Friday, December 01, 2017

A bloggy acquaintance (who seldom posts these days but who is still wandering in the blogosphere) has asked the following question in a comment:

"My husband is going to be in Edinburgh for business soon. He's never been there before. He will have a bit of free time on Dec. 9 and 10 (a weekend). I'll suggest he go to the light display at the Botanics. Is there anything he shouldn't miss while he's in town? He is an experienced world traveler and enjoys walking around by himself taking in the sights. He also likes live music. Sometimes I ask him to look for souvenirs for me (he's very bad at this, so I never hold my breath). What would be a good souvenir from Scotland?"

She probably expected me to reply in the comments, but I can never seem to do this. It tells me to sign in (I am signed in, surely) and I don't like to do anything untoward in case Blogger becomes offended.

It's an interesting question, though. What would I recommend a visitor to do in a bit of free time in December? Firstly I would recommend not coming in December. The weather can be beautiful, eg today, but on the other hand it can be wet and misty and a bit miserable - it's totally unpredictable. And it gets dark early in December. In addition, these days Edinburgh in December is full of Christmas markets in tacky sheds, and lit-up rides and stuff - and not looking at its best. If I were in charge... hmm, bah, humbug... But the town is always full of tourists. Presumably it's cheaper to come in the winter, but... don't.

However, B's husband is coming then so I apologise in advance if he gets wet.

But Edinburgh is still beautiful at any time of year.

I don't know about the light display at the Botanics. He'd have to book (Google Edinburgh Botanic Gardens) and I don't know about availability, but anyway unless he's a great fan of darkness and pretty lights it might not be worth the money (and the trouble of finding his way there in the dark). He wouldn't be able to see the gardens to any extent. If he likes gardens, better to go during the day (when it's free) - though December isn't the best time for them either.

Assuming it's not teeming down with rain, Edinburgh is a very walkable city. I suppose I'd walk through Princes Street Gardens (the bit that's not full of Christmas markets) and look up at the Castle and the skyline in general. Then maybe cross the road and plunge up, say, Hanover Street, glance along George Street and then down into the New Town (a planned extension to the older city, begun in 1760) via Dundas Street, which has art shops and antique shops, and just wander about a bit, looking at the Georgian architecture. Then come up again to Princes Street and walk up the Mound to the Old Town, possibly wander up to the Castle (he could of course go round this but he probably wouldn't have time) and then down the High Street (the Royal Mile), looking at / walking briefly round St Giles Cathedral, ignoring all the tartan tat shops, looking at John Knox's House (1600s) and then continuing down to the Scottish Parliament (a marmite building if ever I saw one) and Holyrood Palace, and perhaps into Holyrood Park, glancing admiringly up at the hills. If he went slightly up a hill, he'd get a good view of the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, dating from the 1100s.

By this time, he'd probably be quite weary but there are various cafes around where he could sit down and rest. I think you can go to the café at the Palace without actually paying to go round the buildings.

Alternatively, he could do one of the walks round the Dean Village, which is quite scenic, and walk along the Water of Leith. I'm sure there's ample info about this on the internet.

If he likes art, there are two galleries in Princes Street, both very obvious (they look like Greek temples) and he could get a free bus to the Galleries of Modern Art if he liked. He could then go down behind Modern 1 and walk along the river a bit till he reached the slope up to Roseburn (there are always people around to ask) and then go back to the main road there and get a bus back to the centre.

If he does get buses, he should note that they don't give change! £1.60 for a single fare anywhere and all-day tickets for £4.

As for live music - there are classical concerts but if he means music in small venues, I don't really know, but I'm sure various pubs are also music venues.

And Scottish souvenirs - well, it depends what you like! I myself like everything in Anta, which is a shop in George Street (between Charlotte and Castle Streets, ie at the west end). This sells genuine Scottish craft goods - not cheap - made from pottery and fabric. You could look at their website!

If it's too cold and wet to walk about, I'd suggest the art galleries (above), the Portrait Gallery in Queen Street (in the New Town), The Georgian House in Charlotte Square (New Town), the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street (in the Old Town), the Castle (which is only partly indoors), Gladstone's Land (near the Castle), the Palace, John Knox's House - all quite interesting if he likes history.

Any good for a start?


  1. You've really made me want to visit! (although not in the winter)

  2. What Margaret said! Also, have you thought about being a guide who could help people averse to shoddy tat to avoid it and see the beauty of Edinburgh through the eyes of a native who so obviously loves her city?

  3. Any good for a start? You've made my day! A whole blog post! Thank you so much! Sounds like he should stay a week to fit it all in. Alas, he can't choose when he travels, and he is often going to interesting places the darkest time of year, but he makes the best of it. I'm sure he will love Edinburgh.

  4. Also, your observation that I'm still wandering in the blogosphere made me chuckle. Yes, I am out here flitting around.

  5. OMG I looked at that shop and now desperately need a $300 silk plaid scarf :(

  6. Now if only you had had the prescience to write this post before my recent day trip. I will have to go again. But maybe leave it until May.

  7. When fleetingly there in 2011 we enjoyed a visit to the Castle and Holyrood house and garden and also Camera Obscura.( on the way up the hill to the castle I think )
    I am still wearing my souvenir pale blue plaid scarf ( sold to me by an Indian gentleman who has lived there all his life _ funny! ) Maybe not a real tartan?

  8. Wow Pam -- you've created the perfect list! I was going to say that my favorite is the walk along the Royal Mile with a visit to both the Castle and Holyrood Palace, but I looked at your list and they're all my favorites. The only thing you missed that I really enjoyed would be a tour of the parts of the city under the old city -- the Mary King's Close tour for example. The actual tour was kind of hokey, but I loved being about to go "down under" -- it allowed me to see and imagine what life was like then.
    As for souvenirs, I've bought several on my trips there, but my very favorite -- hands down! -- is the little pitcher/mug that you gave me when I visited with DIL. It's modern, yet it contains the beautiful thistle. If Besomom loves dishes (like we do) I think she would love it, so, you might want to consider giving her instructions on where her hubby might procure one ;-D.

  9. Giving me lovely memories of Edinburgh in 1998 and 2010.

  10. My husband had his day in Edinburgh today and thoroughly enjoyed himself. He visited the Christmas market Saturday night (he says it is the biggest Christmas market he's ever been to, and he's been to several in Europe the past few years). Sunday he appreciated the sunny day. He visited Edinburgh Castle at sunrise, walked the Royal Mile before the shops were open (probably deliberately--ha!), did an outside tour of Parliament, walked to the top of Arthur's Seat (and sent me a photo of himself from the top--not a selfie, so there must have been others up there, too. The view looks glorious!), visited Holyrood Park and Calton Hill, did some shopping in non-tourist places (I have no idea where that might have been), went on a Book Lover's tour with a guide who claimed to be a personal friend of Alexander McCall Smith (or Sandy, as his friends allegedly call him), and attended an orchestra concert at Canongate Kirk. He says I would have enjoyed every minute except for the last part of getting to the top of Arthur's Seat with a 4-limbed scramble over frosty terrain. Thanks again for all your suggestions! Just wish I could have been there with him. Maybe next time.

  11. I am SO glad that I decided to scroll through all your posts since my last 'visit' to your blog. I am in the beginning stages of planning our next trip to Scotland (October 2018) and now know some more places to visit!