Friday, August 4, 2017

Family Trip to Scotland: Attractions 2

I hope you're not getting too tired of Scotland posts, because I still have a few more planned! In this post I want to mention the attractions we saw in and near Edinburgh.

I already wrote about Holyrood Palace in my castles post, but I'll just add another shout out to this palace. We enjoyed it more than, well, other castles in the city.

But what else did we do in Edinburgh?

National Museum of Scotland (free, donations appreciated)

Like many in Scotland, this museum charges no admission! This was M's and my second visit to this museum, and there's so much to see that I don't even know where to start. There's a great view from the rooftop that's not to be missed, you can find an extensive multi-level exhibit of Scottish history (where we spent our visit this time, though we still didn't see it all), and exhibits about the natural and modern world. No matter where your interests lie, there will be something for you here.

The only photo I took in the museum was of a Scottish guillotine, so I think I'll leave that and let you find your own photos.

The Potter Trail Tour (free, donations appreciated)

The three "kids" went on this tour, and I will give the keyboard over to my daughter, who described it thus:

This walking tour is about an hour long and covers many of J.K. Rowling's inspirations for the books. Tours are drop in - no booking in advance and meet by Greyfriar Bobby's statue just outside of Greyfriar's Kirkyard. Although the tour is free they do request a donation. They don't have a guideline amount for the donation, but it seems like most donate about 5 pounds per person.

The gist of the tour is that you'll see a few graves in Greyfriar's Kirkyard that inspired some of the Harry Potter characters, you'll see one of the many inspirations for Hogwarts, and two cafes where Rowling wrote some of the earlier books. There are a few more sites on the tour, including the street that inspired Diagon Alley (Victoria Street, which is very picturesque).

At one point the tour guide asked for a volunteer to wear the sorting hat, and Liv threw Al under the bus. He was less than amused - but I love the photo!

All in all, it was a tour that was worth it in my opinion - our tour guide was hilarious and made the tour very interactive and knew so much about Rowling and her inspirations that I didn't already know!

The Real Mary King's Close  (not free)

No photos are allowed during this tour and it's not cheap, but we highly recommend it! It's a journey back into the early days of Edinburgh, the time of the plague, and the world in which the less-than-wealthy lived. Our guide was incredibly entertaining, although he was English and not Scottish - it was clear he enjoyed his role. 

Tickets can be pre-ordered online, but then they must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance. We weren't sure when we'd want the tour, so we didn't pre-order. Instead, after our morning tour of Holyrood M and I walked up the Royal Mile to Mary King's Close and then ordered and paid for tickets for later that day. This worked out perfectly for us. 

The Real Mary King's Close tour was my highlight of our day in Edinburgh, though the entire day was enjoyable.

Calton Hill  (free)

In 2015 M and I walked up Arthur's Seat for nice views over Edinburgh. This time we were all trying to pack Edinburgh into one day, so we went up Calton Hill instead. I'd read that this takes less time, but there are still nice views over Edinburgh. I certainly agree. If you have several days in the city, hike up Arthur's Seat. If you have only one or two days, do Calton's Hill.

The Great Polish Map of Scotland  (free, donations appreciated)

I've written about this attraction in Eddleston before, but since it's still relatively new and not everyone knows about it, I want to mention it again! It is the largest physical relief map in the world, and it was first created in the 1970s by Jan Tomasik and a small group of Polish geographers.

The restoration of the map is an ongoing process, and since our first visit in 2015 the crew has added a sturdy observation platform, rebuilt many of the islands (the white bits on the photo) and refilled the sea. When we were there the sea was refilling after some necessary maintenance, but by now it's full again.

What attractions or tours did we miss in Edinburgh?


  1. Did you eat haggis? It's kind of a tourist attraction, or maybe more aptly, a deterrent ;) We ate both the vegetarian and real versions near the Close. It was surprisingly decent!

    1. We didn't eat haggis this time, but we have tried it on previous trips. M even had vegan haggis, though accidentally. He stopped in a café/deli and ordered what we wanted, only realizing upon leaving that everything was vegan! The regular haggis we had a one of our hotels in 2007 was quite good - we thought it tasted more or less like meat loaf.

  2. Did he like the vegan haggis, or was it not his thing? I actually found the vegetarian (or maybe it WAS vegan, too, now that I think of it) tastier than the regular kind because the non-meat version had so many spices.

    1. He said it was fine, but he probably would have preferred the carnivore's version.

  3. I did enjoy the Real Mary King's Close when we visited last year, but I think it's quite overpriced!!