This hilly capital city of Scotland is a must-visit. I have been visiting the United Kingdom since I was 17 and never got around to visiting the other Countries in the Kingdom which includes Wales; Northern Ireland and Scotland. I have spent all of my visits in England and I have only just realised how much of a disservice I have done to myself by doing that - one of my travel goals this year is to visit all the Countries in the United Kingdom. If you are already in London this should be an easy fete to accomplish. I got to spend my last birthday in Edinburgh with my Mom and we had an incredible time in the city.
TIME OFF WORK. I took a week off work while my Mom was visiting. We were on the first flight out of Luton airport to Edinburgh on a Tuesday morning and returned to London on a late evening flight on Thursday. However, this is a trip (and itinerary) that is perfect for a weekend getaway with no need to use up your vacation days. Arrive Friday evening and leave Sunday evening (or Monday morning).
GETTING AROUND. There is a bus service that runs from the airport into the city center with multiple stops along the way. Once in the city, the transport system is very reliable; we were not staying in the city center; so we relied heavily on the buses to get around. We were lucky to have a stop right outside our Hotel. Make sure to have cash on you to pay for fare on the bus. It cost us about 20 pounds for two people over our threes days/two nights in the city.
WHERE TO STAY. We stayed at the The Dunstane Houses which was not in the city centre but we did not find that to be an issue. We absolutely loved our accommodation and I recommend it to anyone heading to Edinburgh. It was very homely and customer service was top notch. It felt less like a hotel and more like staying at a (very) lush room at a friend’s place. Struggling to describe it - simply put - we enjoyed our stay and will stay here again if ever in Edinburgh.
WHERE TO EAT. Our culinary adventures in Edinburgh began at Urban Angel - a highly recommended brunch spot in the city center. I thoroughly enjoyed my french toast and bacon dish. Other brunch spots we loved Cafe MIlk and Word of Mouth cafe. Word of mouth cafe was good but it was a bit out of the city centre. If you don’t have the time to make a trip out - a few other options are Brochan; Century General Store; Hyde and Son or Soderbergh Bakery. Surprisingly we only had lunch once during our visit; we typically had a late breakfast and that carried us through the day. If you want something quick and delicious, I recommend the pulled pork sandwiches at Oink. Several of the brunch spots also serve lunch; these spots were also highly recommended Groats pop up cafe ; the hideout cafe and Gannet Guga.
For dinner, we treated ourselves, it was my birthday trip and the first time I was traveling with my mom as an adult so we stretched our budget for dinner. I cannot say enough good things about the food at Yamato - a Japanese restaurant just off one of the main streets. I had to stop myself from eating my way through the menu. We also dined at Baba - a Mediterranean restaurant - this was one of the best meals I had in 2018. The hummus was amazing. There is also a fish and chick pea dish I thoroughly enjoyed. These spots were highly recommended Saiko Kitchen; and Bistro at Hotel du Vin. I could not leave the city without trying some authentic shortbread - we stumbled on a spot in Old town that has become one of my most recommended spots in Edinburgh - Pinnies and Poppyseed. They make fantastic shortbread in a variety of flavors. While we could not visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse , we had a lovely snack and hot chocolate at the cafe at the palace.
WHERE TO EXPLORE. Our first stop was Dean’s village; I think we could have spent the entire day here. It was such a lovely place. I recommend planning about three hours here to explore all of the narrow roads; there is so much beauty in Dean’s village to be discovered by leisurely wandering. Keep in mind there are parts that are not flat so appropriate footwear is recommended. You can access Dean’s village from Prince Street - the main street in the city centre. It is about a five minute walk from Prince Street. Follow the walkaway along the Water of Leith. While in Dean’s village, do not miss Dean Bridge or the temple of St. Bernard well . Don’t miss Well’s court which is possibly the most striking building in Dean’s Village so keep an eye out for it. From here you are also in close proximity to two museum - the Gallery of Modern art and Dean gallery.
We stopped by the Jenners building; the Scott monument which has some great views of Old town and the Prince Street garden. While there is an option to climb up to the top for even better views - we chose to pass on the hike. The Prince Street garden is incredibly beautiful; we were visiting in early spring and were rewarded with gorgeous blooms. We made a stop at the National Gallery of Scotland and loved see the paintings that capture the history of the Country. Then it was uphill to explore Old Town. There is so much hidden gem in Old town you should not miss; thankfully I found Shawna’s Exploring Edinburgh instagram page just before our trip and it was a excellent reference for the spots that will not pop up on any guide unless you are a local - Ramsay garden ; the heart shape Ivy adorning an entry way just off the Royal mile; and Victoria street just to name a few.
The Royal mile is a long stretch that runs from Edinburgh castle to Palace of Holyroodhouse. We enjoyed our time at both - the views from Edinburgh castle are spectacular. A note of caution when heading to Palace of Holyrioodhouse - confirm openings on the website before visiting; we could not get access to the palace as it was the week a prominent person was visiting and staying at the castle so most of it was closed; we rested and had scones and tea at the cafe. While in Old town and Royal Mile, we visited St. Giles Cathedral; University of Edinburgh school of divinity (aka New college on the mound) and The Scotch Whisky Experience. Other recommended stops on the mile - Camera Obscura; Mary King’s close; and John Knox house.
Day II adventures started at the Edinburgh castle - we got rained out on day one and really wanted to see the view with clear skies. It was worth the trek up hill with the most amazing view of the city. Our second day was very relaxed because I was planning to hike to the highest point in the city. We spent some time not he Royal mile docking in on various alley ways like World’s end close. Then we went in search of Greyfriars Bobby. I will not ruin the legend for you but know that it is worth a visit. Please do not rub his nose - that is a specific plea by locals so abide by it.
If you have been around this corner of the internet for a while - this next bit will not surprise you. I spent the afternoon hiking up to Authur’s seat. This is the main peak of hills in the city; the starting point is the Holyrood Park and while it is the most challenging hike I have completed to date - it also ranks as one of the most rewarding hikes. The views of Edinburgh from the top is breathtaking. After the hike, we sat in on a session at the Scottish Parliament. That was a different kind of tourism but very informative. We wrapped up the day exploring New Town and Prince Street. One activity I did not get to do and still have major FOMO about - hiking to the top of Cannon Hill - I hear the view of the city is just as incredible as the view from Arthur’s seat.
I cannot recommend Shawna’s instagram page enough - we found some amazing spots for our various photo shoots; these will not pop up on any guide and I have not shared those here because I think it will be doing you a disservice; but stop by her page and let her photographs be your guide to this city.