Of course, with his birthday being in May, he was up first. Out of ALL of the travel options in the world, he quickly landed on Scotland! At first, I was surprised by his choice, as Scotland was one of the few countries he had already been too. But he insisted that he enjoyed his time there so much that he needed to go back with me… fair enough 😉
I had the honor of planning him a 3 day trip to Edinburgh (pronounced: ed-in-bruh), early May. We landed @ the Edinburgh Airport late Thursday night and took Uber to our hotel: hub by Premier Inn Edinburgh Royal Mile. We found “The hub” to be the perfect hotel for our stay.
It is a newer, sleek hotel geared towards “young” travelers. The rooms are very small, but surprisingly make a lot of sense. We were amazed by the amount of hidden storage, the remote operated lights, and THE location! They also have an awesome little cafe that offers food of all kinds, 24 hours. We ate breakfast here almost every day and loved the convenience of grabbing a free coffee or tea anytime we liked.
We couldn’t help but start off the trip by climbing up to Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is the main peak on a group of hills at one end of the Royal Mile. There are many different routes to the top and honestly I couldn’t tell you which one we took — we just started walking in the same direction other people were walking! 😉
This was hand’s down the most inconsistent hike I’ve been on. We went back and forth from being too hot and ripping off our pullovers, to immediately putting them back on 5 minutes later, when the wind picked up. We were very lucky to have a sunny weekend in a city that knows rain but I don’t think we were prepared for how strong the wind would be.
With that being said, we couldn’t stay up there as long as we would have liked. Our hands and faces were bright red and we couldn’t hear each other without screaming, so we quickly made our way back down after a quick soaking in of the awesome 360 view!
After making it back down, we swung by the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the Queen’s official residence in Scotland) to just peak around outside. Queen Elizabeth’s home is at one end of the Royal Mile (and at the bottom of Holyrood Park/Arthur’s Seat). We did not go inside the palace but we did go into the Scottish Parliament, which is across the street.
After grabbing lunch on the Royal Mile at Gait, I was thankful to be able to squeeze in a quick shower and change before more exploring. (Like I said, we weren’t prepared for how sweaty and wind blown we would be after our morning hike.)
We then spent an hour or so exploring some of “Old Town”: The Royal Mile/Victoria’s Street before heading into the National Museum of Scotland.
The National Museum of Scotland is really neat! And it’s free! This would be the perfect place to spend time if you are traveling with kids or if it’s raining. But, we went without kids, while it was sunny, and still really enjoyed it. There is a great view from the top floor, as well as a yummy Brasserie in the basement, if you’re in need of a quick snack or cup of tea 🙂
When we were finished at the museum, we took an Uber over to Dean Village – which is west of the heart of Edinburgh (15 minute drive from the museum).
Dean Village is definitely worth seeing. You will feel like you are much further from the city than you actually are. We enjoyed a quiet and serene walk along the “Water of Leith Walkway”, exploring some quaint areas like: Hawthornbank Lane & Damside.
We walked east along the water all the way until the Jubilee Gardens where we exited back to the main road. From there we headed north on Raeburn Place and grabbed a drink at The Stockbridge Tap. This was the perfect small local bar to grab a beer at before walking over to The Scran and Scallie for William’s birthday dinner!
We LOVED The Scran and Scallie! Yes, we might have been splurging due to said birthday… but either way, you don’t want to miss this award-winning gastro pub. **Make a reservation.
Lastly, we ended the night a few block away at The Stand for a comedy show. We knew nothing about this place before arriving in Edinburgh but the name came up a few times in our first day there so we figured we would check it out.
It’s a small, dark comedy club that offers a different line up almost every night. We paid £12/person and quietly grabbed a stool near the front (the only 2 left). (Apparently it sells out very quickly.)
William and I had never been to a comedy club — much less one in a different county — so we had no idea what to expect. Welllll, we learned very quickly that comedy in the UK is very unique … and it’s interactive! Being the only Americans in the room… let’s just say we got picked on quite a bit 🙂 (Note: There were also a lot of “local” jokes we did not completely understand, as well as a handful of vulgar jokes).
All that to say, it ended up being one of our favorite memories of the trip (minus the vulgarity). We still laugh about some of the things that were said and done that night!
We started off Day 2 at the Edinburgh Castle. It opens everyday at 9:30 AM and we had been warned there is usually a crowd. We pre-bought tickets online and arrived at 9:15 to quickly grab our tickets from the will-call machine and walked right in when it opened (happy to skip the very long line)!
There is a lot to see and do at the castle — the crown jewels being my favorite. Unfortunately, we didn’t go at the right time to see the firing of the One o’clock Gun, but we did get to enjoy another beautiful view of the city!
If you happen to be in Edinburgh on a Saturday, they offer a lovely little Famer’s Market just behind the castle (@ Castle Terrace). We enjoyed grabbing a fresh, local lunch here while people watching 😉 .
After lunch, we had a 1:00 appointment at the Scotch Whiskey Experience (which is a stone’s throw away from the Edinburgh Castle).
I still don’t really know how to describe the Scotch Whiskey Experience. Yes, it’s touristy… but in a good way. Does that make sense?
We bought tickets for the “Gold Tour” (£26.00/person) which allowed us to try 4 additonal regional single malts at the end of the tour. There are definitely “cheesy” parts of the tour but overall it was very informative and actually very funny. The tour guides do a great job of keeping it entertaining.
At the end, everyone on the tour gets to try one of the whiskeys you’ve just learned about, before heading into “The Collection” — the world’s largest whiskey collection (3,384 bottles).
William and I stayed in the “bar area” to enjoy sipping on our 4 additional whiskeys.
After a good 2+ hours at the Scotch Whiskey Experience, we strolled around the Royal Mile some more, checking out the local shops, street perfomers, and bigger attractions like St. Giles Cathedral and Real Mary King’s Close.
We eventually made our way down to Princess Street (Edinburgh’s main shopping street).
After wandering around Princess Street for an hour or so… we took another 15 minute walk over to a restaurant called “Pickles“. We originally were just going for ‘Happy Hour’ … but it ended up being so filling and enjoyable that we never went anywhere else for dinner! Highly recommend!
We finished our 2nd day by watching the sunset at Calton Hill. We heard it gets crowded so we got there about an hour before the sunset. We beat the crowd and enjoyed walking around the hill and seeing the city from a different view — especially after we had gone to many of the places we were spotting.
On our last day in Edinburgh, we checked out of our hotel early to take a day trip with Rabbie’s Tours. We had pre-paid for 2 slots on a 16 passenger bus that would be taking the “St. Andrews & the Fishing Villages of Fife Tour”.
After a lot of research and planning, I decided this would be the best way for us to travel outside of the city of Edinburgh (during this short trip). It just seemed like too big of a hassle to rent a car for a day, stress over driving on the left side of the road, and finding our way around. For a total price of £85.68 we were happy to be driven on a very fun and informative tour. This was a highlight of the trip!
The tour was essentially all day: 9 AM – 6 PM. We made a few short stops at South Queens Fairy/Bridge, Fife (fishing town), (drove through) Anstruther… while ultimately making our way to St. Andrews.
We had 3 hours at St. Andrews to go explore on our own. William and I started by exploring The “Old Course” and then enjoyed lunch at St. Andrew Links (Golf) Clubhouse (although he would have much rather played a round of golf!).
After lunch, we walked through town, passing by the beautiful St. Andrew’s University. It was so neat to see this “college town” that felt straight out of a movie. (Definitely take a peek at St. Salvatore’s Quad!)
If you keep on walking, you’ll eventually run into St. Andrews Cathedral and a beautiful view of the ocean.
Ideally, had we had more time, we would have toured the St. Andrews Castle, but we had to get back on the bus for one more stop: Faulkland.
We had about an hour to explore the adorable-quaint-little town that is Faulkland. It was stops like this that we enjoyed about the tour because we probably wouldn’t have know about them otherwise.
Our weekend in Edinburgh was a special one — celebrating an even more special person!
We can’t wait to explore more of Scotland’s countryside in the future!
Please feel free to contact me with any questions (or recommendations) 🙂