Edinburgh - 'Mine own romantic town'
It is no wonder that Scotland is experiencing a tourist boom right now. It is a magical place filled with myths, legends, history and a landscape to take your breath away at every curve in the road (and in the Highlands there are a lot of curves in the road!). We started our trip to Scotland in Edinburgh. We arrived by train from London and although our apartment was very close to the station we did have to traverse a lot of very steep stairs to get to the building. No wonder they all look good in kilts!
Accommodation - a beautiful apartment on the Royal Mile in the Old Town. As I have mentioned before, I had a very bad experience a few years ago with Airbnb but this apartment certainly repaired my faith. Beautifully decorated with subtle tartan touches it was the ideal location. Within strolling distance of Edinburgh Castle and looking out over the courtyard that holds the Edinburgh Writers Museum it was a perfect start. It was a tough slog up several flights of stairs with our suitcases ( when, oh when will I learn not to overpack?). It had a fantastic kitchen, a gas fireplace, comfortable beds with fresh white linen and fluffy white bath sheets. The antique furniture and old books completed the look.
Sites, Bites and Scenery
Edinburgh Castle - We did a free group tour and it was an excellent way to learn about the history and its occupants ( which changed regularly!). The view from its commanding position on an extinct volcano is breathtaking and it dominates the landscape when viewed from the streets below. I recommend getting there early. We didn't buy tickets online and it didn't hold us up much but I imagine in peak times buying ahead would be your best option. I do recommend if you are travelling through Scotland on buying a pass that allows you to visit several historic sites on the one ticket. We did a three site pass but still found it wasn't enough. It may well be worth joining the National Trust too. We visited so many historic castles, houses and gardens on our trip that for the combined price we paid all up we could have bought a derelict castle of our own!
Tours and Tourists - Travelling with our two teenage children ( 13 son and 18 daughter) it was sometimes hard to get our youngest to be engaged with the history of the place. He seemed most enthused by the Ghost Bus tour which was more comedic than scary (which suited me just fine!). We piled into an old double decker bus for a night time drive around Edinburgh. The evening included a walk around the cemetery and a lot of laughs. We also toured the Blair Street underground vaults which was a great way to learn about the evolving city and the way people lived and worked, plus a few more creepy ghost stories.
Art - Make sure you visit the National Gallery of Scotland. They have a beautiful collection of works including a John Singer Sargent of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, which has long been one of my favourite paintings.
Shopping- On the Royal Mile there are hundreds of stores selling cheesy tourist tartan. Be careful not to be enticed by cheap "Scottish” items actually made in China. There are some stores that are selling quality tweed and tartan items made in Scotland but you may pay premium prices. I was on the look out for a Harris Tweed jacket but waited until later in my trip and bought it at a much better price out of Edinburgh. My daughter and I browsed around vintage shops. Our favourite was Armstrong and Son which has two locations in Edinburgh. This place is a treasure trove of tweed and tartan and all things quirky and is a must visit for anyone who loves vintage clothes. As you all know I love vintage books and Armchair Books is a wonderful rabbit warren of books on all sorts of topics.
Eating - I have had The Witchery at the Castle on a Pinterest board for ages so had to have lunch there. It more than lived up to my expectations. The room was atmospheric, the service incredible and the food was perfect. Make sure you book. When I travel back to Edinburgh with just my husband I would love to stay in the hotel. My son is coeliac, needing a strict gluten free diet and this can be complicated when travelling. Staying in an apartment meant we could control some of this and interestingly enough there was good awareness in most restaurants and could accommodate us which was great. I did have haggis and yes I liked it, particularly with whisky sauce.
Edinburgh is a beautiful city that I could have stayed in for many more days but that will have to wait for my next trip there. Next week I will chat about our venture north to Loch Lomond and the central areas of Scotland. I would love to hear from you if you have some great tips for our readers or if you want more information just ask!
(I have not been paid to endorse the places I have recommended and provided links for)