How to get lost in Edinburgh on a 10 minute walk

So many times in the past year or so I’ve gone through to Edinburgh, either simply to meet up with Alison or to go to the Festival Theatre which is opposite one of my favourite Edinburgh coffee shops. I know how to get there – it takes maybe 10-15 minutes on foot from the train station.

Its a really simple, straight walk that I’ve done many times – even with a small suitcase one of the weekends I was staying in Edinburgh. So given all of that, you must be asking how I could possibly get lost – but get lost I did and it took me 50 minutes to arrive at Black Medicine. I was hoping to be able to review and update the post from last year about the coffee shop, but that will need yet another visit to Edinburgh (any excuse for more coffee).

Normally (and in future), I would exit Waverley Train Station onto Princes Street. I turn right, walk along past the expensive Balmoral Hotel with its concierge standing outside in his very smart uniform waiting to be of service to the hotel’s guests. The Balmoral is on the corner of Princes Street and North Bridge Street. On the corner, I cross the road and its a straight road across the bridge and just keep walking straight ahead until I see the Festival Theatre on the other side of the street. Diagonally opposite the theatre on the street I’m walking along, I’ll find my destination, the Black Medicine Coffee Co.

Image shows Bridge crossing above Waverley Train Station and going into Edinburgh Old Town. We see some of the buildings of Edinburgh Old Town
North Bridge leading into South Bridge Street – under the Bridge is Waverley Train Station.
Image by Peggychoucair from Pixabay

I was through in Edinburgh as Alison and I were headed to the National Museum of Scotland to view the Declaration of Arbroath which was on display. This was the last weekend it would be visible, so I definitely couldn’t be late. I had also planned to do a few other things – I wanted to return to Greyfriars Kirkyard and to explore and photograph The Surgeon’s Quarter for other posts.

So many plans that my detour put at risk.

Why the detour from the known path

I was thinking that since I cross the bridge and cut across The Royal Mile which are both behind the station, that exiting on to Market Street would be better. I should be able to get to North Bridge Street and out to the theatre and Black Medicine without crossing the bridge itself. Seems logical, right?

If only it were that straightforward.

I went through the station and up the stairs onto Market Street, turning left but it was a long road along the side of the train tracks. The views beyond to the city and Carlton Hill were beautiful but since I had somewhere to be and it was raining, I decided it was better to keep moving. The street seemed quite long, but I was sure if I kept following it, I would eventually come back to North Bridge Street. I was fine, I knew if I kept going forward – and as I was walking “left” from the station I knew I would have to come back to the right a bit and to “go forwards” I would be able to get back on track.

From East Market Street I then walked up Jeffrey Street. I came to The Royal Mile but I knew I crossed it when I went on my usual path, so felt I was doing fine, so I crossed the Royal Mile and continued along Jeffrey Street – I had to go forward anyway, so still felt I was doing fine; it was just taking a little longer.

I turned onto St. Mary Street and kept walking along until I turned onto the Cowgate. I knew I was headed too far away as I saw some signs that I was near Holyrood. If Edinburgh Castle is at one end of the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace and The Scottish Parliament are at the other end. I knew I had to head back up ‘right’. I’m not any good with points of the compass, so I couldn’t tell you what’s south, east, west or north. At this point it didn’t occur to me to look at Google Maps on my phone, although I did try later but the rain was making puddles on my screen, so I gave up.

Image shows a narrow street from Edinburgh's Old Town. There is a narrow road running down the middle of the street with tall old, medieval buildings on both sides.
Typical Old Town Street
Image by Eduardo Vieira from Pixabay

This is Edinburgh’s Old Town, so I wasn’t surprised that the streets felt that they were getting narrower – or was it that the buildings felt like they were getting taller. I didn’t really recognise the names of any of the streets but I wasn’t worrried (yet) as I still felt I was doing ok and had a general idea of where I was going.

The first indication I had that my journey was going to be more problematic was while standing in a fairly narrow street (I didn’t know the names of the streets at the time but believe this was Cowgate). I was looking up at a road bridge overhead, crossing the street I was standing on. If I wasn’t aware of how long this detour was taking, the bridge would have made a nice photograph. As I was looking at the bridge, I was thinking I should be up there – I need to be up there, but had no idea how to get there. I couldn’t see any stairs so just had to keep walking in the belief that a path would reveal itself in time.

Edinburgh appears to be built in layers in the Old Town, with new streets built on top of old ones. The museum, The Real Mary King’s Close is probably a good example of that. Archeologists discovered whole streets buried underneath the existing Old Town. As an attraction, its well worth a visit. Edinburgh Old Town is like a rabbit warren, so little wonder I got lost but had fun exploring, seeing so many beautiful buildings. I might need to return to take photographs 😆. In the meantime, please enjoy the images provided courtesy of Pixabay.

Seeing the streets above me, I knew I needed to get up there. Eventually I came across an old medieval street (Candemaker Row) that was on a hill – a good guess it would take me up towards where I wanted to go/where I needed to be. I believe I may have recognised the street from previous walks with Alison – or it looked similar to others I’d seen in the past. Ironically, walking up Candlemaker Row, it brought me out somewhere familiar. The Greyfriars Bobby fountain, near to the kirkyard. I breathed a sigh of relief, I knew where I was and felt confident I was headed in the right direction and I’d get my coffee soon. As I said earlier, I wanted to revisit Greyfriars Kirkyard so I did consider sending Alison a message to suggest meeting here, but I decided to push on. I wanted to get to Black Medicine.

Image shows a major street. To the forefront of the image is a bridge and a road running straight ahead from the bridge. There is also a road turning to the right. Across the road, we can see a building on the corner of the road. On the road going straight ahead, we can also see a tower, maybe a church steeple.
At the bottom of this photo you can just about make out what looks like a bridge – its actually a corner and the street below, to the left is Candlemaker Row. Just out of range of this photo would be Greyfriars Bobby’s Fountain
Image by Anita from Pixabay

Talking to Alison, this is where I made my next mistake and headed down a long wide street (the one you can see in the photo above – this is George IV Bridge) where I recognised the National Library of Scotland. I thought this would bring me out near the theatre – quite the reverse. I ended up on The Royal Mile near to the castle. This meant not only had I gone backwards, to be back on The Royal Mile, but I’d also arrived at the other end of the Mile, but at least I wasn’t near the bottom of the Mile any more. At this point, I remembered the view from my hotel room a few weeks ago which looked out over the old town skyline. I recognised some landmarks, and decided I wanted to head away from the castle. I arrived at St. Giles Cathedral – where the King recieved the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish Crown Jewels) a couple of weeks ago.

St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile
Image by Eduardo Vieira from Pixabay

Feeling confident I knew where I was going and would be back on the “right road” soon, I kept walking down The Royal Mile as I knew it would intersect with South Bridge Street, so I was waiting until I saw familiar buildings. From there, I crossed onto South Bridge Street. Once on familiar territory, I headed out to the cafe and apologised to Alison for keeping her waiting. Three weeks later and she’s still in hysterics about my adventures exploring Edinburgh.

We did make the Museum and saw the Declaration of Arbroath, but that was all. I will need to return to complete my other projects. Next time I’ll stick to the tried and tested path when I have appointments to keep.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my story of getting lost in Edinburgh. Sign up to my blog if you’ve not already done so as to ensure you receive notification of future posts.


  1. Nothing sounds more exciting than getting lost in Edinburgh in search of a coffee shop named “Black Medicine”. Thank you for sharing, Brenda. You’re proving the point about taking the “long way”. Much more fun! 🥰

    • Sad thing is when I got to the Blavk Medicine I didn’t even get some Medicine 😬. It was only high stools left and with my wrist, I couldn’t sit up on the stool. We went for lunch elsewhere, so definitely need to return

      • That’s disappointing! I was JUST chatting with a friend about accessibility issues in restaurants/bars…and yes, I guess coffee shops, too…where the seating consists of ‘high boy’ tables and stools only. Problematic for lots of folks! 🤨

      • Oh they do have some “normal” tables; they were all just busy – Edinburgh during tourist season

  2. Sometimes, getting “lost” while traveling is part of the adventure. I love this novel idea of geographic storytelling, Brenda. Great job. Safe travels, lost or found!

    • It is. I also think its so different to Glasgow, so it really feels like somewhere different even though its only about 50 miles between the two.

  3. What an amazing place to be lost in Brenda! In a positive you now know even more about the city, but I know the feeling when trying something new that doesn’t work out the way you had hoped.

    • If I’d had plenty of time (like I was headed through early to write etc) I wouldn’t have worried and probably enjoyed it more. The fact that I had messaged to say I’d be through earlier, so we’d brought forward our rendez-vous time, added some extra stress. But it was fun seeing new parts of the city. And I did enjoy being under the bridges I’d previously stood on, looking down.

  4. another adventure to add to the list… always so colorful and exciting… a bit of stress on this one but turned out good. glad you made it to the museum.
    a lovely share, Brenda✨🤍

  5. You know that in coaching we say that it is a good idea to change your usual path because your brain will make new connections (synapse). I think you built up quite many new synapse with that detour Brenda!

  6. Tut tut this must be exhausting for you. I remember when I first went to Seattle and needed to use their Metro bus service, I’d often get in the bus going in the wrong direction. Then I’d change the bus by crossing the road and standing on the opposite side. I’d often walk with the Google maps open in my phone and tracking the dot ( that was me ) and trying to find the right direction to go in. I once cross an intersection 3 times to get to the place I wanted to catch the bus from. 😂😂😂

    • I’m trying to increase my walking activity, so it wasn’t too exhausting, but I must admit I was starting to stress a bit as I was getting later and later

  7. I’m glad it all worked out in the end! I’ve only spent a couple days in Edinburgh many years ago, but it was a lovely place to visit. I remember that some friends and I toured the vaults beneath the city; I’m sure glad we didn’t get lost down there 😬

  8. Oh wow – it’s one thing to get lost on winding and convoluted roads when you are exploring and quite another when you have an appointment to keep. It sounds like a great adventure except for the lateness. Thanks for sharing, Brenda!

  9. Sounds like a grand adventure! How fun to pack a lunch and just head out for the day with no destination, seeing the sights and taking pictures…but maybe install a tracking app on your phone so that someone can find and pick you up at the end of the day? 💞

  10. What a wonderful walk you had. All the beautiful architecture. And you got lost on your terms. Once, I popped out of a subway in downtown Manhattan. The building are so tall I could not figure north, south, east from west. Not to mention the views cannot comapre to yours.

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