If you’ve ever found yourself wishing that London would be perfect if it was just little bit quieter, friendlier, less polluted, more affordable and prettier, then you’ll want to read on. Because as much as I love the capital, I think I’ve found a city to rival it – offering the most beautiful weekend away, with the best of idyllic countryside, quaint houses, historic castles, designer and high street shopping and enough top-notch restaurants to cater for any city-slick foodie.
Edinburgh is a foodie’s paradise, because there are so many amazing places to try around every corner. Whether you prefer to stick to your favourite chains or branch out and go independent, you never feel like you’re missing out. I’d recommend stopping for afternoon tea at The Balmoral if you get a chance, simply because it looks incredible – but there is also an assortment of mini tea rooms offering cakes and tea if you fancy a pit-stop.
For something more than just a snack during the day, I’d recommend the Amber Restaurant, which is actually located in The Scotch Whisky Experience building – offering a whopping 70+ whisky varieties, in addition to an assortment of tapas, hearty lunches and sharing platters. David and I stopped off for a filling lunch and despite the ‘cafe’ esque surroundings, the food was really impressive. The whisky, coffee and chocolate gateau is also worth a taste!
If it’s fine dining you’re looking for, without the pretence of formalities and dressing up – you’ll want to head over to Divino, which happens to be one of the cities finest Italian restaurants. Saying this however, don’t expect pizzas and familiar pasta varieties – because wild boar ragu is probably the closest thing you’ll get to spaghetti bolognese. It’s certainly an experience, as the decor makes you feel as though you’re dining in a wine cellar! David opted for the juiciest steak here, while I had stone bass and mange tout.
For something a little glamorous, make a booking at Kyloe, Edinburgh’s award winning gourmet steak restaurant – with a clear theme throughout. The glitzy ceilings and cow hide seating booths provide a swanky element, but it still feels very relaxed. Our waitress was so knowledgeable on each and every steak they offered on the menu, explaining why certain cuts taste different and how they are best enjoyed. I eventually opted for another fish dish but David was persuaded by another steak – and finished every mouthful, which is telling of its taste. Side wise, you don’t want to miss the beef dripping chips and the smoked mac & cheese.
And finally, if you’re after something rather special, please take my word for it and visit Chaophraya which is located just off Princes Street. You need to keep your eyes peeled for the entrance, because it’s fairly unassuming and tucked away – but when you eventually find it, you’ll know why it’s kept a little secret. You walk up the red carpet, into the lift and make your way to the third floor, where spectacular views of the city greet you – and the most amazing Thai menu. David and I are heading off to Thailand very soon (and luckily, we both love the cuisine) so we thought we’d warm up for what we had ahead – in style of course, since this is ‘Thai fine dining’! The chicken satay is out of this world, as is the peanut chicken and coconut rice. Oh – and the mango cocktail with coconut cream is pretty lethal, but probably the most delicious I’ve ever had.
Edinburgh is full of top quality hotels, chain hotels and hostels – so regardless of your budget, you’re bound to find the perfect place to suit. However, we decided to try something a bit different for our stay and look into a self-catered serviced apartment. This turned out to be the best decision, because not only could I make my own dairy-free breakfast every morning but I could eat it in bed and not have to get dressed up and go downstairs. Plus, having our own space (complete with kitchen, dining area and living area) meant that we just felt that bit more relaxed and at ease.
We opted to stay at the incredible Old Town Chambers, which is located in the Old Town, in the perfect position for all of the attractions, restaurants, ghost tours, markets and shopping. The loveliest thing was that we didn’t have to get in a taxi even once – meaning all the extra food we were consuming, we figured would be eventually burned off! Well, that makes sense, right?
You still have the luxury of having a reception, house-keeping and someone to call if you need any advice, but you have a much roomier space – and you’re not in a vast hotel, but a well-kept block of apartments with the most amazing views over the city. I think it’s a bit of a game changer to have your own kitchen when you’re away, because it’s so nice to be able to make yourself up a healthy lunch rather than feeling like you have to eat the stodgy baguette from down the road because it’s your only option. It just feels that bit more special and independent.
You can pretty much spend a whole day shopping in Edinburgh if you wanted to, because every high street shop and designer seems to have a store in the city. However, if you don’t want to shop until you drop, then there are a number of attractions to keep you busy instead – offering a tad more culture. 48 hours doesn’t grant you a whole lot of time, but we managed to visit the Castle and The Scotch Whisky Experience, which both offer something a bit different.
Even if you’re not a fan of Whisky itself (I can’t say I am to be honest), chances are – Edinburgh won’t convert you, but will pique your interest in the rather potent drink. We took a barrel tour (a mini roller coaster – well, sort of – it goes about 1mph) around the ‘Whisky factory’ before learning about the different regions that make whisky in Scotland and what impact the area has on the flavour. This then led to our own whiskey tasting – which I have to say, wasn’t the most pleasant of tastes but it was an experience I’m glad we partook in. When in Edinburgh!
The Castle was totally not what I expected and so much more spectacular in person. It’s not an old ruin like lots of castles but a fully fledged historic fortress built into the rock, but modernised for events and tours. We didn’t actually go inside, because we were stingy and didn’t want to pay the £16 entry fee per person (plus we had lunch booked) but we did make the most of the beautiful view for a couple of pictures.
Other attractions include Ghost tours, which lead you through the underground tunnels of the city, the Dungeons – an 80 minute experience with actors all dressed up to scare and Dynamic Earth, an immersive experience taking visitors from the Big Bang to modern day. Oh, and there’s a National Gallery. Certainly more than 48 hours worth!
There are a number of options for getting from London to Edinburgh, including driving, flying and jumping on the train. David and I opted for the latter, because we figured it would be the least stressful and the best use of our time. Flying, although the quickest, means all the hassle of getting through security, boarding, luggage restrictions and getting to the airport. And driving, well driving would take nearly 8 hours. And we didn’t really think ’32 hours in Edinburgh’ would have quite the same ring to it.
We hopped on the train at Kings Cross at 4pm and by 8.30pm, we were rolling into Edinburgh. The station is very central and you can pretty much walk to any of the main landmarks and hotels, so everything is within very easy reach. Virgin Trains offer a service every half an hour, with prices starting at £30. I’d hop on the Aberdeen service if you can, as these tend to be a bit quicker – as long as it stops at Edinburgh!
Have you visited Edinburgh? Or do you think a trip is in order? Would love to know your thoughts!
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