Returning to Edinburgh after an absence of 17 years was everything I had hoped it would be and more. One of my first travel loves, Scotland in general and Edinburgh in particular have long held an important place in my heart, and spending some time getting to know the city again a few months ago was an important homecoming for me. Rather than visiting new neighborhoods or checking out what had changed, I instead decided to go back to that first trip and to revisit some places around town that are amongst the most famous and for me which mean the most.
Standing on top of Edinburgh Castle
Sitting on top of an extinct volcano, it’s hard not to be impressed by the black rock that looms over the city. There’s been a castle on the site since at least the 12th century and its role in the history of Scotland cannot be understated. If you know anything about Scottish history, you’ll know that much of it isn’t exactly positive, which is also why the castle is known as the most attacked in the world. Today it’s the top paid tourist attraction in Scotland, and spending a couple hours (or more) touring it is usually the first thing most visitors do. I couldn’t wait to once again walk around this impressive site; for me Edinburgh Castle defines the city and prowling through the large space is just a lot of fun. Castles are more than just one building, and instead are really small fortified villages. Walking around inside Edinburgh Castle visitors get to see many of these structures, but the most impressive sight isn’t technically at the castle itself. No, what I think is the best feature of the castle are the views it provides of Edinburgh.
Walking the Royal Mile
Leaving Edinburgh Castle, I made the easy walk down the thoroughfare known as the Royal Mile. Book-ended by Edinburgh Castle on one end and Holyrood Palace on the other, this is the most popular mile in the entire country. Along the way you’ll discover museums, shops and restaurants in numbers that can be at times mind-boggling. Kilt wearing bagpipers line the streets, adding to the Scottish feel of the experience, while hoping to earn some extra money from passersby. I made a slight deviation and decided to visit Greyfriars Kirk and the famous monument to Greyfriars Bobby. Although many notable Scots are buried in the cemetery surrounding the church, it’s a small Skye Terrier that still brings in massive crowds. No matter where you stop off along the Mile, the walk itself is at the heart of the travel experience for most visitors to Scotland’s capital city.
Staying at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian
An old railroad hotel, the elegance here may be old school, but it is also refined and infinitely relaxing. For me, location is everything in a hotel and I was thrilled with the central location of the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – especially since I was so limited on time. Getting to the Royal Mile and all of the central tourist sites really couldn’t have been easier, and made my brief stay in town as productive as it could have been. Around the hotel itself are plenty of shops, pubs and restaurants, offering options to guests who want to get out and explore. Any great hotel stay though is about the comfort and service, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with both. The hotel offers more rooms with views of Edinburgh Castle than any other in town and that was the first thing I noticed out of my own window at the hotel – a perfect introduction to the city and a sign that I had indeed truly arrived into Scotland. The room itself had all of the amenities one would expect, from Ferragamo toiletries to incredibly comfy beds and linens. Luxury hotels excel, or not, based on the details. Anyone can have the appearance of luxury, but what really makes a hotel stand out are the attention to minor details and the service. While my time at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh was brief, I saw ample evidence that they excel in both areas and everything comes together for an experience that is relaxing but productive – a perfect combination.
Just Being There
For me, I never know when travel love will strike. Even worse, I have no idea what spurs on these love affairs I’ve had with cities around the world. Edinburgh was one of my first though, and once again wondering those cobblestone streets of the Old Town and marveling at the stately homes elsewhere, I was reminded of the strength of that love. There’s just a spirit in Edinburgh that draws me in, making me never want to leave and I love that. I love that I have such a strong connection with a city I haven’t visited in nearly two decades; if anything it further proves the intensity of these travel love affairs. Although I have no idea where my love of Edinburgh comes from, there’s no denying its strength and because of that, along with a host of other reasons, I truly hope that it doesn’t take me another 17 years to return.