Weekend or Short Trip to Edinburgh? - Travel Guide

Friday, 16 June 2017

In the two years I’ve run the Instagram account @exploringedinburgh, the most asked question I’ve received is, “what should I see on my first trip to Edinburgh?”. Well, after writing back my recommendations several times I thought; why not just write a blog post about it? So here I am, sitting on my laptop gazing out onto today’s utterly miserable weather, ready to write up my recommendations for a short stay in Edinburgh. One last point before we start, as I previously mentioned today’s weather is beyond dreich (a Scottish word for dreary, yucky weather), it hasn’t stopped raining all day and is 11° c, did I mention it’s June? Anyway as Scotland’s well-loved comedian Billy Connonlly said, “There are two seasons in Scotland. June and winter". Therefore, just be aware when you’re visiting Scotland that you come prepared and don’t just expect lovely weather in Summer!

Day One (Exploring Old Town)
Well it’s your first day in Edinburgh and I recommend exploring Old Town first as no doubt you’ll want to see the classic Edinburgh that I’m sure first drew you to this beautiful city. If you enjoy eating breakfast/brunch or even grabbing a coffee out, Edinburgh has lots of great options, so why not avoid large multinationals like Startbucks and opt for an independent local cafes/coffee shop!
My personal favourite places for a morning snack are Press Coffee (My go-to meal is potato and Jarlsberg hash, asparagus, poached eggs with beetroot chutney! Click Here to see it) and Black Medicine; both have lovely lunch options too and great hot drinks, so if you don’t make it to breakfast it’s something to think about.

So after you have consumed a cup of caffeine to combat the possible jet lag and had something to eat to keep you fuelled for the busy day ahead of you, what better place to start exploring than The Royal Mile. With many of Edinburgh’s most iconic tourist attractions located here, you could easily spend your whole day here. I’ve listed a few attractions worth visiting below:
1.      Edinburgh Castle – Arguably Edinburgh’s most iconic landmark, the castle is both impressive from the outside and historically interesting within. Also, did I mention it has the most amazing views of the city and it sits on an extinct volcano!
2.      Royal Mile Closes & Victoria Street – A personal favourite of mine is all the little “closes” (alleyways) that led off the Royal Mile. There are just so many hidden gems located at the end. A few of my favourite are: Advocates Close, White Horse Close, Dunbar’s Close and Chessels Court. Victoria Street is one of the most interesting and beautiful streets in Edinburgh - well worth a visit. 
3.      Holyrood Palace – At the opposite end of the Royal Mile from the Castle is Holyrood Palace. It’s often still used by Royals on their visits to Edinburgh. I’ve only been in once but I really liked the old ruined Abbey. 

Victoria Street 

Lunch - As for lunch I suggest choosing one of the many restaurants on the Royal Mile; I often take visitors to Clarinda’s Tearooms because I like their food and the story behind the restaurant’s name. Also, Hula Juice Bar, on Victoria Street, is great if you fancy a healthy lunch - they also have vegan and gluten free options. Tip: If it’s nice weather, why not buy a take-out and eat it in Dunbar’s Close’s hidden garden.

Additional – If by unfortunate circumstance the weather is terrible, I would suggest visiting the National Museum of Scotland and visiting Greyfriars Bobby on route to it! But please, if you see anyone touching his nose, please don’t follow! It’s a very recent tradition which is ruining his statue and costs a lot to repair.

For dinner, Edinburgh has many wonderful restaurants to chose from, it really depends where you are staying and what you like, but, one of my favourites is a small Italian restaurant called La Locanda (Click Here to see it), on Cockburn (pronounced: Coburn) Street.

Depending on what time you have your dinner, I would recommend a sunset stroll on Calton Hill, as watching the sun set over Edinburgh is a must, but, it does depend on the weather. Two of the best vantage points are: Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill. When choosing between them it does depend on the physical fitness of the traveller and time constraints, Calton Hill being the easier and quicker to reach.

Circus Lane (which leads to Stockbridge)

Day Two (Exploring New Town)
Honestly, as I stay in Old Town I have never had breakfast in New Town, but, Leo’s Beanery has three cafes around the city and I liked their Bruntsfield branch. The one in New Town is on 23a Howe Street and looking at TripAdvisor reviews their breakfasts look delicious! But, if that doesn't take your fancy New Town has so many great cafes to choose from.

Why not start your morning walk by taking a wander around Princes Street Gardens, and if you didn't to Calton Hill the previous day, this would be a great time to visit. If you're interested in shopping I recommend popping into Jenners on Princes Street - which was the oldest independent department store in Scotland - then take a wander along George Street. Either after shopping or if shopping doesn’t interest you, you could browse around The Royal Scottish Academy and the free Scottish National Gallery behind it, which are both located in between East and West Princess Street Gardens.

Scottish National Gallery

By this time, you may be feeling slightly peckish and if it's a nice day why not buy lunch and enjoy it in Princess Street Gardens? 

After lunch there are a few places you could visit:
1. Dean Village: If you have time, I strongly urge you to try to visit the picturesque Dean Village - it's a place many tourists miss out on. It is a tranquil green oasis on the Water of Leith with striking architecture and one of my favourite places to visit.
2. Stockbridge and Circus Lane: Circus Lane is regarded as one of the most picturesque lanes in Edinburgh - each little mews house is utterly sweet - and the little lane leads to the quaint suburb of Edinburgh, Stockbridge. There are plenty of independent cafes, shops and a tone of charity shops.
3. Broughton Street: If you fancy doing a bit of shopping and fancy a wander round a delightful collection of independent shops, I recommend Broughton Street. My particular favourite shop is Life Story, a Scandinavian design store with a small cafe at its rear.

New Town has range of delicious restaurants to suit everyone’s tastes, so if you fancied just wandering and choosing a restaurant that took your fancy I don’t think you could go too wrong. However, I am going to recommend The Gardener’s Cottage, somewhere I had heard a lot of good things about for a while but only recently got the pleasure of trying it for myself. I visited for lunch and absolutely loved the food and the staff were warm and friendly. I advise booking in advance as they are extremely popular!

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