Winter Escape Episode II: Edinburgh

Upon my arrival early on a Sunday morning, Edinburgh greeted me with the kind of weather I thought I had left behind back in Melbourne. Grey skies, 14 degrees and light drizzle. This was in stark contrast to the 45 plus degrees I had encountered in Abu Dhabi only a day earlier.

While my initial impressions were of a grey city, with grey skies there was definitely more to Edinburgh than 50 shades of grey, which I discovered over the course of two days.

The streets of Edinburgh

I should preface this by saying that my time in Edinburgh revolved largely around preparing for a wedding in Duns so this will be far from a comprehensive run down of the city.

The easiest way to get to the city center from the airport is via the Airlink which costs £4.50 for a single adult journey. The ride into town takes approximately 30 minutes and stops at Waverley Station where connecting services, car rentals, visitor centre etc can be located.

The station is the main station in Edinburgh and the second-largest main line railway station in the United Kingdom in terms of area.

Waverley Station located in central Edinburgh

Edinburgh's topography has resulted in a network of spiraling and cascading stairs, raised walkways and terraces which provide a good all round waking experience and photo opportunities for any urban explorer. It also provides for a decent cardio workout as you tackle stairs and sloping streets.

The grey and grit of the buildings -the result of soot from the days of locomotives I'm told - are balanced by the rich greenery of the parks and gardens dotted throughout the city.

A definite highlight was the brief visit to the grounds of Edinburgh Castle which is located surprisingly close to the centre of the city and only a short stroll from Waverley Station. The fortress which sits atop Castle Rock dominates the Edinburgh skyline and is Scotland's most-visited paid tourist attraction, with over 1.4 million visitors in 2013.

It also provides the backdrop to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo during the annual Edinburgh International Festival. A statue of William Wallace, one of the main leaders of the Wars of Scottish Independence greets visitors at the gate.

Edinburgh Castle dominates the Edinburgh skyline

Further down from the castle is Victoria Street which winds around to meet up with Grassmarket. The Grassmarket is a historic market place and an events space in the Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland. In relation to the rest of the city it lies in a hollow, well below surrounding ground levels. This little area is characterised by rows of low-rise buildings featuring boutique retail tenancies, and food and beverage.

This is also another spot to get photos of the castle or just sit around and people watch.

One other aspect that stood out for me was the sheer number of pubs and bars within impressive heritage buildings, some grander than others.

It was midday on the second day that my party and I made our way to Longformacus in Duns en route to our friend's wedding, kilts in tow. We stopped off at the Glenkinchie distillery - one of the classic malt distilleries in Scotland and worth doing the tour and whiskey tasting if you are so inclined.

The location of the wedding was Wedderburn Castle in Duns where the kilts came out and we all danced the night away to traditional Scottish music, even though the Australian contingent had little to no idea what we were doing.

A montage of Duns

Next up on my trip will be the city of Dublin.

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