Next stop on our Europe trip 2017, Scotland! You can check out our first stop on the trip, Ireland here.
Edinburgh was a new city to my friend, Elizabeth and I and we were definitely looking forward to exploring it. We hopped on a quick 45 minute Ryan Air flight from Dublin and landed around 6:30PM in Edinburgh. We then found the city bus to get to Waverley Station in the middle of town so we could head to our Airbnb to checkin.
We were greeted by our host, who shared some helpful tips for our stay, including things around the apartment, local food spots to check out, and the fact that the building we were in was older than America. Let that sink in! We were on the 4th floor of this historic spot in Old Town, Edinburgh with the most perfect view of the park across the street, but more importantly of Edinburgh Christmas.
We settled in and stepped around the block for a yummy bite at Vittoria on the Bridge. Seemingly a popular spot for locals on a date, we perused the pasta choices and wine menu before carefully selecting with advice from our authentic Italian waiter.
Day 1- Castle, Whisky, Parliament, and Christmas
We woke up bright and early Thursday morning, Thanksgiving in America, but just another day in Edinburgh. We started the day by heading to Edinburgh Castle with overcast skies and a thirst of excitement. It’s not every Thanksgiving you get to play ‘Queen’ and explore a castle!
We took in the views of what being on top of an extinct volcano provided. New town, old town, the best of Edinburgh.
We jumped in a free walking tour of the castle, where our guide spewed off amazing tales of royalty, war, and prisoners. I think my favorite bit was learning about Mary, Queen Of Scots. I recently finished watching Reign on Netflix so if you’re familiar, you know this show is a drama all about her life. I was excited to be experiencing a small piece of her life in Edinburgh after falling in love with this strong, powerful woman in a Hollywood spectacle of course!
After a few hours pretending to be royal, we stopped next door at The Scotch Whisky Experience. The tour starts with a history of Scotch Whisky where you learn about the different regions of Scotland it comes from and how different elements influence the taste.
Once you learn about the regions, each person receives a scratch-n-sniff sheet with smells of each region. We were able to select one to do a tasting with. I settled on the Islay region and boy, was it delicious! Full of rich smokey tones. We even got to keep our cute little testing mugs.
We were taken to view the largest private collection of whisky in the world which is housed at this museum. Holy smokes, I’ve never seen a room as beautiful! Floor to ceiling glass cases filled with thousands of dollars worth of un-opened whisky bottles from all over the world.
Leaving a bit happier than when we came, we were met in the streets with stereotypical Scotland, a bagpipe busker! No complaints here! He was awesome.
We continued down the road of the Royal Mile, flooded with shops and restaurants, popping in a few here and there. We stopped for a late lunch at Malt Shovel Inn where I opted for mac n’ cheese and a pint of cider. Trying to get a slice of Thanksgiving, haha!
We finished the Royal Mile at the Scottish Parliament. We viewed their display about the different members and had the opportunity to observe in the chamber for a bit. Members were voting on new fire safety regulations for buildings, brought on by the horrible fire at Grenfell Tower in West London. It was pretty cool getting to see such important matters in conversation in the building where change takes place.
We ended the day by exploring Edinburgh Christmas. We wanted to wait until dark because it’s so much more magical with lights adorning every edge of the town!
The park was filled with smiling faces, carnival rides, market shops, food, and Gill Landry. Yes, Gill Landry. If you’re familiar with Reverberate Music, you know I’m a big fan of the music documentary ‘Austin To Boston.’ Gill Landry is the narrator in the film, a great storyteller and musician, and traveler. I was too chicken to go up to him and say hello, but he did confirm his appearance later the next day on Twitter. Ha! What’s up Gill!? Big fan, big fan.
After I fan-girl’d, Elizabeth somehow convinced me to go on the really, REALLY high swing ride. It was cold, like freezing, but we did it. The views of the city at the height we were at were undeniably beautiful but I was freaking terrified the whole time. All in all, glad we did it.
We walked through the park and found a cool bar, naturally, built out of shipping containers, two stories and with a balcony off the back that held a view of the whole park. We sipped our Baileys hot chocolate and reflected on our most non-traditional Thanksgiving Day yet.
Day 2- Snowy Mountains, Nessie, Cocktails
We pre-booked a 1-day small group trip through Rabbie’s Tours in Edinburgh on day 2. We chose the Loch Ness, Glencoe, and The Highlands tour so we could see what Scotland’s countryside had to show us.
We meet up at 8AM at the Rabbie’s Tour shop and cafe, met our group and tour guide, Eric, then headed out. The trip was full of Scottish trivia, history, views and more views.
We made several stops throughout the day to capture the Scottish scenery. The snowy mountains were absolutely stunning and one of my favorite memories from this vacation.
We made it to Loch Ness in search of the historic Loch Ness monster, Nessie. Though we searched hard, no sightings on our end. Bummer, I know. We settled for a pose with a statue in her honor is this cute little town after grabbing a bite at a local restaurant.
After a long, cold day in the country, we warmed up with a great dinner at wagamama. We hit up our hostess for cool cocktail bars in the area and we ended up at Bramble Bar & Lounge. It had a secretive entrance just below a street level shop and was warm and cozy with locals grabbing a drink after work. The dim lighting and house DJ set the mood for this hip spot. We grabbed a cocktail (whisky inspired) and actually met a girl from Houston who was in town visiting her boyfriend, also present. We traded tourist tips in our snug little corner before parting ways.
We ended the night grabbing a pint at Hanover Tap which was packed with young folks from the football match earlier in the day, obviously still celebrating. It was a loud atmosphere, but we were comforted by the bartender’s kindness and suggestions when she realized we weren’t locals and seemed to be a little confused by everyone.
Day- 3- Coffee, Art, Harry Potter Graveyard, and Vinyl
Rolled into day 3 with a rainbow and a stop at the cutest coffee corner shop, Wellington Coffee. Yummy fruit scones, delicious lattes and a friendly morning staff. Keen coffee spot.
We wandered to the Scottish National Gallery, where we again had the privilege to see some of the greats! Monet, Renoir, Degas and so many more. All for free, amazing.
We wondered through the back streets of old town in search of the Greyfriars Bobby statue. Greyfriars Bobby became know as the dog the supposedly spent 14 years guarding his owner’s grave until his own death. A popular tale for storytellers in Scotland, Greyfriars is remembered with a statue in the town, right outside the graveyard, Greyfriars Kirkyard, that he’s buried in. Locals rub the statue’s nose for luck.
Also in this graveyard, graves marked with familiar names if you know the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling has admitted to being inspired by headstones here for characters’ names in her books. You can find McGonagall, Elizabeth Moodie – Mad-Eye Moody perhaps? and Thomas Riddle here!
Just around the corner is the Elephant House cafe, where J.K. Rowling spent her time writing the early Harry Potter books. The actual restaurant reviews weren’t stellar, so we opted for a photo instead of a meal.
To escape some rain, we trotted across the way to the National Museum of Scotland, again free admission! We learned about science, technology, fashion, animals, basically everything. Such a fun museum to explore, would highly recommend checking out!
We stopped for lunch at Cafe Rouge and warmed up some French Onion soup and a croque monsieur. Bon appétit!
At some point in the day, we stopped in at Coda Music Vinyl & CDs which specializes in traditional folk music with some new releases scattered. I was able to convince myself that I could by a CD instead of a vinyl because I could fit it in my carry on. I was already concerned about by 50lbs weight limit on my luggage. Sweaters are heavy y’all and I might’ve slightly overpacked. Anyways, I left with the new Liam Gallagher album, As You Were, and LOVE it.
Elizabeth and I split up for a few hours to take care of some holiday shopping on our respective ends and joined up for dinner later at Pizza Express, which is kinda an equivalent to CPK in the U.S. if you’re familiar. Had some of the best chocolate cake here too!
After a busy day, we retired to our Airbnb to pack before our departure for our next stop, London!
Want to hear more about our first stop in Ireland? Check out my travel tips and itinerary here!
More about London coming soon!
Have questions or planning your trip to Edinburgh? Let me know in the comments below!