Laura and I finally got back on the travel horse after several long months of work and study. We started with a quick hop up to Edinburgh for a few days. If you visit one major UK city this should be it!
Favorite Things: Scones, short bread, mid-city mountains, and colorful buildings in a sea of grey.
Things to know: March is a risky month to visit weather wise. We actually got quite lucky, but in general it’s still cold and rain is inevitable. It does make it more affordable time to visit and less crowded. The other thing to know about March (which we only learned after asking our Uber driver about all the construction we were seeing), is that the construction budget goes out in April, so the city spends all remaining construction funds in March so that they are allotted the same amount the following year. Hence, many of the beautiful views are obscured by construction.
We spent two nights and three days in Edinburgh. While there is plenty to do and you could certainly enjoy a longer stay, you could potentially see the city in two days if you’re on a quick travel schedule.
Accommodations: We stayed at The Leonardo Royal Hotel in Haymarket. Nothing to write home about but certainly clean and reasonably priced. Relatively central location, though not directly in Old or New Town.
The Edinburgh Larder – Right off of the Royal Mile, delicious food sourced from Scotland. Scrumptious scones and clotted cream that melts in your mouth.
Kilimanjaro Coffee – If you prefer a fluffier scone to a denser one, this might be a good spot for you.
Fishers – Several locations, the most charming of which is out in Leith (The corner white/castle looking restaurant in the picture below). Affordable seafood served all day. We loved the muscles and scallops but were not fans of the seafood platter (came out luke warm and everything was kind of mushy).
Oink – Mouth watering pulled pork sandwiches!!!! Several locations, one of which is near the Holyrood Park where Author’s Seat is located So, if you’re starving after a hike to the top, this is the perfect post-hike indulgence. Also they have root beer which is a rare treat in the UK.
Saboteur – As Laura called it: hipster Pho. So kind of faux pho, but still pretty yummy. We both got the duck and really enjoyed it. The pork belly Bao buns were also solid.
The Dogs – Nom nom nom nom nom. Super cute space with rich Scottish fare for a very reasonable price. Also too dark to get photos that do it any justice.
Cairngorm Coffee – Cute coffee shop between New Town and Dean Gardens. Cute merch and a pretty view as well.
Pennies & Poppy Seeds – Do not deprive yourself of these oh so buttery cookies. Try every flavor, trust me. Get in ma belly!
Bramble – Hard to find but worth the hunt. It’s a basement level bar right when you turn onto Queen St. Look for the small metal plaque outside. Take the opportunity to have some Scotch based cocktails.
Panda and Sons – A cocktail bar doesn’t need to be hidden behind some secret door to be good, but this one sure is. Amazingly friendly staff as well, and a great interior, somewhere between 1940 tiki bar and barber shop. Rustic charm in spades.
Walk around Old Town & The Royal Mile – Edinburgh is a very walkable city, with a fare number of hills to work your buns. Old town is full of Gothic architecture and the Royal Mile (picture 1) leads up to the Edinburgh Castle which overlooks the city. The castle itself is very cool up close from the outside, however we were advised by several people that the inside isn’t necessarily worth the money, so we skipped it. Greyfriars Cemetery (picture 3) is also located in Old Town, which is beautiful in and of itself and also has a statue of Bobby the dog (picture 4) outside, who was famous for guarding his owner’s grave for 14 years until he himself died. I know. The graveyard also has events where they tell ghost stories.
Victoria Street & Grassmarket – Also located in Old Town, Victoria Street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books. There’s a lovely store, Walker Slater, with tailored suits and other tweed, plaid, and likewise Scottish fabric goods for ladies specifically, which is awesome and not easy to find. They have a separate mens store up the street. The bottom of Victoria Street spits out into Grassmarket which has a lovely view of the Castle and some cute pubs to stop in for a pint.
Walk through The Princess Street Gardens – If you’ve got nice weather you could even pack a picnic! It’s a beautiful Garden with a striking view of the Edinburgh Castle. At one end you’ll find The Scottish National Gallery, which is supposed to be excellent, but we didn’t make it.
Climb Author’s Seat – Located in Holyrood Park at the far far end of the Royal Mile, is the dramatic climb to Author’s Seat. It might not look particularly high at first, but don’t be fooled the main path up is steep with limited resting points. Be prepared to sweat. But the view at the top is worth the climb.
Walk Around Leith – Do this if you have the time, but I wouldn’t say it’s essential. There’s a few charming streets, like Shore St pictured below. If you walk to the harbor around the outside of the mall (yes there’s a mall) you can see The Royal Yacht Brittania (picture 2), which was Queen Elizabeth’s ship from 1954 to 1997. You can pay for a tour (inside the mall) if you want, but again, we tend to prefer the free option. On your way out to Leith there’s a cool vintage book store called Elvis Shakespeare, with old final records and DVDs if you’re pining for days gone by. Leith also has some great eating options, including a few Michelin Stared spots, but again, we were sticking to the budget options.
Maison de Moggy – My feelings about cat cafes are mixed, but lets just say for the sake of argument that these cats aren’t in the least bothered by having people around them all day. If this be true, then this cat cafe if full of long haired (and a few short haired and one hairless) magically sold feline muffins. You can book a session online (which we recommend), and spend an hour with these fury friends. It’s a nice way to end a day of long walking around the city.
Rain or shine, this is a beautiful city, and more likely to make you feel like you’re in a period piece or Harry Potter than London or Dublin.