I should really get out of England and discover what’s in my own backyard. I say this every time I go to somewhere that’s pretty close by and I probably could have visited ages ago because it was that close. I’m waffling, so moving on.
Mutay and I went to Edinburgh for two days this week, and it was absolutely wonderful. Also, very cold. That’s the important part… how cold it was. Obviously, the more up north you go, the colder it gets, but my gosh. It was something else.
We flew with Ryanair, who were giving out scratch cards to buy and you could win 1 million euros, which would be lovely let me tell you, and the air hostess said: “And don’t forget, if you do win that 1 million euros, my name is [I actually forgot her name] and I am here to share the burden of your winnings.” Me too, girl, me too.
We arrived on the Wednesday morning, and whilst it was freezing the weather was actually pretty nice with the sun shining and everything. There was a bit of a mishap in Sainsbury’s in which I tried to buy a bottle of white wine for £3 only to be loudly told that the price tag was incorrectly left out and he can’t legally sell it to me for £3. I mean, it was fine honestly, I was just confused as to why he was announcing this so loudly for everyone to hear.
Our Airbnb was a 10 minute bus journey from the city centre, which was very convenient. There also happened to be a McDonald’s right across the road, but you know. Whatever, init. The flat itself was so pretty and homely, but the actual entranceway was dark and gloomy and I shit you not there were flickering lights and we had to use our phone light to even find the keyhole of the door. Creepypasta.
Tip: You can get a return ticket for the Airlink 100 bus from the airport into Edinburgh’s city centre. From there Mutay and I took another bus to the Airbnb, where a day ticket cost £4, which was very handy as we used the bus a lot the first day. A single ticket is £1.60.
We relaxed a little before heading out, partly because it was so cold and partly because we were doing some major planning and dranking wiiiiine.
The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is right in the heart of Edinburgh and is home to many iconic attractions, museums, shops and restaurants. Located in the Old Town[1. oldest part of Edinburgh], it is approximately a Scots mile long (roughly 1.81 km). I think Mutay and I walked the whole mile, and this was only because we wanted to waste time before the tour, which we didn’t get to do anyway. LOL. At least we got some exercise.
The Scottish Whisky Experience
I just want to take a moment to commend our wonderful tour guide, Rory, who made something as mundane as barrels sitting around for years to mature whiskey sound fun. So, 1. whiskey is not for me, 2. I’m definitely going to stick to being a wine connoisseur. There are 5 steps to appreciating Scotch whisky:
1. Is your whisky light gold, bright copper or rich amber in colour?
2. Does your whisky have a light, medium or full body?
3. Which aromas do you recognise when you nose your whisky – is it malty, smoky, fruity, chocolatey?
4. What characteristics do you notice on the palate – is it softly sweet, rich and fruity, or peppery & spicy?
5. Does the flavour remain for a long time or does it disappear quickly?
I am telling you right now, the whisky I tried, which was from the Islay region, remained in my chest for the longest time after we had finished the experience. I don’t know how people drink whisky normally like it’s water. My eyes nearly watered even just smelling mine for the first time. At the same time, you can get milder whiskies and Mutay and I tried some samples when we were at Edinburgh Castle which were definitely nicer enough for us to buy a small bottle.
I would definitely recommend the experience though as it is a good insight into how to make Scotch whisky, the ins and outs of everything, and you also get to visit the largest whisky collection in the world.
St. Giles’ Cathedral
Also located in the Old Town, St. Giles’ Cathedral was the church of John Knox[2. A Scottish minister, theologian, and writer who was a leader of the Reformation] during the Reformation and it dates back to the 14th century. It actually isn’t technically a cathedral, and was only a cathedral for two periods during the 17th century.
Nonetheless, it is a beautiful building with a very gothic outlook – upon approaching the cathedral you will notice how dark it looks on the outside, and this can be said the same for the inside, as well. It may just be because it happened to be gloomy when we visited that day, and perhaps on a summer day the cathedral would be lighter.
The cathedral has beautiful stained glass windows, which illustrate Bible stories alongside saints. Mutay and I sat in awe observing these windows. As I mentioned in a previous post, I really like churches because they provide a sense of tranquility.
This has got to be my favourite part of the trip. We originally wanted to go on the first day we arrived, but by the time we got there they had already closed because last entry was at 4PM. That day would have been perfect as well because the skies were clear and the weather was alright. We decided to go the next day when it was raining and a cold had descended on us like no other cold we had felt before.
Despite this, we had a blast at the castle and actually spent just over two hours there. Who would have thought we’d be such history buffs?
We both got the audio tour, which is a little extra with the ticket but I definitely think is worth forking out for. The castle had so much more to offer than I expected and I found myself pleasantly learning new things. Learning about Mary, Queen of Scots, was intriguing and we even got to be in the room where she gave birth to her son.
We arrived just before 1PM, and unbeknownst to us at 1PM they fire the One o’clock Gun. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard the gunshot because I wasn’t expecting it AT ALL.
“The firing of the One o’clock Gun dates back to 1861 when it allowed ships in the Firth of Forth to set the maritime clocks they needed to navigate the world’s oceans.” [3. https://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/discover/highlights/one-oclock-gun]
The views from the castle were an added perk. I really enjoyed the visit to the castle even though it was wet and windy, and I loved the historic atmosphere.
The Hub is the home of the Edinburgh International Festival, but is also used for other events, conferences, weddings, etc. Its spire is actually the highest point in Edinburgh, and you can pretty much spot it straight away once you get into the city centre. There isn’t actually much to do in the Hub, but its architecture is amazing.
Food and Drink
We had some really good food whilst we were in Edinburgh. Seriously good food. Whilst I didn’t try haggis (because I’m really not down to try something that contains a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs), we did visit two amazing restaurants. It took us ages to find where to go for lunch on the first day because TimeOut was not being as helpful as it usually is. We ended up randomly going into Hanam’s, which is a Middle Eastern restaurant, and is located right by the Hub.
I ordered the cheese borek; cigar shaped pastries, filled with feta and mozzarella cheeses and parsley. So delicious, especially dipped in the garlic sauce. By the way, their garlic sauce was out of this world. For our main we decided to get a Mushakal Kebab Platter for two; 4 skewers: featuring chicken wings, minced lamb, lamb fillet and chicken breast kebabs.
You have the option to have it served Kurdish style or Iranian style. We chose Kurdish, which means it comes with oven clay baked naan bread and fresh salad as opposed to Iranian which comes with special rice and a side portion of any vegetarian shillah. The food was really, really good and I loved the spices they used to marinate the meat.
Overall, the restaurant was a good shout – it was relatively empty, which was nice and the waitresses were really friendly 🙂 Would definitely visit again.
Angels with Bagpipes
Okay, so. This place was the bomb. I actually found this when I Googled restaurants in Edinburgh and this came up with 4 out of 5 stars. We didn’t actually mean to go there, but we happened to pass it when we were coming back from the castle. Once we looked at the menu, we knew we had to try it.
We went for their seasonal lunch menu, which is only £17.50 for 2 courses or £21.50 for 3. I opted for two courses; so starter and main. I was pleasantly surprised with how quick the service was, and although we were the only ones in the restaurant in the beginning the food was done really quick but with such good quality.
My starter was terrine: smoked ham hock, potato, sauce gribiche. Extremely yummy. I had to Google what gribiche was because there was an incident the night before, but I’ll tell you more on that in a bit. Gribiche, by the way, is a mayonnaise-style cold egg sauce.
For my main I went for the beef: 12 hour braised, shallot, kale, creamed potato. The dishes came out with steam literally coming off the beef. It was so DELICIOUS. The beef was so tender that when I pressed my fork into it, it pulled away easily. I love a good creamed potato, as well, and hmm. MMM. Oh my gosh. I also tried some of Mutay’s dessert which was the chocolate mousse, raspberry, chocolate crumb. The raspberry was extremely tangy, but paired with sweetness of the chocolate it was perfect.
Excellent service, excellent food, excellent atmosphere. Excellence everywhere. 10/10 would go again.
The Blackbird is a bar and restaurant located in Tollcross. We ended up here after being stood up by the tour guide (lol) and we were lucky enough to grab a booth to ourselves. They have a variety of short and long cocktails, with interesting names such as Tears of a Tiki Clown and Some People Call Me Maurice.
My first drink was La Vie en Rose: Belvedere, Belvedere Citrus, strawberries, apple, lemon curd, rose water, egg white. Delicious. Amazing. Went down a treat. My second drink is where it all went wrong ? I ordered A Horse with No Name: Konik’s Tail vodka, Cocchi Rosa, strawberries, pink peppercorn, lemon, soda. At first the drink was also delicious and amazing. Then I started to get a stomachache and at first I thought I had just drank too fast, so I sipped some more. That just made it worst.
It turns out I am allergic to pink peppercorns, which actually aren’t even peppercorns they just called them that cause they LOOK like peppercorns. False advertisement much? Pink peppercorns are a member of the cashew family, and as someone with a nut allergy – yup, ya guessed it. Fun times(!) Luckily, it was only a mild reaction compared to some of the others I’ve had. I literally threw up, drank some water and had to breathe through my mouth cause my nose was blocked until I got home to take my drugs because this idiot didn’t bring them with her and left it in her other bag.
So, my only gripe with this place is pink peppercorns, but other than that it was a neat bar.
Edinburgh is steeped in so much history and there are so many things to see and discover, you will definitely not get bored. From Edinburgh Castle to Arthur’s Seat there is something for everyone. What I love is how Edinburgh seamlessly blends old and new, not just in terms of attractions but also architecture, and you can tell it is a vibrant city even though it’s definitely much more tranquil than say London, for example. If you’re lucky enough, you should definitely catch a free walking tour which you’ll find loads of when you walk The Royal Mile. We didn’t get to go on one because when we arrived, nobody was there ?
I really enjoyed Edinburgh, and will definitely visit again. Hopefully in the summer and then spend a few days in Inverness as well, which looks beautiful. Basically, I’ll be back.