When JHubz told me the in-laws were coming to visit for three weeks I confess I panicked a little. We live in different countries and I do not know them that well, am easily overwhelmed and don’t always play well with others. So after I’d overcome the desire to move house, ha! we started talking about what we could do while they were here to keep them (and us) entertained. Neither of us having been to Scotland, a trip to Edinburgh was an easy choice. Some concerted research later and we’d bagged an awesome deal on expedia staying at the Ibis Styles on St Andrews Square for £250 per person including our flights.
The day after a wonderful Christmas Day, hand luggage in tow we headed to Scotland via Southampton airport a mere forty five minute drive from home.
The whole airport experience and flight were great, a far cry from the insanity and crowds of Heathrow and for sure we’ll be travelling from Southampton again.
Arriving at our hotel in the heart of Edinburgh with all its Christmas lights and an ice rink in the square outside was pretty magical. We dropped our bags and headed out for dinner at one of the many local pubs. My enthusiasm to eat and map misreading lead to a very cold but lovely first sighting of the castle beautifully lit up in red on the cliff top above.
I think I had a pie, I might have had a pie, for sure several bottles of prosecco were consumed. The mother in law likes a tipple and it would be extremely inconsiderate to expect her to imbibe alone 😁.
The next morning, bright and early and after some toast and jam from the hotel’s included continental breakfast, JHubz and I set out into a crisp clear blue morning to explore Edinburgh. On the drive from the airport I’d caught glimpses of her impressive architecture and boy is she pretty.
With no fixed destination in mind we wandered for hours, up and down, in churchyards and back streets, alleyways and avenues, circumnavigating the castle as we went. It’s also easy to see how JK Rowling was inspired by Edinburgh’s wonderful layout and architecture, Diagon Alley could be in so many of these old lanes.
We stopped for lunch at The Mussel Inn for delicious chowder and mussels before continuing our exploration.
There’s a large German Market, filled with dozens of stalls, merry go-rounds, a big wheel and many other rides that has taken up temporary residence around the wonderful Gothic Scott Monument. Sadly after paying my five pounds I only made it fifteen steps up in the cold narrow confines of the stairwell before reaffirming my preference for low wide spaces and retraced my steps back down to enjoy the churros we’d bought earlier from one of the many tempting food stalls. JHubz more impressively made it to the first level, snapping some pics before joining me back at ground level, having decided the hundred or so more steps to the top was a hundred steps too many 😆.
Later that day, after an hours rest back at the hotel, newly purchased primarni tights snug under my jeans, we headed back out into the sub-zero temperature to meet Alan for our Eat Walk Edinburgh tour. You may know we are big fans of food tours and having researched those on offer, Eat Walk Edinburgh was an easy choice. We’d left the in-laws to their own devices for the day and met up in the Whisky Snug of the Hotel du Vin at the designated time. Alan arrived promptly, as did our three fellow foodies, a lovely Argentinian couple and a lone male from Atlanta. We started with cold smoked salmon, capers and cornichon while Alan shared the buildings grisly history with us. The cold smoked refers to the process rather than the temperature the salmon was served at and even though neither of us are big fans of smoked food it was pretty darn tasty.
Once he’d finished his gruesome tale we headed out into the cold night walking down to Grassmarket and up Victoria Street passing all manner of interesting shops as we went. It’s really a lovely shopping city, seeming to have high street store and one off boutiques in equal measure.
Our next stop was at the very popular Makars Rest on North Bank Street where we enjoyed a glass of Prosecco and Edinburgh Gin accompanied by very tasty braised ox cheek and mash and Stornaway black pudding on flatbread.
Some interesting information later and we were back out into the night for the longest walk of our tour to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which even as a non-scotch drinker was absolutely fascinating. The building itself is beautiful, like much of Edinburgh and we scaled the winding staircase to the very top and the members floor for our tasting. They only sell single cask single malt whisky. We tried a fiery eleven year old which according to those in the know was very good and only about £60 a bottle. Accompanying the whisky, which I thought tasted much the same as I imagine lighter fluid does, was haggis, tatties and neeps. Haggis is a soft concoction of Sheeps pluck – minced heart, liver and lungs, with onion, oatmeal, suet and spices. It is traditionally encased in the animals stomach and boiled and yup that sounds pretty vile but is actually pretty tasty. On Alan’s suggestion I mashed my haggis, neeps (swede, rutabaga, yellow turnip depending on what you call it where you live) and tatties together, which was even tastier.
Next we headed to Le di Vin, a stunning double height bar in a converted Church, that reminded me of a german beer hall, for cheese, ham and beer where we fell in love with Isle of Arran cheddar. Over the doors there is a huge and amazing chalk drawing of the last supper with Scottish historical figures on the one side and French ones of the other in a nod to the French owners, which was drawn by one of the waiters some years ago.
Our final stop was at Ghillie Dhu, another impressive building, and I think another converted Church, for their take on cranachan, a delicious dessert of cream and berries in a chocolate cup, YUM!
We’d walked a good few miles over the evening but even with the biting cold it never felt too far because Alan is a great guide and I heartily recommend his tour.
The next morning after a decent night’s sleep and on another perfect cold blue morning we headed to the meeting point in Waterloo Place for our next tour with Heart of Scotland tours. We had wanted to cram as much of Scotland into our three days as we possibly could and chosen the independent Heart of Scotland based on their reviews for a day long tour outside of Edinburgh.
Our kilted and tattooed guide James was a real treat, sharing all manner of information as he talked non-stop from the moment of departure at 9am until our return shortly before 7pm. If you could select a guide he’d be the one to pick, knowledgeable, funny and passionate about his subject. An inveterate story teller I felt like I’d learned so much about Scotland’s rich history by the end of the day. The tour took us to Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and GlenGoyne Distillery (which I sat out reading my kindle instead). We stopped for lunch and ate award winning pies but for me the real highlight of the day was the journey itself, the breathtaking views and James’ running commentary.
Having returned to Edinburgh and said our goodbyes I left JHubz and his parents to dine alone and was fast asleep by nine.
I’d been checking the weather reports the night before and was excitedly anticipating some promised snow and was not disappointed. We enjoyed a lay in and woke to gentle flurries that soon turned into to an enchanting downfall – made all the more enchanting by my confidence that it would only snow for a few hours as predicted.
We spent our last day exploring the parts of the city we’d not yet reached and loosely following the route of another of Alan’s tours from a map he’d given us on Wednesday, along the Royal Mile from the castle to Holyrood finding Isle of Arran Cheddar along the way.
JHubz is a big fan of fudge and The Fudge House on Canongate was a real treat. A true independent, the fudge is lovingly made on site and is utterly scrumptious.
For lunch we treated ourselves to a seafood platter and blood orange Bellini at the White Horse seafood and oyster bar where the lovely waitress shared our excitement for the snow, coming from Australia it was the first time she’d ever seen it which was pretty cool.
A few hours and a quick flight later and we were driving home. WOW, Edinburgh is awesome, we were blessed with amazing albeit cold weather and I would most certainly return. Apparently the crowds over the summer can be pretty unbearable so spring and autumn might be the way to go although throughout our stay the preparations for what is clearly going to be an impressive New Years Eve street party had been underway throughout the city. In effect a security ring is being installed around the central area including the rides and stalls of the Christmas market to contain and protect the revellers. If you’re a fan of a big New Years celebration this is definitely one to add to the bucket list!