Our fourth day in the UK started with an early rising – 5:00 a.m. to be exact. We had our bags packed and ready for check-out from our lovely room at the Rubens at the Palace. Our destination was Kings Cross Station for the earliest train for our adventure, exploring Edinburgh, Scotland.
If you want to see something beautiful, check out Kings Cross station early in the morning or late in the evening – the gorgeous ceiling is up-lit in light magenta.
The best way to travel to Edinburgh from London, when lugging around a suitcase and your bags, is via first class. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but it’s also worth the money. You get to stow your large luggage in it’s own area. You can choose a dining car where you can enjoy a proper breakfast. We decided on a full English breakfast, including sausages, eggs, fried egg, a bit of blood sausage and toast with jam that was surprisingly fresh and delicious. If only airplane food was so yummy.
We arrived earlier than expected at our hotel in Edinburgh – the Apex International, in the Grassmarket area. Although our room wasn’t ready, after a few minutes to chatting with the Polish concierge, we were pleasantly surprised with an alternate room that wowed us with its view of Edinburgh Castle.
Not wasting any time, we dropped off our luggage and headed out explore.
Our first stop was the University of Edinburgh, which was founded in 1583 and is ranked 20th in the world according to academic reputation. The grounds of the University of Edinburgh are late 18th century and 19th century buildings. A must visit is The Meadows in the spring, with trees blossoming pink everywhere.
The residences and student buildings are old and full of character. In another life, I would have loved to be a student here.
Moving on from the University, we headed to Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park. Some may be surprised to know that there is an extinct volcano in the middle of Edinburgh. The highest peak is called Arthur’s Seat, rising 822 ft and providing a beautiful view of the landscape around it.
Our next stop was Holyrood Palace, found at the base of the trail that leads down from Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat. It’s also the start (or end, depending on which way you are going) of the Royal Mile.
For history buffs, Holyrood Palace holds a special spot in Scottish history. It was at this location that the famous Mary, Queen of Scots married two husbands and saw her personal secretary, David Rizzio murdered by her jealous husband Lord Darnley.
Built in the early 16th century next to the remains of Holyrood Abbey, it has undergone several building phases before the final transformation. Visiting Holyrood Palace was fascinating but at the same time disturbing. Knowing the history of the palace, I was expecting to feel the ghostly hand of poor David Rizzio at any moment. The interiors are decadently decorated with period furniture and decor. Unfortunately, there was no photography permitted inside.
The Abbey ruins are spectacular and a photographer’s dream. It was too bad we were there in the height of the afternoon with harsh light. I would have loved to be there earlier in the day just as the sun was rising.
Our final adventure for this first day in Edinburgh was the long walk up the Royal Mile. Normally walking this street shouldn’t be a problem if you are feeling rested, but after a long day of travel and hiking Holyrood Park, the slight incline of the Royal Mile back to our hotel in Grassmarket was tortuous.
Exploring Edinburgh on our first day there was exhausting! We refreshed ourselves at the hotel and dined at the Agua restaurant, located inside the hotel. The menu has finer selections than the pubs across the road, so this is a great spot for a quiet dinner for two.
Next day… touring Scotland’s Highlands!