Edinburgh is often an overlooked destination for Australians visiting the UK. But it’s just as easy to get to as London now that Qatar offers daily flights between Doha and Edinburgh.
My trip to the UK was not planned. My sister was supposed to accompany my mum, but at the last moment she wasn’t able to go – and I stepped into her place (it was all done legally, I didn’t just take her passport and get on the plane).
We flew out on Christmas Day from Melbourne with Qatar. I am not a massive fan of long flights, because I get both knee and back pain. I am secretly 100 years old. However I popped some Voltaren and managed to get a few hours of sleep. While the plane from Melbourne was completely packed, the flight from Doha was half empty and almost everyone ended up with their own row.
Arriving at Edinburgh Airport was one of my best airport experiences ever. We are lucky enough to hold British passports, and we breezed through immigration. Within about twenty minutes of landing we had collected our bags and stepped outside into the freezing cold Scottish air – and then straight into a taxi!
We walked from our hotel to Princes Street, and noticed that at 3pm it was already starting to get dark. Princes St has all the usual High St shops, including H&M, Topshop, Primark, Boots and M&S.
My number one tip for dealing with jetlag is to try and stay up as late as possible on your first day. You’ll want to go to sleep as soon as you lie on your bed, so get out into the fresh air and try to keep busy. We made it until about 7pm, which is a decent effort when you’ve flown from Australia.
This city is packed full of history and incredibly architecture. But you really can’t miss seeing Edinburgh Castle. It looms over the city rather ominously, sitting on top of Castle Rock. It’s just a short stroll up from Princes Street and other parts of the centre, although be prepared for some steep hills and stairs! As we had been up since 4am we were wide awake by the time we attempted this walk.
Of course once you arrive you discover that every other tourist in the city is also visiting, and posing with their selfie sticks out the front. We went right in the middle of the Christmas holidays, so inside the castle it was absolutely packed. There are a lot of different exhibitions so there is the potential to learn a lot about Scottish history… or if you are jetlagged, there are a lot of nice views and things to stare at from behind glazed eyes.
For a change of pace you can have afternoon tea in Edinburgh Castle. We booked ahead. If you don’t like carbs or sugar, this probably isn’t the right choice for you. As a noted lover of carbs, I enjoyed every mouthful. As we sat down there was a group next to us who were leaving, and we were shocked that they hadn’t finished everything on their plates. I was deeply ashamed when twenty minutes later I could only finish half of each cake.
From the castle we walked down to Princes St. It was really crowded, which was partially because of the Boxing Day Sales as well as the carnival that was being set up for Hogmanay. I am bizarrely drawn to British shopping strips, and we ended up inside Primark buying cheap Uggs, scarves and beanies.
There are a lot of restaurants around this area, but as we were starting to fall asleep by 5pm we just picked up some supplies at M&S to eat in our apartment.
We caught a local bus to see the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was surprisingly interesting – mainly because it was nowhere near as opulent as I would expect a royal ship to be! Most of it was actually furnished quite simply, apart from areas that were used for entertaining guests. The royal family used to travel to various ports around the world on this ship, sometimes for official duties and other times just for holidays.The fact that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip had separate rooms with single beds is completely glossed over! A double bed wasn’t added until Prince Charles married Diana. Above you can see the formal dining room, which you can still hire out now.
Three nights wasn’t enough, and I definitely could have spent more time exploring Edinburgh! You could spend hours walking around the streets and exploring all the shops, museums and attractions.
We stayed at the Knight Residence Serviced Apartments. After years of backpacking, I am kind of obsessed with spreading out my stuff as much as possible. There are a range of different apartment sizes, and there is a full kitchen in each so you can cook your own meals. It is walking distances from most Edinburgh attractions.