Fun activities in Edinburgh
Visit Scotland when the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is on.
Being the capital of Scotland isn’t what draws the crowds to Edinburgh. It is the fact that the place is buzzing with people and heaps of activities to do. Oh, and of course, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. And the list goes on.
Just like the other Scottish city, which most people think is the capital, Glasgow, Edinburgh also has heaps of free activities. Making Edinburgh another great location for a family on a budget.
We couldn’t afford to stay in Edinburgh because of the high season and festival. Undeterred, we spent two days exploring and parted with little money. It is because of the festival and tattoo that we were entertained the entire time.
Edinburgh has a lot of colours, a lot of tourists and thanks to the festival, a great deal of music in the streets.
The old town is the place to be. We explored Grassmarket first. A square with cobbled paths, it sits below the High Street in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. It is free to wander around and look into the shops so we spent some time just exploring.
Pubs line one side of the square and are complete with outdoor seating. We were looking for only one pub and that was the ‘smallest pub in Scotland‘. It had a tiny entrance and bench style seating inside. We wandered in and had a chat with the barman and took some photos. An American musician was setting up to do a free gig and all we thought was, ‘why does he need a microphone?’
The Grassmarket has street entertainers and many tourist souvenir shops. We all had a good look through these and a laugh.
The roads and laneways that move crowds from Grassmarket up to the High Street are colourful and full of entertainment in their own right. At the top, we saw our first Scottish bagpipe player and was able to get photos with him for FREE. Something that is not done in many other parts of the world. In many other countries, you only have to raise your camera for a split second before the object of your lens shoots up a sign or a hand asking for payment.
We wandered up to the entrance of the castle. The Esplanade was complete with the temporary grandstand for the nightly Tattoo spectacular. It looks so much bigger on TV.
We didn’t go into the castle. Because there are so many castles in England and Scotland, we decided on only one for our visit. More about that in another blog.
We turned away from the castle and headed down the ‘Royal Mile‘. As the name states, it is a mile long road that covers the distance of the old town. It travels from the castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
The Palace is the Queens Official Scottish residence. I posted an Instagram photo mocking the size of her ‘little’ highland getaway and got heaps of likes. I shouldn’t underestimate how popular her highness is.
Our Instagram account is growing, check it out here.
Free Fringe Festival
As we walked the length of the ‘Royal Mile‘ toward Holyrood, we were surprised by many street performances. Plenty of acts were staging small displays to boost ticket sales. We stopped at the most lively ones, getting free entertainment the entire way. Why buy tickets when you can see a small portion of many performances?
Another surprise for us was the many free venues. There is a complete catalogue of free events and how to find the venues in the local paper. Another way to find them is to walk along Cowgate toward Holyrood Road. This road runs from Grassmarket all the way to the Palace but is South of the ‘Royal Mile’.
With a large section of the ‘Mile’ closed for the Fringe festival, it felt like an outdoor activity rather than a venue festival. Being able to feel a part of the action without spending any money was just such a bonus for us.
The amount of walking we did over our two-day visit should have been enough exercise for the week. But we heard about Arthurs Seat and decided to attempt it.
We parked the car next to the Palace and walked across to Holyrood Park. The park has a collection of hills in the centre and many walking paths around and to the top of the highest peak. The highest peak is 251 metres high and is called Arthurs Seat. I looked up why but there are too many theories to find a definitive explanation.
The small mountain was once a volcano but is now an exercise hill with 360-degree views of Edinburgh from the top.
Photo tip: before scaling the final peak, take the rocks and form a word with them. Then head up the last stretch and look back. You can’t miss the stone built word, but just to be sure Winter didn’t we stood by ours for the shot.
The climb down the hill was a breeze. We were so lucky to have such good weather it made the entire two days even more enjoyable.
We have found so much to do for no to little expense in Scotland. Glasgow first and then Edinburgh surprised us with so many free activities.
Click here to see a list of FREE things that we didn’t even get to in Edinburgh.
Next, we head back through England and visit a castle.