Three Days in Edinburgh {Uni Visit #1}

Last autumn Ella and I spent three days in Edinburgh for the University of Edinburgh open day – the very first open day we went to.  We caught the train up to Scotland, stayed in one of the best airbnbs we’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in (with the loveliest host you could imagine), and had absolutely no idea what to expect from the open day itself.  This post is all about what we got up to during our three days in Edinburgh, which just so happens to be one of our favourite cities.

Uni Visits

In fact, this entire academic year is all about university visits so expect more posts to come from other cities we’ve ended up exploring (including Dublin, Brighton and York).

Ella is currently at college studying her A Levels and wants to go to uni when she finishes next summer. Final choices and university applications have to be submitted by a deadline this coming January, so we’ve been spending a lot of time researching which universities offer the degree she wants to study; when the open days are (frustratingly, they tend to happen in clusters – a lot of them clash with each other and take place on the same day/weekend at opposite ends of the country); what the campuses are like; what the student halls/accommodation consists of; what the city they’re in is like; how close or far away from home they are; and drawing up pros & cons lists for each of them.

We also have spreadsheets 🙂

We drew up a longlist, then narrowed it down to a shortlist of approximately ten different universities that Ella wanted to go and visit.  Some of them have been do-able as a day trip, some have required overnight stays.  We’ve made a point of seeing as much of each city as possible whilst we’re there so she can get a feel for the place, get her bearings a bit, and know what it’s like in the evening and at nighttime as well as during the day.

It’s been very tiring doing all these trips, and it’s been an immense amount of fun too.  She’s great travel buddy, and I feel very lucky to have got to spend so much one-to-one time with her.

Ella and I in Edinburgh. I’m soaking up every moment I can with her, knowing I haven’t really got very long left before she’s off to uni.


Three Days In Edinburgh

Edinburgh was first up, and Ella was VERY excited about it.  This post is rather delayed (ahem…only eight months later than planned) as we actually went to the open day last October (2023), during half term.  I’m trying to publish all the uni visit blogs relatively close together, just in case they’re useful for others who might also be in the process of looking at universities.

We’ve been to Edinburgh before, three years ago in 2021 (when covid was still very much a major concern) so we sort-of knew our way around and had already done some of the sightseeing things like Circus Lane, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Stockbridge Market, Calton Hill, Greyfriar’s Bobby and Victoria Street.  There was so much more we wanted to squeeze in whilst we were there this time though – it seems silly to go all that way and not make the most of it in every way we could.

Circus Lane (taken during our three days in Edinburgh back in 2021)

Previously we’d visited in the springtime, at the very end of May.  It was such a beautiful time of year to visit the city – there was an abundance of blossoms, colourful flowers spilling out of window boxes and gardens, and (mostly) blue skies, even if it was still a little chilly.

This more recent uni-focused trip – taken at the perfect midpoint between autumn and winter – was just as beautiful in a very different kind of way.  Edinburgh really is an incredibly atmospheric city and it’s gothic architecture lends itself perfectly to rain-soaked streets, twinkly fairy lights glowing in dark and crooked windows, rooftop views shrouded in fog, and gloomy street lamps.  We were lucky enough to also experience a day of bold blue autumnal skies, glorious sunshine, and the trees showing off their vibrant colours in all their glory.  The best of both worlds 🙂

Edinburgh showing off her spectacular autumn colours


We arrived late into the city, after it had already got dark.  We got a *tiny* bit lost trying to find our airbnb (it was definitely all Google Maps’ fault) but once we arrived I was instantly thrilled with where I’d chosen.

It was such a sweet, cosy and welcoming little place and it turned out to be absolutely perfect for the two of us.  Our host was lovely (even though we never met her in person) – she left us a thoughtful welcome pack of groceries with a little note, and was flexible with our check-out time too.  I’d definitely stay there again if (when!) we return to Edinburgh one day.



We were up bright and early for the University of Edinburgh open day, and headed off to view some of the accommodation options first.  This whole uni visit experience is totally new to both of us, so we sort of made it up as we went along, despite both Ella and I having done a fair bit of research before we went.

After looking around the student halls, we headed further into the city centre.  The University of Edinburgh doesn’t have a central campus as such, and the university buildings seemed to be fairly spread out and scattered in various places around the city, which we hadn’t been expecting.

We made a pit-stop at Uplands Roast in The Meadows for an epic hot chocolate to re-fuel and prepare for spending the rest of the morning in lecture theatres.  They toast the marshmallows right there in front of you and they are exceptionally yummy.  The Meadows, a gorgeous green space to the south of the Old Town and literally around the corner from the University Library, was looking particularly beautiful bathed in the golden morning light.

An epic hot chocolate from Uplands Roast

Ella in The Meadows – such a gorgeous space in the heart of the city

Next was the real reason we were spending three days in Edinburgh: the open day itself.  We attended a couple of subject talks, and learned about the application process, the accommodation options and student finance.  It was an interesting experience and, if I’m honest, a little overwhelming – I didn’t go to university so this was a whole new world of information for me to take in.  We made notes, collected leaflets and a prospectus (plus a free tote bag, which Ella was delighted about!) and then escaped the crowds so we could process it all.

We were pretty much finished with all the uni-related tasks by lunchtime, so we got some food then headed off on foot towards Dean Village, a historic and peaceful little oasis of tranquility that’s really not that far from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.  I’d really wanted to go last time we spent three days in Edinburgh, but we hadn’t managed to squeeze it in.  I’m so glad we made the time on this visit – it’s so pretty!

Dean Village – so pretty!

We took our time wandering back via the Water of Leith walkway, stopping at The Vennel to capture the iconic view of Edinburgh Castle from the top of the steps.  One of the things I love about Edinburgh is that it’s constantly surprising you – there’s always a curious alleyway (known as a ‘close’) to explore, or a picturesque view to unexpectedly stumble upon just around the corner.

A view of Edinburgh Castle, from The Vennel



We woke up on Sunday morning to the sound of heavy rain – not quite a full-on torrential downpour, but definitely more than just a sprinkle.  We headed out anyway, determined not to let the weather get in the way of the day we had planned.  I’d pre-booked tickets to Camera Obscura, which is just down the hill from Edinburgh Castle.  We arrived for our time-slot a bit early, so we walked up to the Castle itself to see what we could see.  Edinburgh Castle sits on top of a (long extinct) volcano, known as Castle Hill, and the views across the city on a clear day are supposed to be spectacular.  However, there wasn’t much for us to see due to the mist and rain!

A rainy, misty, moody morning in Edinburgh – this was the view from outside Edinburgh Castle

Still pretty though – look at those rooftops!

We arrived at Camera Obscura absolutely dripping wet, but soon forgot all about it as we ventured further into this wondrous place.  A labyrinthine building set over six floors (including the rooftop) – each containing multiple rooms – and all absolutely crammed to bursting with optical illusions, experiments, curiosities, lights, inventions, tricks of the mind and magic.

I loved it!  It was a bit overwhelming on a sensory level, and it was very busy with visitors too, but it was 100% worth it and I would go again in a heartbeat because I’m sure we missed some parts due to the sheer volume of things there were to look at and play with.   A must-visit, perfect for a rainy day.

This was my favourite part of the whole place – a little corridor filled with coloured lights that seemingly went on into infinity. I had fun playing with my phone camera in here (I didn’t take my big camera)

Fun with mirrors 🙂

More infinity light painting experimentation…

Every single room in Camera Obscura was mind-bending. It was SUCH a cool place. I’d definitely go back again.

After a quick bite to eat, we headed to The Mound and spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering happily around the Scottish National Gallery, one of four galleries in Edinburgh that collectively makes up the National Galleries of Scotland.  It’s free to visit and full of a huge variety of incredible art dating from 1300 to 1945.

Ella’s highlight was getting to see a Monet in real life!  She’d never been to an art gallery before, so my highlight was getting to watch her experience it for the very first time – seeing the wonder on her face as she took it all in and hearing her ideas and interpretations of each of the paintings was pretty special.

Ella taking in the art at the National Gallery of Scotland



We were due to head home around lunchtime, so we spent the morning having one final slow meander around the city in the sunshine, capturing little scenes that had escaped us earlier in our visit and popping into little shops that took our fancy.

We also managed to meet up for a cuppa at The Milkman with the gorgeous Zoe, who is one of my favourite people on Instagram (and in real life!).  She creates at My Little Wildlings // My Little Edinburgh // By Zoe Stewart – please do go and look at her gorgeous accounts for all things Edinburgh related.

All too soon it was time to check out of our airbnb and make our way to Waverley Station to catch our train home.  We had an absolutely wonderful time exploring Edinburgh and, whilst it’s not looking likely that it’s going to be the right place for Ella to go to university, it’s a city that has captured our hearts and I know for sure that we’ll be back again in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

This really made me smile 🙂 Spotted on a wall outside a bookshop somewhere in the heart of the city

Pretty little scenes like this can be found everywhere in Edinburgh

Autumn in Edinburgh – a magical season to visit


Despite squeezing in as much as possible during our three days in Edinburgh, there was still plenty left un-explored.  We’re saving then for our next visit (because we WILL be back!):

  • climbing Arthur’s Seat
  • visiting the National Museum of Scotland
  • spending time at the Writer’s Museum
  • actually exploring inside Edinburgh Castle

What else have I missed?  Feel free to leave a comment below with any suggestions!


More Posts

Be first to comment

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.