Sometime we forget about how lucky we are to have such a beautiful city all around us. Over the half term break, I spent a couple of days in Sussex and was sorry it wasn’t longer. I had been keen to spend a bit of time in Brighton wandering through the Laines – particularly exploring all the little independent shops and watching the myriad of people that pass by. However, it occurred to me that although I do this each time I visit, I rarely venture in to Edinburgh Old Town anymore – or take the time to explore Edinburgh castle.
Many moons ago, I used to live on Castle Terrace – very much in the shadow of the Castle. I had to walk down the Royal Mile to get to my University classes and found the swarms of tourists irritating. I would complete the journey as quickly as possible only stopping to pick up a coffee on route. It had been a long while since I had actually slowed down enough to look round and appreciate what had appeared.
The weather was actually pretty nice and the kids were still hyper after Halloween the night before, so it seemed to be a good idea to find a castle to explore. Our first thought was Craigmillar which offers amazing views over the city but actually, Edinburgh Castle’s vistas are just as impressive, if not more so.
Rather than heading straight to the castle, we took the time to head down to the Grass Market to see what had changed since we had last been there. It was fun to reminisce about various night’s out from student days and to remember restaurants long ago abandoned (although I made a strong mental note to go back to Mamas pizzeria!)
Heading up Victoria Street, numerous shops caught the eye and the kids particularly enjoyed looking at the attractive displays. I’m not sure I would go back to frequent any of them but it was an excellent place for a spot of window shopping.
As for the Royal Mile itself, it was still fairly busy but much quieter than the summer months and I’m sure a lot of the Half Term traffic had left. Mike had never noticed Gladstone’s Land before – one of the oldest buildings on the Mile owned by the National Trust. Our membership would allow a free visit so this again is definitely something to come back to – especially with free Sunday parking it would be a good budget visit for us.
Up at the castle, both Ben and Katie enjoyed looking out over the walls at the views beyond. Katie, as always was a little too keen to climb on/over/up the walls so needed a very close reign and Mike, as always was a little too scared of heights. Not the best combination!
Entrance to the Castle is certainly not cheap at £16.50 for an adult and £9.90 for a 5-15 year old. If you’re paying this rate, you really want to make sure that you have a day to spend there as there is a massive amount to explore. Aside from the castle grounds, rooms, crown jewels and chapels, there is also a Regimental museum and the War museum which can fill a day in itself. Our family membership is only £86.93 so if we visit the castle twice in one year, it’s really very good value. I also feel that I don’t have to do EVERYTHING on each visit and can dip in as and when – although I am aware I really should have done this more given it’s about two years since my last visit.
Aside from exploring the castle, we headed through the War museum which is always a highlight for Ben. We were lucky in that it was also a ‘living history’ day so the Castle was visited by King James V’s court musician.
Throughout the day he was playing music and talking about the different instruments and music found in court. He included a lot of humour in his talk and it was fascinating to see some very early examples of instruments. He returns to the castle on the 19-20 December this year ; if anyone has time over the festive period, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Historic Scotland actually have an amazing calendar of living history events, we’ve attended a number this year and some just by chance. We had an awesome day out with friends at Dirleton Castle and Garden, in which we witnessed the capture of the castle by King Edward I’s troops. By far the best this year though was the jousting event at Linlithgow castle – complete with medieval camp and opportunity for Mike to try stone carving. Has anyone been to something similar? I’d definitely be keen to go to more.
Not to digress too much, I think the whole day served as a good reminder about what we’ve got. I’m therefore also a bit worried about what I’m forgotten! Anyone got good ideas for days out? Particularly as this miserable weather and darkness descends on the city!