After visiting Loch Ness, exploring the Isle of Skye, and making our way back southwards via Glencoe and the Tossachs, we arrived in Edinburgh on a Sunday evening for the last day of our Scottish adventure with my parents. This beautiful city was the perfect backdrop for the end of a fabulous trip filled with special memories.
A Whirlwind 36 Hours in Edinburgh, Scotland
Stay | Do | Eat | Drink | Basic Tips
Where to Stay in Edinburgh, Scotland
Since we had just one day in Edinburgh, we needed to stay somewhere central. And did we ever stay central! We found an Airbnb right by the castle with this fabulous view.
It was the perfect home base for exploring Edinburgh on a tight timeline and close to great restaurants and bars. It ended up being much quieter than we expected in that location as well, especially since we arrived on the Sunday before a bank holiday on a gorgeous sunny day, so everyone was out. The stretch of bars near us quieted down before we headed back for a night’s rest.
What to Do in Edinburgh
With really only one day in Edinburgh, we had limited time to explore all that this beautiful city has to offer. Though it is small, there is tons to see and explore here about the city itself as well as Scottish history and culture. Lucky for us, most of its main tourist sites are within a mile or so radius, so exploring on foot is easy and so fun.
This charming city is a wonderful spot to spend a weekend or long weekend exploring. Here’s what we were able to see during the last day of our Scottish adventure spent in Edinburgh!
Walk the Royal Mile
Though it is quite touristy, walking the Royal Mile is a must when visiting Edinburgh. This street takes you through Edinburgh’s Old Town where you can marvel at the well-preserved architecture.
This beautiful street leads right up to the Castle. If you’re lucky, there will be a bagpiper playing tunes as you walk along. You’ll find museums, restaurants and shops selling tartan items as you go.
Visit Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is a must-see when visiting Edinburgh. Like the Tower of London in London, the castle is essential to understanding the history of the city.
Perched up above the city, it offers gorgeous views and you understand why a castle was built there, looking down the cliffs to the city below.
There is so much discover at Edinburgh Castle. I would leave a good few hours to explore each building and see the Scottish crown jewels. There is so much to explore and I loved learning more about England and Scotland’s stormy past.
There isn’t so much a castle, it’s more of a compound with buildings from different time periods serving important purposes throughout history, some changing over time. It is fascinating to learn about this hilltop fortress has been used over Scotland’s history, even playing a role in World War II!
In addition to planning to spend a couple hours here, plan to be there at 1pm for the One O’Clock Gun. This tradition began in 1851, when the gun would fire to allow mariners to ensure their clocks were set correctly.
Now, it’s tradition and a bit of a spectacle. Get there well in advance of 1pm to get a good spot for pictures!
Wander Old Town and its Harry Potter Streets
Old Town Edinburgh is beautiful. In addition to walking the Royal Mile, you’ll want to explore the little cobblestone closes and winding streets around there, too.
JK Rowling began writing her famous Harry Potter novels in Edinburgh and you can see the inspiration all around.
Climb Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s Seat is the highest point in Holyrood Park and is actually an ancient volcano that stands 251 meters tall, offering a fantastic view over Edinburgh and the surrounding area.
The paths are well marked, unless you’re like us and seek out the most challenging/quickest route up to the top. We made it in about 15 minutes using paths like these. We were definitely not the first to go this route, however, there are gentler trails to take that are well trodden.
We took the better marked paths up along the Salisbury Crags. These cliffs over more stunning views over Edinburgh.
It is amazing to me that the city has these incredible natural hills within its borders! When we visited they (and much of Scotland, for that matter!) were covered in lovely yellow flowers called gorse.
It was remarkable to be hiking in the city, with beautiful views of the dramatic Edinburgh Castle. On a time crunch but treated to a beautiful day in Edinburgh, this was a wonderful way to see all of the city while getting some exercise in in the sunshine.
On our way back from our hike, we stopped into Greyfriars Kirkyard to see if we could find the gravestone that inspired Tom Riddle in Harry Potter. While it took us quite a while to find it, we immediately found a beautiful churchyard.
Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or in search of a quiet, relaxing moment while sightseeing, Greyfriars Kirkyard is a beautiful place just off the bustling streets.
What to Eat in Edinburgh, Scotland
Though our stay was brief, our food was delicious! We had fabulous dinners both nights we spent in Edinburgh.
My mom really wanted to try some gluten-free fish and chips while we were in Scotland. After some research, I chose City Restaurant in Edinburgh. It. was. fantastic.
I can barely believe they were gluten-free! Andrew got the normal fish and chips and raved about them as well. The vibe is casual, almost diner-like and very cute. If you have a hankering for fish and chips in Edinburgh, particularly if you’re gluten-free, head over to City Restaurant.
Makar’s Gourmet Mash Bar
Our meal at Makar’s was a special one. Andrew selected this restaurant for our last dinner with my parents as well as with Andrew’s aunt and uncle who arrived from Wisconsin that very morning.
This restaurant was the perfect place for such occasions. It was casual, but well-designed with great service and even better food. The food!!! It was incredible.
I got the lamb, which was so, so good. Their menu is clearly marked with gluten-free options, with lots of traditional Scottish food as well as healthy options. This place was a winner for all six of us and I highly recommend it.
Where to Drink in Edinburgh, Scotland
We arrived in Edinburgh on a Sunday night before a bank holiday, so the city was more hopping than it probably usually is on a Sunday evening. There were plenty of people out and about as we set out to find some live music and a pint of cider.
Guided by Andrew’s research on GoogleMaps, we decided to check out Sandy Bell’s. Luckily we were able to push our way toward the back of this old, traditional pub, where several musicians had gathered for a folk music jam sesh.
It was awesome. The music was fantastic and the atmosphere was jovial, with locals and people from around the world gathered to listen over a pint.
The Black Bull
Not wanting to call our night too early, as we’d only just gotten to Edinburgh a couple hours before, we headed to the Black Bull for a nightcap after the pubs closed. Now that place was happening! Everyone from the surrounding area who wanted to keep the night going was in this bar. Because of that, we had pretty low expectations for our time there. That is, until we heard the music.
In the corner, a one man band had set up his instruments and began playing again soon after we arrived. He was fantastic! If you are in Edinburgh, make it a point to try and see Graeme E. Pearson perform. Not only was he very musically talented, he was hilarious and worked the (mostly quite inebriated stag and hen dos) crowd expertly. Watching him perform was the perfect end to the night.
- Bring walking shoes! Edinburgh, especially the area around the castle, is hilly and filled with cobblestones. You’ll want to bring comfortable footwear, especially if you plan to climb Arthur’s Seat.
- Edinburgh is a small city, so it’s possible to explore on foot or using the easy-to-use bus system.
- The pubs close at 11pm, so be sure to do your research on what will be open past then if you’re planning for a big night out.
- The area around the university that we passed on our walk to Arthur’s Seat has awesome looking coffee shops. If we were there for longer we would have definitely planned to walk over for breakfast.
- As with all of Scotland and really the UK in general, the weather can change fast. Layers are essential for long days spent touring.