Edinburgh was our last city break before we were due to leave the UK and what a perfect choice. Edinburgh is such a beautiful city – small enough to get by on foot, which I loved and steeped in rich history. Both my sister and brother had loved their visits to Edinburgh and I can see why.
Landing in the evening, we decided to catch a taxi into the city centre. There are separate taxi ranks for private airport taxis and then for city “black cabs” – these are situated outside the the terminal building on the right. A journey to the city centre takes about 25 minutes and generally costs around £15.
We stayed at the Ibis as our booking was quite last minute. Accomodation in Edinburgh can be rather expensive and when you aren’t spending much time in the hotel, the Ibis was a reasonable and affordable choice as well as very centrally located. After a small issue with our booking, this was quickly rectified and we were escourted to their sister hotel about 200m away and gifted breakfast for our two night stay. Surprisingly this was one of the best hotel breakfast spreads we’ve seen so we actually lucked out.
The next morning we decided to do a Sandeman tour. We’d done one of these tours in Berlin and had a wonderful experience. I would highly recommend this 2 hour walking tour of the city as you discover a deeper side to Edinburgh filled with novelty stories both funny and haunting and get a greater understanding of why and how Edinburgh is what it is today. From interesting Harry Potter trivia, the story of half hangit Maggie to the real Jeckyll and Hyde and how the level you lived on in a building determined your wealth and social standing.
After our tour, with the sun out and the weather fair we took the quick walk up to Carlton Hill, a perfect viewpoint to admire Edinburgh and its surroundings. Carlton Hill is set right above the city centre and you can’t miss the Athenian acropolis sticking out above the Edinburgh skyline. This is in fact an unfinished monument originally called the ‘National Monument’. Started in 1816 after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, it was supposed to resemble the Parthenon in Athens, a memorial to those who had died in the Napoleonic Wars. Now it has become an iconic landmark and on a nice weather day, it is a great place to enjoy panoramic views of the city.
After a quick 5 minute walk down the hill, we walked back into town to explore Princess, George and Queen streets. We settled for a late lunch at Badger & Co which served delicious upmarket pub style food with stylish décor and a warm, cosy ambience.
Edinburgh is known for it’s bar/cocktail scene and we’d had quite a few recommendations from friends. We opted for Tiger Lily which was close by. Other recommended cocktail bars include; Devil’s Advocate, The Dome and Bramble.
After a quick stop at the hotel to freshen up, we went in search of the Whiski Rooms where we had booked a whisky tasting. We joined a table of about 10 and tasted our way through the whisky of Scotland. Both Phil and I aren’t the biggest whisky lovers but it felt wonderful to be sipping whisky in this popular whisky venue in the heart of Scotland. The restaurant adjoining comes highly recommended with a speciality burger and whisky sauce but we had made a reservation at Amber for their flight of Scotland tasting menu. I would also recommended Aizle.
The Scotch Whisky Experience is another tasting venue and I have heard their tasting and tours are very good. Take a look at their options here and also the Haggis & Whisky House.
Having only the morning left, we opted for a hike up to Arthurs seat. This is a lovely vantage point and a great way to experience the great outdoors and fresh air that surrounds Edinburgh. Arthurs seat sits at the top of the main peak of the group of hills in Edinburgh and was describe by Robert Louis Stevenson as ‘a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design’. I would definitely recommend this.
With a bit more time on our hands to get back to the airport, we hopped on the Airlink 100 bus which takes you directly from Waverley bridge to the airport. Another great way to travel to Edinburgh if you are coming from London is via train. The journey takes about 4 hours 41 minutes and my sister speaks highly of the journey as you wind you way through rolling hills, panoramic vistas, beautiful smaller towns and past dramatic coastlines and castle ruins. It is a great way to get a taste of Scotland’s rugged beauty before arriving in Edinburgh.
If we’d had more time I would have loved to visit one of the many breakfast spots in Stockbridge neighbourhood. Another popular weekend activity is to frequent one of the many farmer style markets.
Edinburgh is a remarkable city, both business centric and lifestyle driven. It is full of culture with lots of theatres and galleries and is a beautiful place combining history and modernity seamlessly.
If you are lucky enough to visit in August, you can frequent the highly acclaimed Fringe festival. This is the world’s largest arts festival which spans most of the month and features a variety of shows across Edinburgh venues with performances frequenting from around the world.
I would love to return to Scotland one day and tour more of country that holds some of my family history. Phil’s dad is from Glasgow, which he has visited twice before in his childhood and is a quick 45 minute train journey away so this country definitely holds a special place for us both. I’d love to visit Loch Ness, the highlands and the Isle of sky one day.
For more information and inspiration, visit New York Times 36 hours in Edinburgh and Conde Naste Traveller, Edinburgh.
“Edinburgh isn’t so much a city, more a way of life… I doubt I’ll ever tire of exploring Edinburgh, on foot or in print.” Ian Rankin