Natural Sites in Edinburgh That You Shouldn’t Miss

This piece was previously published on November 29, 2016’s online edition of the Jakarta Post, but the one here is with some extra touristy pictures 🙂

The capital of Scotland is undoubtedly a beautiful city with its medieval Old Town and Georgian-style New Town that attracts millions of visitors each year. Summer is the busiest time of year in Edinburgh, not only because of the lovely weather all around, but also because of a series of renowned international cultural festivals held annually between July and September, including the Fringe Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It’s not uncommon for the locals to say to you, “Oh, you must be here for the festival.”

I had the opportunity to be in Edinburgh for a short summer getaway and found myself in the middle of a massive crowd wandering all over the city to attend the festivals and enjoy the pleasant sight of landmarks like Edinburgh Castle, the Scott’s Monument and St. Giles Cathedral. That was nice, of course, but escaping from the masses for a while proved the perfect thing to do. Edinburgh is a city of hills, blessed with several breath-taking natural sites that added a back-to-nature feeling to my visit. I went to Arthur’s Seat and Portobello Beach, which are well worth a visit to clear the mind and balance one’s mood.

My visit to Edinburgh was short. I had only two full days to explore the city. On the first day, I jumped straight into the heart of the city and at the end of the day I paid a visit to Portobello Beach. After a day of the hustle and bustle in the city, I’m telling you that this place can really make you feel at ease. By public bus, it took only about half an hour from the city center to get to Portobello, a charming seaside suburb of Edinburgh. Yes, only half an hour and I got a complete shift of view.

The bus stopped somewhere on the high street of Portobello, and I immediately noticed the fresh air with that calming seaside scent. I walked no more than five minutes to reach the beach, and I was blown away by its cleanliness and golden sand stretching as far as my eyes could see. The lovely view is made even more beautiful by the promenade facing the gorgeous beach. Food and drinks could be found easily at shops on the promenade. My choice that day was a hotdog and French fries to be my company while chilling out and enjoying the temperature of 18 degrees Celsius with the sun shining, giving enough warmth to make me feel comfortable. I ended my first day relaxing, watching the sky change its color as the night fell.

On the second day of my visit, I did not immediately plunge into the crowds in the city center. Instead, I decided to start the day with a hike to Arthur’s Seat — the highest point of Edinburgh, a peak formed by a volcano approximately 350 million years ago. In other words, the site is ancient. The 250-meter hill is known to provide a 360-degree picturesque view of the city, and I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful than having the experience of seeing the city from above.

I began my walk from Holyrood Park, a royal park still located in the city center, so I did not have to spend much time to get there. Beforehand, I had read some information about the site. The hill was said to be relatively easy to climb. Well, for me it was not that hard, but during the one hour I spent to reach the top, there were a couple of moments when I nearly decided to give up and go back down, because I’m not a sporty type and after half an hour, I started panting and felt my calves turn tense.

But once you’ve made it to the top, the view is breathtaking. When I finally reached the top, the whole city stretched stunningly right before my eyes, and the vista is for me more than enough to boost my mood for the rest of the day. I spent about one hour at the top, just sitting on the grass and using all my senses to absorb every detail.

It felt like my visit to Edinburgh ended in the blink of an eye, but thanks to the two destinations of nature that I decided to go to, everything was well balanced and enjoyable. The combination of the festive city atmosphere and the relaxing ambience of the natural sites made my getaway a fantastic one.

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