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Published: October 4th 2021
After a lovely journey up the coast on the train, we arrived at Edinburgh. It was a short walk from the station to where we were staying. Check-in was smooth and I loved the view from our room across the Grassmarket. I have only really briefly been to the Grassmarket before on previous trips to Edinburgh, so was looking forward to spending more time here. After getting sorted, it was time to head out and reacquaint myself with one of my favourite cities. I have been to Edinburgh numerous times over the years and there is always still more to see and do and revisit.
The first place I wanted to visit was The Vennel Steps, which I had just come across online while looking for things to do near where we were staying. When I'd passed through the Grassmarket before, I really liked the view of the castle as I'd only really seen it from the Royal Mile or the New Town, so it was a nice alternative. I'd also liked all the bars and restaurants lining the square as it seemed like it would be a lovely place. There were a few other people at the Vennel Steps
when we got there. The reason to take a walk up the Vennel Steps is to get a great view of Edinburgh Castle. I stopped at a few different points on the steps to get some photos of the castle. Apparantly the 50th step is the best for the view. It really was a gorgeous view. We continued to the top of the stairs and were going to take the road further up but decided there probably wasn't a lot to see as it looked like a residential area. I was surprised at the top to come across the Flodden Wall as it looked like a castle wall. It had been a defensive wall in the past with watchtowers to allow the soldiers a good vantage point to defend the city from.
We headed back down to the Grassmarket. I really liked Cold Town House, which appears to be a restaurant/bar/brewery houses in an old church as it had these gorgeous, no doubt fake, flowers flowing down the side of the building. The flowers also got progressively lighter as the further they went down. It looked great. We then headed across the Grassmarket and up West Bow and Victoria
Street. There is a well at the foot of West Bow and it was one of the first well heads built to supply the Grassmarket with water from the reservoir at Castle Hill and it dates back to the 17th century. Victoria Street is a popular spot for getting instagrammable photos. The way the street curves and the brightly painted shopfronts are really gorgeous. The street was built between 1829-34 and was designed by Thomas Hamilton. There are lots of cute little shops on Victoria Street and I enjoyed having a look in the windows. There was also a sign outside of one of the shops stating that it had been a brush shop founded by Robert Cresser in 1873 and was occupied for 131 years. Some believe it was part of the inspiration for Diagon Alley and Ollivander's in JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. I briefly remember the guide mentioning this place, when I did the Harry Potter walking tour the year before. I wish I could have seen the original shop to see if it gave me the Harry Potter vibe as I feel that Victoria Street as a whole doesn't due to the brightly coloured shops. I
think The Shambles in York has much more of a Diagon Alley vibe to it.
We headed up to the castle and had a mooch about out the front. It was late in the day by this stage and I don't think they were letting people in anymore. Sign of the times: a Covid testing centre set up on the square in front of the castle. I love the views from this spot in all directions. I love seeing all the buildings in the southside of the city and the university quarter, looking up at the castle's outer walls, the newer buildings of the New Town and out to sea, and also down the Royal Mile. We had a look at some of the monuments that are in front of the castle. There was a column with a stag's (?) head on it and it reminded me of the bubble tea shop called The Alley, as they use something similar in their logo. There was also the grave of Ensign Charles Ewart, who was famous for being a Scottish soldier of the Royal North British Dragoons and is famous for capturing the regimental eagle of the 45e Régiment de
Ligne at the Battle of Waterloo. He was originally buried in Salford, where he'd been living later in life, but in 1938 was reburied on the Esplanade in front of Edinburgh Castle. There was a statue nearby, which I think could be him, but I was an idiot and forgot to take a photo of the name on the statue. Also google gave me nothing when I tried to search for it.
We took a walk down the Royal Mile. No matter how many times I come to Edinburgh, it's something I always like to do. I love looking at all the old buildings. We stopped off for a drink at a café, sitting outside as it wasn't too cold. This part of the Royal Mile is a bit quieter so there wasn't much people watching going on. We continued down to the bottom and came to the Scottish Parliament building. I really like the design of the building as it is Post-modern style and fits in well with its surroundings. You can do free tours of the building and it is on my to-do when I return. At the moment, the tours aren't happening due to Covid. We
took in the gorgeous views of Salisbury Crags. We walked over to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh. It was all closed up as it was late by the time we got there, so we just had a nose in through the gates. I really liked the unicorn and lion that are on the big doors at the entrance.
From Holyrood, we were going to walk up to Charlton Hill, but were feeling a bit tired, so didn't bother. Instead we headed towards Waverly Station and then back up the Royal Mile to get some food. For dinner, I had picked out a place near where we were staying. It was a Mexican restaurant called Mariachi. I rarely eat Mexican food, so it would be a nice change. I was surprised at how busy the restaurant was when we got there as it was a Tuesday evening, almost all the tables were taken. We had a quick look at the menu, but I kind of already knew what I wanted. We had some chips and guac to start. They were so good. The chips were fresh, salty and hot straight from the oven.
I also liked that the guac came in two pots meaning if you were sharing with another person, you got one each. Perfect! I also had a lovely raspberita cocktail, refreshing with a good kick of raspberry infused tequila. The main meals were lovely, everything was so tasty. The beef shin chimichanga was delicious, the beef just melted in your mouth. The quinoa salad was really nice too. It was a mix of salad leaves, quinoa, roasted vegetables, tomatoes, crumbled feta and guacamole. It may sound like an odd combination, but it totally worked. Thankfully, it was only a short walk back to the hotel to relax and recharge for the next day.
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