunted by the ascend - the top of the hill looks higher than it is but it only takes about 5 minutes to climb the staircase at Regent Road on the South side. 
Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours

A leisurely stroll along the grassy slopes of the hill snakes around a jumble of historic buildings and structures on top including two observatories: the Old Observatory House and the City Observatory...

Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours

...an Athenian acropolis (a replica of the Parthenon designed as a memorial to the fallen of the Napoleonic Wars)...

Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours

...and Nelson's Monument.

Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours

From the top of Calton Hill, watch the light kiss Edinburgh Castle, the cliffs of Salisbury Crags, Arthur's Seat, and the undulating slopes of Holyrood Park as the sun sets on Edinburgh.

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Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours
Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours

You've earned yourself a scrumptious dinner after all of that walking. Head back to The Scotsman Hotel and embark on a different kind of journey - a culinary adventure. North Bridge Brasserie serves up modern Scottish fare focused on seasonal local ingredients. The Scotsman Haggis is outstanding and the bitter chocolate ganache pudding is a real sweet note to end your meal with. 


Edinburgh Express - A City Guide of What To See & Do In 48 Hours
"SCARE YOURSELF SLIM, SPOOK YOURSELF SKINNY"
Should you be terrified at the prospect of gaining weight at dinner, here's an aperitif that will freak you into fitness. Book a ghost tour with Mercat Tours and descend into the darkness with an exclusive exploration of Blair Street Underground Vaults. Bloody plots, treason, murder, and horrific deaths - all of it described in grizzly detail by your guide. There are no gimmicks nor actors 'jump scare'-ing - just excellent storytelling to compliment the eerie atmosphere of Edinburgh Old Town. I highly recommended the HIDDEN AND HAUNTED tour that begins at nearby St. Giles Cathedral - it's a fantastic hour long walk that will not only burn the calories but also chill your blood.


Pat yourself on the back, you've done and seen a great deal on your first day in Edinburgh.
Stay tuned for the second half of Edinburgh Express for tips on what to do with your next 24 hours in Edinburgh!

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