Monday, 20 October 2014

Travel | A Quick Weekend Guide to Edinburgh

My boyfriend and I decamped to Edinburgh at the start of the year for a short break (I'd been there once before with Lauren and some old Uni friends back in 2009) and it felt good to return with a bit more research and a few tips to hand! I actually wrote a post with the outfits I took, check it here...

Each to their own style, but regardless of the weather forecast, always take an umbrella, a jacket and a cardigan. Scotland is, by reputation, cold. So prepare for that! In the winter, you really have to go all out - scarves, hats, gloves, thick socks. Oh and definitely take a pair of comfy flat boots/shoes. Now is not the time for breaking in a new pair.

We stayed at the Brooks Hotel, which is budget boutique to a tee. Just down from Princes Street, this hotel couples clean aesthetics in the bedroom - with soft white linen and lots of natural light - with a cosy lounge with nods to the heritage of the area. This was easily our favourite part of the hotel, with touches of tartan, antlers on the wall, beaten up leather reading chairs and an 'Honesty Bar', so you can feel right at home and help yourself.
If you're a foodie and need a banging breakfast, then this will cement your hotel choice. I would go as far as to say it was the best I've ever had since the Disneyland Hotel in 1998 (yes, really) so if you're after a hearty breakfast cooked to order with homemade granola pots and marmalade cake, hit up the Brooks Hotel. Top tip - we had the Eggs Benedict. Oh. My. Lord.

Keeping on the same subject, food in Edinburgh is absolutely sensational and you don't need to spend a lot to get decent grub. Four eateries in particular stood out to us...
Clockwise from top left: Oink, Whiski Rooms, The Dogs, Blonde

For a hearty lunch on the go, head to Oink. A hop, skip and a jump from the castle, this little shop sells incredible hog roast rolls. That's it. So if you're veggie or don't like getting your hands dirty, don't bother. These put hairs on your chest - wash it down with a local beer after.

If you have a bit more time and you're not too full up from breakfast, try the Whiski Rooms. The mojitos were great (and a decent size), and the food was creative yet crowd-pleasing. Steve had the Whiski Burger, a smoked sensation with cheese, bacon, whisky (yes really) and onion chutney, whereas I did as the Romans do and had MacSween's Haggis, with bashed up neeps and tatties with crispy leeks and whisky cream sauce. Just gorgeous.

Still hungry? Get ye to Blonde, which was a fairly new face when we visited in February. Homely decor and friendly waitresses (who I suspect were also chefs too) welcomed us in and the food was rich and deeply satisfying (no waist belts should be worn, just don't bother). I had the Venison Casserole, cooked slow with red wine, root vegetables and chocolate, buttered mash and parsnip crisps. Amazing. Steve can't remember what he had, but I'm pretty sure it was the Duck. Thumbs up all round.

I have a second cousin who lives in Edinburgh and her husband is a chef, so you know any recommendation of that nature is a good 'un! The Dogs was the new kid on the block, and owned by a friend of the family (however extended) who made us feel welcome and delighted our palates. Steve had Pork Cheeks (slow cooked in cider sauce) with lentils, chard and black pudding whereas I was suitably stretched and opted for the lighter Monk Fish with pea puree, cauliflower/broccoli flowers and smoked bacon emulsion. Yum.

We went to the Scottish Whisky Experience, which was great (especially if you actually like whisky, which we both do although Steve's love definitely outstrips my own) and Edinburgh Castle, which I'd been to before and can definitely recommend if you're a first time visitor. The weather was a little blustery and showery when we went - welcome to the UK, folks - so we ducked in to these when it got a bit wet and wandered around the rest of the time.
On that note, walk everywhere. Edinburgh is a small city, and exploring is the greatest way of finding great little cafes to stop in (yep, still on that), shops to peruse and pubs to while away rainy afternoons with the locals. It's also a great way to see the city in all it's absolutely splendid beauty - if you catch Edinburgh with a little sunshine either side of a shower, it really is glorious.
We didn't make it to Arthur's Seat or the National Museum of Scotland (both hotly tipped, the latter by aforementioned cousin), but they are both firmly on my list next time. If the weather is good, Arthur's Seat is definitely the way to go for some exercise (you'll be rewarded with unrivalled views of the city), but if it really pelts it down escape to the Museum, which is only a few steps from Princes Street.

We wandered around the Dean, Princes and Queen Street gardens post-munching and they are really lovely with fantastic views from wherever you stand. When I first came to Edinburgh the Christmas Markets were in town, and took up residence in the Princes Street gardens, and I recommend coming to Edinburgh around this time of year - the spirit is magical.

Before you go...
If you're going to buy things, buy local. Quality is infinitely better even if prices are a little higher than the mass produced stuff on Princes Street (it's not as bad as London by any stretch, but still) so go a few streets in and find something locally produced.
Scottish people are patriotic and proud of their culture and history, and they love to share their knowledge and tips of the area. We got a few cabs to the restaurants for dinner (needs must when you wear heels) and the drivers were great with sharing tips for the city. Don't be shy!

Have you been to Edinburgh? Do you have any tips for us next time?

1 comment

  1. Arthurs Seat is definitely a must! I took part in a race in Edinburgh at the weekend, which involved running up Arthurs Seat in the sunshine, after pouring rain, meaning we were treated to a gorgeous view of Edinburgh framed by a rainbow :) one of the best sights I've ever witnessed!

    Taking note of hotel & dining suggestions! I'd recommend eating at Tigerlily, Bar Kohl and The Edinburgh Larder. Cocktails at the G&V (formerly Missoni Hotel) are a must too! :)

    Christy x
    another weekend without make-up


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