Firstly, the support on our Christmas tree trail 2020 blog post and over on Instagram (@wrenyc) has been so lovely, and we enjoyed making it so much that we are back with part two!! It would appear we are all in need of a festive and fun day out these days, and with the announcement that the Edinburgh area is staying in tier three over the Christmas period, what better way than to take a wander along the beautiful Royal Mile. Minus the optional hot chocolate stop, the trail is completely free as there’s no need to pay entry to anywhere, and it took us just over an hour to complete. As mentioned in the previous vlog, we really fancied taking Wren out to see the twinkly lights in the dark so for this walk, we begun at about 3:30pm. And we are so happy it worked out! 

The Route

It doesn’t matter what order you complete the trail, but we begun at Edinburgh Castle so we caught the sun going down from the Esplanade – I know what you’re thinking, ‘Edinburgh has sun?!’ but honestly the wintery skies at that time of day are super impressive.

If you’ve used public transport to travel into town, you’ve more than likely ended up on Princes Street, so we’d recommend beginning the trail by walking up the Mound. That beautiful 2020 rainbow will be your first stop followed by a turn right onto the Mile once you’ve conquered the hill! The route map below shows main tree stops in green, and bonus stops in blue.

1.The Scotch Whisky Experience

The exterior to this building makes up for the fact there isn’t a single decoration on the exterior of Edinburgh Castle (although one of the guards did say there’s a pretty impressive tree inside), and the tree is perfect for a lovely family photograph. Perhaps not the first place you think to take children, the Scotch Whisky Experience is a surprisingly great attraction, even for those who aren’t so fond of the drink. There is a ‘Disney World type’ ride involving sitting in a whisky barrel, as well as a really great tasting experience. So maybe one to consider on a mega rainy day!

2.The Witchery

Dripping in Christmas sparkle and rich in Edinburgh history, The Witchery is named after all of the hundreds of men and women that were burned at the stake as suspected witches up on the castle hill. The building itself was built in the 16th century and the restaurant sits within Boswell’s Court, named after a former resident. Once you’ve spotted the beautiful archway entrance, don’t hesitate to walk through to the courtyard to see the Christmas tree – the staff at the restaurant are more than used to having people come for a look! As a little added fact, The Witchery also has nine super fancy suites that are decorated just as luxuriously as the restaurant, and was described as one of the seven wonders of the hotel world by Cosmopolitan magazine.

3.Museum on the Mound

This tree is one of our favourites in the city this year, as it’s location at the end of Bank Street reminds us of the fairy on top of the tree! The building is home to the Money Museum, where you can see a case of £1 million!

4.The Mound 

You know Christmas has officially started when the tree on the Mound arrives! This tradition started in 1949 when a traditional gifted tree came from Scandinavia every year to celebrate the partnership between the countries. Since 2008, the tree has been sourced locally in Scotland, however the relationship with Scandinavia is still acknowledged each year.  

A special addition to The Mound for 2020 is an 18-metre rainbow tribute, dedicated to all the key workers and frontline staff during the Covid pandemic. The rainbow was Wren’s favourite spot of our walk, and she’s seen it a few times since, as it’s lit day and night.

5.St Giles’ Cathedral

There are hundreds of little stories and mysteries surrounding the cathedral, named and dedicated to Saint Giles, the Patron Saint of Edinburgh, but our favourite is about John Knox. A famous name in the city, John Knox was a minister at the church during the 16th century. The story goes that ever since his best friend’s life was saved by a dog while travelling in Europe, Knox has allowed dogs the freedom of the church, and even today, dogs are still very welcome to go inside! John Knox’s grave is unfortunately thought to be somewhere in the car park of the cathedral, definitely worth checking out space number 23!

6.City Chambers

This tree was actually spotted by Wren who kept pointing at it while we were taking photos at St Giles’ Cathedral. The columns of the City Chambers are beautifully lit by fairy lights, but high above the courtyard and set off the Royal Mile is a secret light tree on the roof!

*Bonus Stops

So admittedly, we were a little disappointed by the lack of decorations down the second half of the Royal Mile. As there sadly isn’t the same level of tourism as normal, quite a few hot spots looked closed. However, we’d highly recommend checking these three out for an extra dose of Christmas cheer!

  • Jollies Court
  • The Signet Library (tree visible through the window)
  • The Canongate Kirk

Shopping ‘on Theme’

As we were wandering, lacking in Christmas tree motivation, we couldn’t believe our eyes when we stumbled upon TWO Christmas shops on the Royal Mile! They’re both open all year round and are absolutely worth a little browse. The Nutcracker Christmas Shop is just down from North Bridge, and the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, which has more Scottish themed decorations and ornaments, is just before the Scottish Parliament building. 

Hot Chocolate at The Milkman

We have been looking forward to trying this place out ever since seeing other locals posting about it while we lived abroad. The Milkman, in our opinion, shows off everything that is great about Edinburgh. The decor is warm and cosy, while still embracing exposed brick and simple colours, and we love the original sign outside the cafe. There are actually two locations – both on Cockburn Street – but we visited the original spot down the bottom, towards Waverley Station. We chose two hot chocolates, which were perfectly silky (with none of that bitter chocolate taste you often get nowadays) and the staff were kind enough to give us a cup of marshmallows for Wren. We’ve got this place benchmarked for our next childfree morning so we can try a coffee next time!

If you find any of the trees, why not post a photo on your stories over on Instagram and tag @wrenyc to be featured! We loved getting messages from people who enjoyed our first tree trail. We think we have time to squeeze in one more Christmas tree trail in before the holidays begin, so let us know if you have suggestions for areas in Edinburgh. Thank you!

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