Edinburgh is such an interesting place to visit, and a popular one; cobble streets lined with grey granite buildings, looming with impressive vigour above you.
The city generally makes you feel very small, and is and odd mixture of new and old. We decided a while ago to pick Edinburgh as our first Christmas Market destination, we have been trying to organise a trip like this for years; it has always been one of those things you talk a lot about doing, instead of doing a lot of without copious amounts of discussion.
Walking through the royal mile, you can see the contrasting differences, with newer fronted shops and modern areas; turn the corner and there is St Giles Cathedral, a huge Gothic feat of architecture, surfacing from amidst the sixteenth century.
The streets go from huge course ways to tiny small rivets in-between buildings, winding out of control like a huge estuary. Our hotel was just off the corner of Cowgate, and close to most of the places we wanted to go, we were smack bang in the middle of Edinburgh.
We stayed in a travel lodge, which was really nice and cheap, I don’t think too much into hotels really; my point being you don’t really spend that much time in them so why bother spending a fortune on it?
If however you are the opposite to me and love you fancy hotels there was a Radisson Blu up the road from where we stayed, or if you are extra super dooper fancy there is The Balmoral (A rather famous hotel). Otherwise I suggest the nice little travel lodge we stayed in it was about seventy quidish.
My friend is particularly spectacular at inventing itineraries for trips, so we had everything covered and planning properly for this short, three day trip enabled us to fit a lot into a few days.
Our journey started with a train trip up to Edinburgh from Nottingham, which the first hour was very uncomfortable, we had several different exchanges, only to find on the
last train, our seats had been double booked (genuinely).
We had Prosecco, and were not thrilled about having to sit at opposite ends of the train, in fact one of us had to stand. So we may have complained; I don’t often complain I am very British in the fact that I will complain about things in conversation, but generally when a staff member asks me if I’m ok, I just say yes.
I also may or may not have exaggerated that it was my friend’s hen due and the train journey was ruining it (in my defense the first staff member I spoke to, just shrugged his shoulders and walked away).
This lead to us being upgraded to first class… If I complain I tend to get lucky. First class is fab, but I wouldn’t pay for it, despite the awkward hug my friend got off a staff member, because obviously she was getting married, and despite the free tea and coffee.
Anyway here are some of my favourite and not so favourite places to go in Edinburgh.
This place did not disappoint, not even a little bit, I loved it; every shop has its own unique feel the colours lined up together make for a fantastic photo, and if you didn’t know, it is the inspiration for Diagon Alley. The architecture is astounding, each building has a unique look and colour, with it being Christmas, everywhere had little wreaths of holly and pretty fairy tale lights hanging from the old painted window panes.
We had a good wander around here, there is even a balcony above the street, with extra shops on! Some of the shops have used the Harry Potter theme to their advantage and many are Harry Potter based shops (some clutter and some genuinely good ones); it is after all on the Harry Potter pilgrimage.
One Harry Potter shop I would recommend is the Diagon House, Which is covered from head to foot in Harry Potter memorabilia, if you a Potter fan, this is a must shop on your trip, the old timey décor, littered with Harry Potter ‘bits an bobs’ lined thoughtfully on each shelf, leaving a good cluttered feeling.
Another shop in particular that caught my eye was The Island of Skye Candle Company; now for anyone that knows me well knows I cannot resist a candle shop, I have to go in, it was lovely in here, it smelt amazing, all the scents were very fresh, and did in fact remind me of Scotland (of course I brought one), my friends slowly removed me from said candle shop, so that I didn’t spend all my money.
Arthur’s seat and Carlton Hill
Ahh what can I say about Arthurs Seat and Carlton Hill, well they did make me feel unwell walking, as I am not fit. If you really don’t like walking maybe these aren’t for you, I do enjoy a stroll, this felt more like mountain climbing to me (I am exaggerating) They are, however well worth the torturous leg burning.
Carlton Hill is not as much of a climb really, more of a brisk walk (unless you want to almost jog up the hill, like my friends insisted we did, so we could get to lunch on time) It’s well worth the view at the top, it’s got an all-round view point so you can see all of Edinburgh, and you have a good view of Edinburgh Castle.
is a much heftier walk, I felt my legs burn. However that said the view at the top is amazing and more than worth the trek, there isn’t that much more to say about them, they are in all reality popular for the view point.
We stayed till sunset at Arthur’s seat, which again I would advise as it was a pretty sunset, the mist rises from the city, mixing with the sunset red making it almost look like fire. It is also an ancient volcano, which makes it quite a bit more intriguing to me.
We chose to go to the dungeons, instead of the castle; this was a mistake. Edinburgh Dungeon, may in fact, be entertaining, but only for young children.
We really didn’t enjoy it, I’m not sure if this is because we hyped ourselves up about it so much, or because it was just boring. The actors were fine, but the rides inside were nigh on pointless, they were there for the sake of it, there was a boat ride, which moved about a meter and dropped you off at the other side of a wall, and a drop ride that dropped a short way and was over in about ten seconds.
There were so many other things we could have seen, so don’t make our mistake. We wished we had gone to the Edinburgh castle, which would have been more interesting when learning about Scottish history.
We also wish we had chosen to go to Mary King’s close, where the Streets are under ground, it’s where people were sealed in with the plague. It sounds depressing but very interesting too.
Again don’t go here, I won’t say too much on the topic as we really didn’t enjoy the zoo, I have started to, later in life, stop appreciating zoo’s, I don’t like seeing animals in enclosures. The best zoo I have ever been to would be Royan in France, because is clean and has lots of wide open and mixed enclosures.
Edinburgh Zoo doesn’t really have that I felt far too much of the emphasis is put on the Panda’s, the rest of the zoo it seems, has been left to go into ruin. They do have a new chimp enclosure, but apart from that, the other enclosures are very run down.
We didn’t see many animals, and I won’t complain about that because we did go in November, what I was annoyed about is that when we got there the Panda enclosure was closed, they still expected you to pay the full whooping £20! Which I felt was very pricey for the experience. I wouldn’t have minded not seeing the Panda’s, if it had been slightly less.
I sound grumpy, I was grumpy at the time, and it was just generally a depressing zoo.
Christmas Market and food
So I’m just going to put some pictures right here to make your mouth water. There.
The Christmas Market was decent, I would say go to Edinburgh in late November, early December, so you don’t miss it. There did seem to be many repeated stalls, but then I guess you get that at most Christmas markets, it was a laugh and the mulled wine, hot chocolate and cheese fondue were awesome, I won’t lie.
There were some rides there too but I was too scared to go on them, a little bit expensive but if you’re a thrill seeker you may enjoy.
So best places to eat I would say were
Brewhemia (the beer is amazing too) and Badger and co, where it cost us all of £20 each for, four Prosecco’s (there were other options like certain cocktails, beer, soft drinks and hot drinks) and a massive breakfast platter as you can see in the picture it was unbelievable!
Hope you have a chance to pop up to Edinburgh soon! If you do I hope these tips help!