From Kirkwall to Edinburgh, Scotland has so much to see! Come with me to visit two more ports on the Emerald Isles cruise on Viking Sky.
First up, Kirkwall, Scotland. Located on the Mainland of Orkney, Kirkwall is known as the “Egypt of the North” with numerous sites scattered around the Orkney mainland that actually predate the Egyptian pyramids!
Some of the many ancient sights in Kirkwall include Maeshowe, an ancient tomb tagged with Viking graffiti, Skara Brae, a mysteriously deserted Neolithic village, as well as the Standing Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, both of which can be compared to the likes of Stonehenge.
There are two main cities on the Orkney mainland: Kirkwall, the capital city, and Stromness, a picturesque European-style town that is close to some of the many sights on the Orkney mainland. (You can see it all — it only takes about 45 minutes to drive around the entire Orkney mainland).
It’s fun to go scout out the families of Puffins that live in the cliff walls of the Bay of Scaill. The cliff is on a small island off the north western coast of the Orkney mainland, but the only way to see them is to walk across to the island when the tides are low.
Travel tip: Be sure to visit the main tourist office in Kirkwall and ask them for the best times to walk across to the island because you will only have a limited amount of time before the ocean level rises again.
This route, beginning and ending in Kirkwall, will allow you to see major sites the area has to offer:
From Kirkwall to Edinburgh
On to Edinburgh – and during the famous Fringe Festival!
Scotland’s compact, hilly capital has a population of about 500,000, the second most populous city in Scotland. It has a medieval Old Town and an elegant Georgian New Town with gardens and neoclassical buildings. Looming over the city is Edinburgh Castle, home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, used in the coronation of Scottish rulers. Arthur’s Seat is an imposing peak in Holyrood Park with sweeping views, and Calton Hill is topped with monuments and memorials.
The Royal Mile, lined with shops selling souvenirs, clan tartans and whisky, leads from the castle to 16th-century Holyrood Palace, an official royal residence. The Scottish National Galleries display Scottish and European art, including portraits of many famous Scots.
The area around Princes Street is the main shopping area in the city center, with souvenir shops and chain stores such as Boots the Chemist, H&M and Jenners. George Street, north of Princes Street, is the preferred location for some upmarket shops and independent stores. Summer arts festival season, a city institution, includes the internationally renowned Edinburgh International Festival and its quirkier sibling, Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Restaurants in waterside Leith serve high-end local seafood to traditional fish and chips.
Edinburgh’s “Hidden” Gems
Edinburgh is full of history and beauty – but what gems are to be discovered off the beaten path, down Edinburgh’s many hidden alleyways?
Not many people realize that Edinburgh has a river. The Water of Leith carves its way through deep gorges on its way from the Pentland Hills to the sea at the port of Leith. A public footpath and cycleway runs alongside the river, providing an ideal setting for walks with a wide variety of terrain and scenery to explore along the way, making this a very easy way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
One of my favorite things to do is to eat and shop where the locals do and engage people them in conversation to get the tidbits of information that only locals would know.
For example, The Royal Mile ‘Secret Gardens’ nestle behind the famous street’s high tenements and date right back to the 17th century. Many locals had no idea the gardens existed until recent years (the perfect place to settle with a book for a quiet read, just meters from throngs of unsuspecting people).
Hidden beneath the Royal Mile lies one of Edinburgh’s deepest secrets – The Real Mary Kings Close. This warren of hidden ‘closes’ is where real people lived, worked and died before being covered for centuries, until it opened in 2003. Now an award-winning five-star attraction, The Real Mary’s King Close allows visitors to see a historically accurate interpretation of life in Edinburgh from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. A unique and historic site, it is a dark, underground time capsule thought by many visitors to be haunted by its former inhabitants (we may need to call the Ghostbusters).
If shopping is what you love, wander to the West End, the Grassmarket (pedestrian friendly, it is located directly southeast of Edinburgh Castle) and Thistle and Rose Street, known for its charming stores which are lined by cobbled streets the area filled with high-end gifts, international designer names and fabulous vintage finds.
Castle or Distillery tours, exploring the hidden gems off the beaten path: your time in Edinburgh will be an exhilarating, memorable day. Back on board, be sure and look me up – I’d love to hear how you spent your time in Edinburgh!
Hasta la bye bye!
Dee Serkin is a travel writer who specializes in destinations, culture, travel tips and advice. She is dedicated to inspiring travel in all and loves to share her adventures with others. Contact her at [email protected] or visit her site at https://travelovers.us