A Weekend in Edimburgh
Edinburgh is located in southeastern Scotland with its centre near the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, an arm of the North Sea that thrusts westward into the Scottish Lowlands. The city constitutes an independent council area including the busy port of Leith on the Firth of Forth and an area in the northwest, around South Queensferry, in the historic county of West Lothian.
The Scottisch Capital is full of history with its first signs of habitation on the Castle Rock , Arthur’s Seat and surroundings dating to 900 BC approximately. It is uncertain when the Royal Castle was built on the Castle Rock , but it is believed that it was constructed little before or during the XII century, probably during the reign of David I. From that time onward Edinburgh began to grow and during Medieval Time trade flourished (wool, leather goods, cereals) , and all that gave birth to the central markets of Canongate and Grassmaket. During the XV century Edinburgh developed as a prosperous city and it was made the royal capital of Scotland (the Palace of Holyrood was built between 1671 and 1678 for Charles II). During the XVI and the XVII centuries Edinburgh was surronded by fortified walls to protect it from English attacks. During this period the number of inhabitants increased greatly and high building were constructed in the main street of Royal Mile ; but residential houses were not enough, so the citizens built wooden houses on top of the stone houses. Edinburgh became an overcrowded and filthy city continually hit by plagues, illnesses and fires. By the end of the XVII century, the city had a population of 50.000 people being one of the most unsanitary towns in Europe! It was only thanks to the ability and the genius of the architect James Craig that Edimburgh was enlarged in 1767 when he won the competition to design the New Town : a plan of large parallel streets, squares and gardens. By this period, Edinburgh no longer needed to be circled by a defensive wall since Scotland was united with England in 1707. By mid-eighteenth century Edinburgh became a popular place for intellectuals, especially in philosophy, history, medicine, science and economics. The New Town was finished at the beginning of the XIX century and attracted Irish immigration, increasing the population to 170.000 in 1850: Calton Hill, the Scottish National Gallery, the Scott Monument and other interesting constructions were built during this period. On 1 July 1999 the Scottish Parliament was officially opened by the Queen : the Scots would be able to make their own laws in health, education and social care and the new building was inaugurated in 2004.
1st day , Friday : Castle & Whisky !
From my Hotel Hub Market , located in Haymarket station , it was very easy to reach the most popular sights, such as the Old and the New Town , Princess Street , Royal Mile and other scottish cities too.
Rooms were small but very tidy and I was very satisfied with all the staff , because the reception was open 24H/24 and people were absolutely lovely. The hotel rooms had all modern facilities you need for a comfortable stay and it was not so expensive. I started with a walk through the city up to the Castle . I higlhy recommend to book tickets on line to avoid the terrible queue above all under the climate in Scotland, that is normally cold , wet and windy! For this reason you’ll need a warm coat with a woollen lining and a waterproof outer layer , and please dress in layers, because walking you can have warmth! Without doubt, what struck me the most was : the visit to the “Crown Room” to admire the “the Honours of Scotland “ (the Jewels of Scotland) and a show about ancient medical remedies inside the imposing medieval building in the morning. Freezing and starving to death I went to taste the Top Scottish Wishy at the “Scotch Whisky Experience”, a five star visitor attraction at the top of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Whether you take a tour, visit its shop or restaurant, or enjoy an event or tasting there, I guarantee a sensational experience like that of mine! What did I learn about Whisky? Essentially, Scotch is malted barley that is fermented and distilled (twice), then allowed to age in oak barrels. In Scotland, Scotch must mature in its barrel for at least 3 years, although most age in the range of 8 to 20. Scotch made in its homeland, Canada and England is called Scotch Whisky (no “e“), while that made in Ireland and the U.S. is Scotch Whiskey. There are two main types of Scotch whisky : Single Malt (single malt distilled at a single distillery) and Single Grain (it may have other malted or unmalted cereals also distilled at a single distillery). From those two types, three sub categories are formed: blended Scotch, blended malt Scotch and blended grain Scotch.
- Highlands: fruitcake and oak flirt with heather and smoke in Highland Whiskies having lot of elegance;
- Speyside: it is the most densely populated Whisky region in the world sitting in a fertile valley of rivers and glens. Apple, pear, honey, vanilla and spice all have a part to play in the Speyside Whiskies;
- Islands: the versatility of the Islands accommodates both feathery citrus flavours and smoking peaty noses;
- Islay: Islay malts are pungent with peat, smoke and salinity, revealing their complexity layer after layer;
- Lowlands: triple distilled malts are characteristic of the region, offering a gentle, elegant palate reminiscent of grass, honeysuckle, cream, ginger, toffee, toast and cinnamon;
- Campbeltown: despite the region’s contraction, the malts produced are fiercely enduring and distinctive; wet wool, salt, smoke, fruit, vanilla and toffee are embraced, abandoned and cocktailed in the various malts of Campbeltown.
My rainy day ended at Filling Pub Station reserving my joy to eat the natioanal dish the “Haggis” : it is a type of pudding composed of the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep (or other animal), minced and mixed with beef or mutton suet and oatmeal and seasoned with onion, cayenne pepper, and other spices. The mixture is packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled.
2nd Day, Saturday: getting “ghost” in Saint Andrew.
Like a lot of places in Scotland, things can be dependant on the weather! It’s that it can change seasons four times a day. Be prepared for rain or shine!
I was lucky that day with a stunning sun that made the tour to Saint Andrew easy, fun and pleasant. Saint Andrew is one of Europe’s finest towns, a place of history, learning and culture, a wonderful coastal resort, and the world’s home of golf! I came here to enjoy the historic buildings, the spectacular beaches, the fascinating museums, and a vibrant arts and cultural scene. After a big and tasty breakfast, I started the morning activities with a grand tour of the University of St Andrews, Scotland’s oldest academic institution. The mix of architectural styles around campus varies from brutalist to Victorian gothic and everything in between. I liked St Andrews Cathedral , that is a 5-minute walk from the University campus. This ruined holy place was once Scotland’s largest cathedral and the headquarters of the Scottish medieval church. Although it’s free to tour the ruins, the small museum fee is worth it. Admission also includes entrance to St Rule’s Tower, a tall structure that outdates the Cathedral with magnificent panoramic views. After a lavish lunch of Jacket Potatos in one of the many St Andrews pubs , I walked on the beach and then I explored the city centre. The town is an enchanting natural environment offering many interesting buildings and landscapes. Gazing in the turbines of the flight of the seagulls I was enchanted by this idyllic place, where nature is still pristine with its breathtaking views .