Edinburgh, the home of Harry Potter, a hilltop castle and much more. There’s a reason why this city has firmly cemented its place as one of the UK’s top 10 most visited cities (having only recently been knocked off the second spot by Manchester). As Scotland’s capital, it perfectly encapsulates the old and the new with its Medieval Own Town vs the Georgian New Town – both beautiful in their own rights. For me, it’s a city that I’ve looked to visit ever since I discovered that Edinburgh was an inspiration for some of the main locations in Harry Potter, something I’ll touch upon again later. And in the Autumn, I found an incredibly affordable deal to make that happen. Staying at Yotel Edinburgh – which was very central by the way – we enjoyed a weekend break in the city. So if you’re like me and are looking to make the best of a UK staycation, let me fill you in on some of the best attractions to see and places to visit.
A Medieval castle overlooking the city, it has traditionally been a historic fortress and is thought to be one of the most invaded castles in Europe. It has faced attacks no less than 23 times and has been rebuilt on several occasions. Given its history, we’re lucky that it stills exists at all today and in 2018, over 2 million visitors trekked the Royal Mile to visit one of the most popular attractions in Scotland. Not only can you learn a lot about its history and the Kings and Queens that ruled here but you can experience what it would have been like to have been a prisoner here. But on a much happier note, you can also get those beautiful views over the city.
Easily one of Edinburgh’s prettiest streets, Victoria Street is an amalgamation of cobbled roads, colourful buildings and independent shops, all creating an unrivalled charm. This is probably why J.K Rowling opted to base the iconic Diagon Alley off this street for her bestselling series. Now, you can find Harry Potter-themed stores, local artisans, a book shop and much more here. A perfect stop, particularly on a sunny day when the light hits the colourful buildings.
Before I visited, I knew nothing about Dean Village, but we pretty much ended up stumbling upon it while we were exploring. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the main city centre, this quaint, residential village offers a tranquil escape with beautiful views. With small, picturesque houses that line the river, you can find the best views at the bottom of Hawthornbank Lane on a little bridge overlooking the water. There’s not a lot to see here but it’s a pretty stop if you can make the time.
A location probably first brought to my attention after watching the film adaptation of David Nicholl’s rom-com novel, One Day, this was something that absolutely had to be on my Edinburgh itinerary (and should be on yours too). Over 2,000 years old, it’s an ancient volcano and sits 251m above sea level. A great walk for a dry day in Scotland, not only does it offer some green space and exercise but it also boasts beautiful views over the city – just don’t do the hike in a dress like I did. Allow yourself about two hours to complete this comfortably – save enough time to take in those views, and appreciate the physical effort, obviously.
Another recognisable spot in the city, Calton Hill is marked as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Home to some iconic Scottish monuments dating back to the 19th century including the National Monument, Dugald Stewart Monument, Nelson’s Monument, the Old Royal High School, Robert Burns Monument, Political Martyrs’ Monument and also the City Observatory, there’s so much to see here. It’s a good place to watch the sunset over the city, so I’d definitely recommend heading here for the golden hour.
While you’re here, you can also take advantage of a free Harry Potter walking tour, sample some of the great food that Edinburgh has to offer, head to the pub or generally spend your time wandering around the city, taking the time to visit Princes Street Gardens, the Royal Yacht Britannia or even the Scottish Parliament Building. Whatever takes your fancy, Edinburgh will have something to offer you, whether you’re staying for a weekend break or longer.