In September, amidst the excitement and nerves of arranging to start my new job, I managed to pack in a whirlwind weekend away to Edinburgh. Despite being partly Scottish myself (some distant relatives from Dundee), I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve only visited the beautiful country once before, for a walking trip up Ben Nevis (and I moaned the whole time). Edinburgh has been on my ‘to visit’ list for a very long time and having finally ticked it off, I’m already keen to plan my next visit!
This blog post will outline what activities we did and their value for money. Most of this blog post will be dedicated to reviewing and raving about the amazing food and cocktails we had. I had no idea Edinburgh would be so foody. In fact, my camera roll is dominated by artistic snaps of food rather than windswept selfies. Luckily, P and I were quite happy to eat our way around the city…
Saturday started incredibly early. I enthusiastically booked an early flight and then questioned my sanity when arriving at the airport at 5am. The flight is incredibly short (around 50 minutes) so for someone who doesn’t like flying this was perfect. We landed around 08.30 and by 9 we were on a tram to the city centre. Our first stop was at Burr & Co for coffee and some toast. Delicious, very friendly staff and no eyebrows were raised about our huge haul of luggage. The atmosphere was so relaxed and welcoming we actually briefly returned on our final day for a quiet coffee before travelling home. It’s a solid 3.5/5 stars for this coffee house – it was lovely, offering the warm shelter we were after.
Blood full of caffeine, we decided to explore the city. We walked over to Camera Obscura on Royal Mile, which houses Short’s Observatory and several floors of optical illusions exhibitions. Its ideal if you’re a big kid (myself included) or simply want to get a good sense of the city and its history before delving into the tourist hotspots. They also had luggage storage whilst we were looking around the exhibits so that was more than welcome after an early flight. It was good value for money with lots of fab photo opportunities…
After Camera Obscura, we headed up Calton Hill for a windswept view of the city. Originally, we had planned to walk up Arthur’s Seat but the weather wasn’t ideal and I simply was not feeling it with the luggage in tow. From Calton Hill we did get a lovely (if slightly grey) view over the city, before heading back into town for lunch.
By pure luck, we stumbled upon The Edinburgh Larder for lunch. This was an amazing find – fantastic food and a proper cosy atmosphere. I opted for a warming homemade soup, whilst P demolished an eggs florentine with spinach as a late brunch. I also had the best chai latte of my life – a solid 4.5/5 stars for this bad boy.
Saturday night ended up slightly off plan, but better than we had expected. After a nap (obviously) and a lot of makeup, we headed back into town for our dinner. Except, we turned up at our pre-booked restaurant to discover it was completely different to what we thought. Thanks to quick Googling skills, we ended up at our next venue; The Outsider.
The Outsider didn’t exactly promise great things from the outside, in the slight September drizzle, but it gave off cool, nonchalant and slightly moody vibes. And then we stepped inside to a bustling restaurant with super friendly staff. We bagged a cosy table by the window and proceeded to drink a lot of prosecco and have a truly delicious meal. We devoured our starters – pan roast pigeon with carrot & nutmeg puree, with carrots and beetroot and P had some crispy aubergine with chilli and a tomato & olive caponata. P refused to try my pigeon, but I can confirm it was amazing.
After even more prosecco, P treated himself to some saffron & fennel risotto with heirloom tomatoes and ricotta, whilst I (obviously) ordered a juicy steak. We finished it off with a caramel and tonka bean poached pear for desert, which I definitely did not need to eat. This whole meal was wholly indulgent, but the food was cooked beautifully and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful. It was a solid 4.5/5 stars, and is top of my recommendations for a romantic dinner that’s good value for money in the Edinburgh city centre.
Sunday morning started off a little less fresh faced than we had hoped, but prosecco indulgence is always allowed. Determined to start the day right, P and I swiftly marched across town to Stockbridge to visit the famed food market there. On the way, of course, we stopped for a coffee and fresh pastry at The Wee Boulangerie and Leo’s Beanery for a gluten free brownie. Both venues were inviting and offered fresh, homemade food with a smile. Sunday was also a busy day – so take a deep breath before you read everywhere we ran off to.
Stockbridge Market was bittersweet. The market stalls themselves looked delicious – everything was beautifully arranged, it was a lovely mix of locals and tourists, and there’s no doubt that this was a popular spot for a Sunday morning. Alas, we hit it at lunchtime and it was peak market crowd. P and I shuffled round a few times before deciding it was just a little too claustrophobic to make it enjoyable. It’s on our list for an earlier visit next time!
After we visited the market, we headed towards Dean Village but some unexpected rain drove us back. It was, in fact, bloody freezing. We took shelter in Hyde & Son for coffee and a cheese, chorizo, tomato bagel. To be honest the décor was more exciting than the food itself, but the cafe offered some tranquility whilst the rest of Edinburgh bustled away. The cocktail menu did look enticing (not for the middle of the day) so perhaps another visit is in order? It was a solid 3/5 stars on our rainy Sunday, although the interior design was stunning.
Afterwards, we headed over to the National Gallery of Scotland, where it seems every other tourist had had the same idea for escaping the grey weather. I looked at some paintings, P asked me a dozen questions about what art means / what is art / why can’t he make money from painting like that and I tried not to hit him over the head with my History of Art degree certificate.
Edinburgh Castle. Let’s be honest. Everyone goes to Edinburgh, everyone pays the hefty prices to enter the Castle and then, unless you’re a battle enthusiast, everyone leaves slightly… deflated. Let’s just say I’ve been a lot more impressive castles. Perhaps it was the countless rooms of old weapons and military uniforms that didn’t appeal, perhaps it was the hordes of tourists blocking each view. Maybe the castle just isn’t that amazing, in my humble opinion. It’s stunning from the outside, but I’m not sure I’d recommend to pay entry again. A solemn 2/5 stars for Edinburgh Castle.
Sunday evening ended in style, in what is one of my favourite gin destinations ever. P and I discovered Heads & Tales, a gin bar and distillery and literal haven for gin lovers like me. I practically moved in. With a mix of gin based cocktails, ‘traitors’ (other spirits used) and gin varieties to try, I could have happily spent the entire weekend there. We snacked on a baked camembert and freshly baked sourdough bread as I basically went to gin bar heaven. Our bartender was charming, our drinks were expertly mixed and I’m half way to convincing P to let us spend New Year’s eve there. It’s an easy 5/5 stars. If you like cocktails, this is gorgeous. If you like gin, this bar is simply divine.
Monday was sadly our last day, so P and I decided to make the most of it. The weather wasn’t fabulous and we were slightly weighed down with our bulky luggage, but we marched off confidently towards Leith. Walking around a city is my favourite way to get to know it, despite what my blisters may say. We made a quick pit stop at Press coffee shop, where I was very tempted by their soup flavours advertised but instead opted for a healthy scone with jam.
Our trek over to Leith had a goal in mind – I’d stalked some food locations online before our trip and a venue that kept being mentioned was Ostara. Ostara’s brunch has a fab reputation and to be fair, it completely delivered – I treated myself to cranachan pancakes with whiskey honey and P had a baked mushroom eggs dish. The cafe has a really warm atmosphere, situated just off the Water of Leith walkway, and despite our heavy luggage and slight hangover it was completely worth it. A 4/5 for Ostara – don’t be fooled by the portion sizes, P and I could barely walk afterwards!
Our final tourist attraction was a visit to the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. I’m a complete sucker for any greenery or glasshouses, and Edinburgh didn’t disappoint. I regret that we didn’t spend more time enjoying the landscaped gardens, exotic foliage and learning about their conservation work. Its also a fantastic photo opportunity!
Before our flight home, we dashed into The Dome for a celebratory cocktail – well, P was celebrating a fantastic weekend, I was panicking before our flight. This bar is definitely on the ‘to visit’ list for next time – one drink was not long enough to appreciate just how stunning this venue is!
So, take a deep breath – thank you for reading all about our Edinburgh weekend away! Overall, very windswept but bloomin’ delicious. This is my first dedicated travel post review since living in Paris, so it’s lovely to finally write about our weekend. I came back several stone heavier and much happier, given how stressful job hunting over summer had been. I can’t recommend the food and drinks we enjoyed enough – but I wouldn’t pay for the castle again.