Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, home to Mary Queen of Scots, still hosting a royal residence and flagged by beautiful rugged Scottish landscape. The waters of firth of forth to the north and Arthur’s seat to the East to name the most notable, but within this densly packed, compact capital, there is lots to see, do and most importantly eat, so let me give you my take on it…
What to do
Have you even been to Edinburgh if you haven’t trekked up Arthur’s seat? It’s certainly worth the sweeping view across the city and out to the firth of forth ( which I for some reason want to call fifth). It’s a good walk, steep in places, but a well made path, so I would say it’s a moderate climb, but will certainly get you breathless by the top, if you race, or you know take in the stunning scenery, not like we’d race… Descend away from Edinburgh down towards Duddingston to the sheep head inn, the oldest pub in Edinburgh, but I’ll tell you more about that a bit later.
If you like a view, but a gradual incline is more for you,taking a walk about holroyd park is great, you’ll get the views across Edinburgh city. The palace, still a royal residence is at the foot of the park and came highly recommended, but with a huge group of bustling school children marching in we decided against it on this trip.
Again, one for the view lovers out there, offering some of the best views of the city as well as sweeping views across to Leith and the firth of fifth. Calton hill is brimming with history. It is the sight of several monuments, including the Nelson monument, which you can go up and get an even better view, but also where the time ball drops at 1pm, which was added in 1853 as a time signal for the shipping harbour of Leith.
The Royal Mile
Yes, it’s tourist central, but the closes stretching off of the Royal mile have some great little cafes, restaurants and galleries to explore. As well as taking the obligatory walk down the royal mile stop and watch a bagpiper and spot more patterns of tartan than you ever thought existed!
At the head of the royal mile sits Edinburgh Castle, once home to amazing monarchs such a Robert the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots and James VI and I who united England & Scotland. It is steeped in history, again stunning views across the city, museums around every corner – the war museum was crazy amazing and bursting at the seams with stories.
Greyfriars Cemetery & Greyfriars Bobby
Greyfriars Bobby is one of the most beautiful stories, of all time, yep, bold statement. Yep, it’s about a dog. No, you’re ridiculously bias and get over emotionally involved in anything involving a dog.
This little cutie of a Skye Terrier was devoted to his owner, so much so he spent 14 years guarding his masters grave, until he died himself on 14th January 1873. The cemetery also pays tribute to the beautiful little dog, and you can see his owners grave too. I didn’t actually take any pictures in the graveyard (Greyfriars kirkyard) itself, it feels a tad distasteful to me, but it is fascinating to walk around and take in the sculpture work, stunning headstones and some gruesome history. You may even spot a familiar name that inspired the name of the Dark Lord of the wizarding world.
Stockbridge & Inverleith park
Think of Stockbridge as the Chelsea of Edinburgh, yummy mummy’s, coffee shops galore and a really fancy cheese shop, I just couldn’t stop gazing into the windows of. The high street is lined with beautifully presented shops, restaurants (of which The Scarn & Scallie is one, more further down) and cafes. Great for meandering without the crowds. Walk up the high street and find the entrance to Inverleith park. There’s a cute little boating lake, but walk a little further and you’ll get a great view of Edinburgh plus, you’ll pass lot’s of dogs on their walks, which is a win win if you ask me! The Royal Botanical gardens is just to the East of you and lovely to explore at any time of year, but my guess is Spring would be it’s crowning glory.
Where to eat
The Gardeners Cottage
Patrick and I love a good meal, becoming real foodies over the last few years and like to treat ourselves to one fancy meal on holiday, because, let’s face it how often are you going to get the opportunity to eat there again?! In Edinburgh this was at Gardeners Cottage, which serves an ever changing seven course tasting menu. I wrote a full post on the experience here.
Sheep Heid Inn
The cosy little pub sitting pretty in Duddingston at the foot of Arthur’s seat. It’s said to be the oldest pub in Scotland. As we visited at lunch after a full Scottish breakfast and had reservations for the Gardeners Cottage that evening, so we just ordered starters and a dessert each. Outside they have a skittle alley and if you’re after proper Scottish fare, this is the place to go.
The Scran & Scallie
A gastro-pub, from the masterminds behind The Kitchen and Castle Terrace Restaurant, offering up more reasonable fare, but still as perfectly crafted and being a holder of a Michelin guide Bib Gourmand, means just that, great quality and good value. Serving up a seasonal Scottish menu the dishes are ever changing, but expect classics, like fish and chips, roasts and pies. In fact I’ll write up a full post on our meals, because otherwise I’d go on too long just here. A great place for brakfast, lunch or dinner and definitely worth exploring the surrounding area of stockbridge.
Not Scottish in the slightest, but when the chappy fancies BBQ we’re jolly well going to find it. Our first evening meal was spent at Bubba Q, very Southern American complete with some people which, I can only refer to as the cliched southern American family, loud, opinionated and eating as though it was going out of fashion, let’s just say you could tell they weren’t British a mile off. Apart from our noisy neighbours, this was a great joint, honest, calorific and ridculously delicious.
The city has really got behind cafe’s in recent years with Artisan Roast at the helm. Great coffee and perfect for on the go and taking on a blustery walk up Calton hill, which is what we did. The interiors are classically hipster, taking coffee making as seriously as developing a medicine that will save thousands of lives, but all effortlessly, with beards and ridiculous haircuts of course.
Brew Lab Coffee
When we stopped here on recommendation of Patrick’s friend, it set firmly that Edinburgh loves a hipster coffee as much as London does, and they are ruddy good at it too. A huge selection of beans, roasts and preperation. It’s worth a pitstop for lunch, although it will be teaming with students on their lonely tables, hunched over laptops, strong coffee in one hand, tapping away with the other, potentially being torn away to order one of their delicious baguettes or daily soup selection.
Grounds of Stockbridge
Good coffee, friendly staff and lovely window seats. Perfect for people watching and resting your legs, if like us all you do is walk, walk, walk, no matter what… sorry… DJ Khaleed reference… moving on. As I said Stockbridge is a bit of a well to do area, so great for people watching, plus there are always locals pottering about here and if not, they’ve got beautiful art work all around the cafe, all available for purchase. Even though we weren’t hungry when we stopped here, the menu looks great with a focus on seasonal foods and cater for all dietary needs, which is grand!
The hidden bars
There are two hidden bars in Edinburgh, both in New Town.
Panda & Sons
Hidden behind the facade of a barbers, walk down the stairs, open the bookshelf and their you’ll find Panda & Sons. Established in 2013, it’s still relatively new to the scene, but the staff, the service and the cocktails are keeping them very popular. We ordered drinks and complimentary chilli popcorn was brought to our table and tap water poured. It’s little things, like not having to ask for water that really put a place in my good books. But you haven’t come here to read about water, so let’s get to their menu. After enjoying a Local Bellezza for me and a Juan Direction for Patrick, we decided to share the Le Grande, a blend of French white wine, Byrrh, Louis Royer Force 53 Cognac, Grenadine that they then put through a secondary fermentation to create a natural sparkling cocktail, which we weren’t too enamoured with, but if you like something a bit bitter this may be for you.
Just a stones throw away from Panda & Sons sits Bramble. An intimate candle-lit bar full of alcoves to hide away in small groups. Great for a catch up with some fun background music which takes you back to the 90’s with a playlist Kisstory would be jealous of. We went for a cocktail and stayed for two, again a place that brings water straight to the table, top marks thus far, the barman will gladly talk you through the menu and make recommendations and if you’re still stumped, make anything you fancy. We’d highly recommend the Bramble and Mint 500.
Have you been to Edinburgh? What did you enjoy most?