I now have Irn Bru running through my veins.Read more: Scotland Calling
Hope you’ve got a drink and a snack because this is going to be along one!
Travel & Check In with a Few Detours on the Way
There are many ways to get to Edinburgh but the Mr and I chose to fly, it’s the quickest, easiest and we had British Airways vouchers to use. The Mr fell asleep before we had even taken off and I after taking the standard ‘wing of the plane in the clouds’ shot played solitaire on my phone for the whole 50 minutes as I had forgotten to download anything. It’s safe to say we were a little out of practice when it came to the flying part of the holiday! We touched down, and headed to pick up our rental car – Edinburgh is definitely not somewhere you need a car, most people who I know who have visited stayed in the city and used public transport or walked but we had picked to stay a little out of the city at the stunning Black Studio in Kirkliston, so a set of wheels was very much needed.
We had an early morning flight and our air bnb wasn’t available till the afternoon so we kicked off the Scottish exploring straight from the airport with a trip to Stirling Castle, a stunning site steeped in history which sits on the borders of the highlands and lowlands. We joined a guided tour which I would highly recommend (Russel was fantastic), and explored the fascinating history of the place. After filling our boots with facts and our stomachs with Irn Bru we headed back to the car for the next stop. The Kelpies. 30-metre-high horse-head sculptures depicting kelpies – which are shape-shifting spirits inhabiting lochs in Scottish folklore, mainly taking on the form of a horse; they are a site to behold. Grab yourself a drink and wander around marvelling at just how massive and strangely beautiful they are. Starting to get a little tired we headed off to our home for the week and snuggled in to watch the sun go down with a homecooked meal, ready for another full day of exploring.
Dark Wizards and Dinner
I knew when planning our trip I wanted to do a Harry Potter tour because Edinburgh was where the majority of Harry Potter was written (although as you’ll learn on the tour the idea was thought up elsewhere) so I had booked us onto The Potter Trail. We have friends who live in Leith who very kindly let us park our car at theirs and then walk into the city from there – it’s about 50 mins walk however if you are driving there are plenty of NCP’s to use. We were met by our wonderful tour guide Caroline who then took us on our walking tour whilst we played a fun quiz with along the way, with house points being handed out and spells to be practiced; wands ranging from umbrellas to paintbrushes; a portion of the proceeds from the tour are donated to – Scottish Trans Alliance. The highlight of the tour is the graveyard where you can see where some of the famous names may have come from including ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’ which of course means we all took selfies with a gravestone – not a sentence I ever thought I’d write. You finish up the tour on Prince’s street which was the inspiration for Diagon Alley, where your tour guide will depart but the magical feeling will stay with you.
We headed off for lunch at Cold Town House – try and get a seat on the roof terrace for great views of the castle, before setting off to further explore the city, ending up at The Botanical Gardens. I wish we had stayed longer here but we didn’t have as much time as we hoped so walked through it to join up with the Water of Leith Walkway and headed to meet our friends for dinner. Leith is a fab area just outside of Edinburgh; very good for foodies. We dined at Fishers which I would highly recommend and has a good mix of cafes (Artisan Roast is amazing), bars and shops (Druid is a lovely candle shop and Beets Leith if you like craft beer and wine).
Seeing as we had the luxury of the car we knew one of the days we wanted to go to one of the lochs and although we could drive to Loch Lomond we decided on Loch Leven which was a little closer to home. We parked up after a quick stop at Hopetoun Farm Shop for supplies and headed off to attempt to walk around the whole loch, we quickly realised although we could we would be absolutely knackered by the end of it so plopped ourselves down to admire the view and eat our lunch. After a quick online search we saw that another part of the Loch was part of an RSPB sanctuary so we headed back to the car and headed to the visitor center for a warming cup of tea before strolling around the reserve, cooing over the goslings and squealing at seeing a highland cow – I am easily pleased! Feet aching we climbed back into the car and set off back to the studio to freshen up before dinner. We drove a little way away from the studio to Scotts Restaurant by the fourth bridge; nothing to write home about but a decent meal.
Haunted Vaults and Whiskey Tours
You can’t go to Edinburgh and not spend one whole day being a full on tourist. Scotland is full of history and Edinburgh has some bloody history which we learnt all about on our Underground Vaults tour. This is not for anyone who scares easily, like myself. I think the Mr had my nail imprints in his hands for the rest of the trip. Thank goodness we did the tour at 10am and not at 9pm because I was very happy to step back onto the cobblestones in the sunlight! It is a great tour full of gruesome tales, no ghosts were seen but certainly felt. To shake off the scaries we then headed up to Edinburgh Castle which I hate to say was a little underwhelming; if you are only there on a short trip and have to choose between Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle I would definitely make the trip out to Stirling. At Edinburgh however we did discover our house coat of arms which was very fun and a great souvenir from the trip.
Feeling a little peckish we wandered down from the castle to The Haggis Box where we dined on Scotland’s traditional dish, well the Mr did, I had the vegan version and it was delicious, washed down with Irn Bru (of course). Would highly recommend this little café, it’s a must visit in my eyes. In search of something sweet we treated ourselves to gelato from Alandas which is almost the other side of the old town but well worth the walk. I know it’s not the inspiration for Florean Fortescues Ice Cream parlour but that didn’t stop my imagination. Refuelled we got stuck into some vintage shopping at the fabulous W.Armstrong & Son. Seriously, go here if you are visiting Edinburgh we got some amazing pieces, it’s one of the UK’s oldest vintage stores.
With our bags a little heavier than when we set off we rushed to our next tour; Whisky and Folklore. Now I am not a whisky drinker but I still loved this experience. Your guide whisks you off to a local pub where you taste four whisky’s (or none if you don’t want to) and learn about the history of the ‘water of life’, Scotland and a few of its more murky characters. I cannot comment on the quality of whisky but the Mr enjoyed them all and he can be quite picky. To end our whirlwind of a day we managed to grab a seat at the very popular Ting Thai Caravan for some delicious Thai food. It’s a hot spot for both tourists and locals alike. Knackered we slept like logs until the next morning.
Now when I think of Edinburgh a day at the beach is not the first thing that springs to mind but there are quite a few, I believe you can get a bus out to Portobello beach but again plenty of car parks if you are driving. We pottered along the shoreline, revelling in the sunshine, stopping ever so often to peer at menus of the numerous eateries that line the promenade. We stopped at Shrimp Wreck and dined on Crab Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Shrimp buns and Old Bay Fries paired with my now obsession Irn Bru whilst watching the dogs racing the waves. Actual bliss. Ready for a snooze we drove back to base and lounged for a few hours before cooking up a storm in the little kitchen, packing our bags and hunkering down for the evening.
Hikes, Hidden Villages and Hometime
You can’t go to Edinburgh and not hike up Arthurs Seat, okay you can but you would be missing some spectacular views. Fuelled with coffee and cake – is it really a holiday if you aren’t eating cake for breakfast we set off up the ancient volcano, instantly regretting the layers we had put on that morning. We persevered to the top, de layering as we went and were rewarded with beautiful views across the city and beyond. I would highly recommend walking shoes or trainers for this walk, although there are easier paths than others you definitely want something with grip. Once we had taken in the views we wound our way back down and headed for our last meal in Edinburgh at Bonnie & Wild. A food hall based in the St James Quarter shopping centre; nine kitchens under one roof. We went for east PIZZAs as they had the best vegetarian options; East PIZZAS is famed across Edinburgh for its sourdough pizzas, made from fresh, local ingredients with an emphasis on sustainable and organic sourcing.
Fed & watered with still a while before our flight home we headed to Stockbridge and wandered through to Dean Village which is an idyllic spot hidden away, the sun was still shining and it was a little like wandering into something out of a fairy story. We left the quiet and the tourists that were gathering and made our way back to our car, windows open enjoying the last of the Scottish air (for this trip anyway), handed over the keys and boarded our plane home.
Edinburgh was an amazing trip and I’ve already planned two or three trips back to the land of kilts and Irn Bru, in my mind I haven’t booked flights; just yet. Do you need a full week, no but it means you can squeeze in a bit more out of the city. If you are planning a weekend Friday – Sunday I would recommend prioritising a walking tour (of some sort), Arthurs Seat, Dean Village and a spot of shopping. If you’ve got a car then I would also recommend heading out to Stirling Castle and Portobello beach.
If anyone has done The North Route 500 then please let me know how it was I am really intrigued to do it.