Life Lesson #12: Edinburgh is full of stairs; plan accordingly

Updated: Feb 20

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” ~Ibn Battuta


Thistles and Coos are committed to bringing you travel information that is relevant and relatable. We use our own personal experiences to create applicable advice and stories. Through our many journeys, we have documented what we like to call “Life Lessons” and hope you follow along and learn from our mistakes, trials, tribulations, and observations.



So, this lesson has to do with our beloved Scotland, more specifically, Edinburgh.



To put it simply, this city has stolen our hearts. It is a majestic land of unheralded beauty and imagination.



It can inspire the poet in you, the artist, the wanderer, the musician, and the teacher.


This city has everything you could ask for, so we at Thistles and Coos felt a need to pick a few beauties out that you may want to add to your "Must See" list.


And that leads us to Life Lesson #12: Edinburgh is full of stairs; plan accordingly.

As you may have noticed, yes we are infatuated with Scotland and have an indescribable love for Edinburgh, which Sir Walter Scott once called "yon Empress of the North." It's truly a description that fits this place perfectly.


The city is made up of many villages and towns which maintained their original character: Old Town, New Town, Leith, Deans Village, Calton Hill, Grassmarket and Portobello to name a few.


What is impressive about Edinburgh is all the stairs! Our apartment alone had 80 steps - one way. Cardio is key!


A little history lesson here on Edinburgh for the curious wannabe historian. It is built on a volcanic plug and was of strategic military importance. In case you are wondering, a volcanic plug or lava neck is a volcanic object created when magma hardens within a vent on an active volcano.


Castle Rock, also known as Edinburgh, is estimated to have formed over 350 million years ago. While this is really neat historical information, we don’t think you need to worry about this volcano “erupting.”


This trip to Edinburgh was different from previous trips. We were staying in the same apartment for 10 days. Natalie and I typically travel with backpacks only because we are constantly moving. Ten days in the same place means...more shoes, more clothes, and more everything! Thank god it's husbands to the rescue. They can haul our suitcases around - yes please! Not to mention the empty suitcase for souvenirs. #packhorse


From the airport to Prince’s Street is a 30 minute Tram ride. Easy. Exit from the Tram and we are ready. Whip out the GPS. Enter in the address.


Take a look around to get our bearings, and it is up that steep hill to Old Town. Edinburgh Castle, here we come.



Greg grabs his bags, head down, and takes off with the speed of a horse ready to gallop; and the three of us had better keep up because he’s on a mission. #slowdown


Our backpacks feel like bricks. Natalie starts wheezing as we go higher up this steep hill. She yells for us to stop because she can feel her jet lagged legs starting to ache and her body is fighting Greg’s pace. Sometimes we are truly envious of his military prowess when it comes to setting the pace on a walk.


As we continue to walk, Greg is still the leader of our line, keeping about twenty feet ahead of us trying not to get annoyed with the stragglers. #damnmilitarytraining


Stop, Drop, and Roll down the grassy hill never sounded so appealing.


The climb up this ancient volcano seems to go on and on like the hallway in the The Shining when Danny sees the creepy twins as he is pedaling down the circuitous hallway on his Big Wheel. #comeplaywithus



Finally, we reach a sharp bend. The GPS says to turn right, and it’s steeper than what we had just walked. Greg, head down, channels his military steps, and takes off. Keep up! #wehatehim


After huffing and puffing, we reach the Royal Mile. A few more steps, according to the GPS, and we have reached our destination: our AirBnB. Up a slight incline towards the castle and then a left...down 72 steps (yes, we counted).


Out of breath. Legs on fire. The soles of our feet are like burning hot coals. Damn jet lag and why is Greg the only one who is not complaining? #jetlagwon


At the bottom of the hill stairs, we get to our apartment and have to wait until the owner meets us to let us in.


Owner arrives...hurray.. Let’s go! He is unlocking the door and we will immediately enter the main room of the apartment. Right??? Wrong! #insertappropriateexpletive



He opens the door and says with a cheery Scottish accent that it is four floors up. *blink blink* #wtf



We walk into the dark hall and looming at the end is a staircase, taunting us.



At the bottom stair, we look up, and it is a never ending swirl of steps.



We just schlepped up a volcano, down 72 steps, and now we are going to walk up 4 flights of stairs with jet lagged bodies and brains. #fts


And now, some travel math for you! Little did we know that our apartment with the amazing view of Edinburgh Castle would include 160 steps up and down to our apartment and an additional 142 steps to the Royal Mile. A total of 342 stairs. That is one trip… us leaving and returning to our apartment.



Take 342 and multiply it by 10 days… we have now walked 3,420 stairs just to get in and out of our apartment.



I love math as much as the next person, but this equation equals a lot of walking, so be prepared. #stepscounted


And to add, this math does not include all the stairs to and from any Closes we decided to walk down.



Each set of stairs ranged from 20-30 steps. Because we are slightly neurotic, we counted over 900 stairs in one day! #inconceivable


So you may be asking, "Why are you giving us a math lesson here?" Well, we give you all of these numbers so you can learn from our naiveté…plan accordingly.


If you have bad knees, Old Town might not a place you want to stay. Pack the Ibuprofen, so you can deal with the aching knees and always wear appropriate shoes.


Not only are you walking a shit-ton of stairs, but they are also uneven and unscaled to our strides.


If you're ascendingly challenged, you can avoid the majority of the stairs by staying near Prince’s Street… from here, you can make the trek to Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile. Start at Prince’s Street (from the


Tram), and turn right on The Mound. At the 3-way split, go straight ahead, The Mound becomes North Banks Street and then St. Giles Street.


Follow it to the right, and it will spit you out on the Royal Mile.


You will have an incline to walk up, but less stairs. #giveandtake


Do your research if you want to avoid stairs in Edinburgh.


Realize the Closes were built to connect the Royal Mile to smaller roads and various parts of the city. Some were used to move livestock or to dump excrement. #yuck


Edinburgh with all of its stairs and character will still be one of our favorite cities to visit. We encourage you to take in her beauty and mystique - stairs and all. #exerciseisgood


Do you have any stories to share? How many stairs did you climb? Share pictures! Like, comment, share, and SUBSCRIBE!


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