I can’t stop shouting “OCH AYE THE NOO”! If you hadn’t already guessed, I’m in Scotland. Edinburgh to be precise: AKA ‘The Athens of The North’ (no, I haven’t really got a clue why it’s called this either), and I’m having a bonnie wee time.
If you’ve never been to the ‘Burgh then it’s definitely worth a cheeky weekend visit, especially in 2014 when Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games bring a new surge of tourism (therefore scrubbed up shops and restaurants) to the country. The historic city, founded around 700AD, has plenty to offer in terms of sightseeing and culture, and the fact that it has a world class University within its midst also gives it a young, cosmopolitan edge.
Here’s a few suggestions for places to go, things to see and cocktails to drink during your stay:
>> Hotel Missoni:
For a splash of Italian glamour you need to try Hotel Missoni: the only 5 star hotel on Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile. Rooms are £125 a night from the website (http://www.hotelmissoni.com/hotelmissoni-edinburgh) but shop around and you’ll probably be able to find a cheaper deal. View here.
>> The Balmoral:
If you want something a little more…..Scottish, then it’s got to be the Balmoral! Complete with its own clock tower, Michelin starred restaurant and marble bathrooms, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to pull on your kilt, stab a haggis and experience the heart of the city in true Scot style. Prices are reflective of the luxury: Approx £400 for a 2 night stay. But you can almost roll out of bed into one of the best bars the city has to offer, so it’s worth it. View here.
For a more boutique stay, try the unusually named 21212. Found on the Royal Terrace (a 10 min walk into the city centre) it has four beautiful bedrooms, two with a view of the Firth of Forth, and a cracking restaurant. Outstanding service and that all-important attention to detail make the 21212 first class. Rooms are around £150 a night. View here.
>> Motel one:
>> Edinburgh Castle:
Yes ladies and gents, it’s an obvious one! But I wanted to make sure that rather than staring in awe at the famous landmark from the entrance of Topshop on Princes Street, you actually climbed up there and explored it. Tickets are just £16 and they often run complimentary tours to guide you around the great halls, palaces and chapels. View here.
>> Mary King’s Close:
Buried beneath Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is a labyrinth of hidden streets, abandoned since the 17th century. Named after a powerful business woman (kudos Mary King, it was a man’s world back then), the close is swamped in mystery and ghostly tales. Actors from the 5 Star attraction guide you through the underground city and bring its history to lif: prepare to be fascinated. Oh and they do a mean coffee and cake in the cafe too.
Adult tickets are just £12.95 and the tour lasts for one hour. View here.
>> Scotch Whisky Tour:
Once you’ve explored the heights of the castle and the depths of the hidden city, treat yourself to a tour through the world of whisky: the Scotman’s tipple of choice. Finding yourself in a replica distillery, you learn about the craft behind the whisky-making process, and get to sip as you go.
The Silver Tour (ideal for first-timers) lasts for one hour and costs £13 for adults. View here.
>> The Witchery by the Castle:
Located high up on the Royal Mile in a 16th century Merchant’s house, The Witchery is all red leather seats and candles and AMBIENCE.
The prices, mercifully, aren’t as stunning as the decor: a 2 course lunch is £15.95 and a 3 course dinner will set you back £33. View here.
>> The Secret Garden
Part of the same venue, and also possibly THE prettiest, THE most elaborate, THE most romantic restaurant you’ll find in Edinburgh….if not the world, The Secret Garden is a (now-covered) historic courtyard adorned with flowers and an impressive painted ceiling. View here.
If you fancy authentic Italian cuisine and brilliant service then you can’t go far wrong with Vittoria down Leith Walk. Big pizzas and great affogatos (a lip-smackingly good combo of ice cream, coffee and liquer) are what they do, and all for the same prices you’d pay at pizza express.
Alternatively, try La Favorita, also part of the same group and an award-winning pizza place with a slightly more modern vibe. View here.
>> Bramble Bar
Full of dimly lit cubbyholes and beautiful people, this cocktail bar on Queens Street is a must-try. When it’s quiet it’s great to snuggle up with a bespoke cocktail, and when it’s busy the music and atmosphere make it the scene to be seen in. View here.
>> Bon Vivant
This little treat is hidden down cobbled Thistle Street, and my God they know how to serve a cocktail. If you’re lucky enough to bag a seat (it gets full very quickly) then settle down for a drink or six. View here.
>> Elephant Cafe
The cafe made famous by JK Rowling (she penned early versions of Harry Potter here) is a great place to grab a coffee in between sight-seeing and drinking cocktails. Pop in if you’re near the George IV bridge. View here.
Words by – Jo Birch
[Imagery courtesy of Hotel Missoni, The Balmoral, 21212, Motel one, Visit Scotland, Edinburgh Castle, Mary King’s Close, Scotch Whisky Experience, The Witchery, Victoria, Bramble Bar, Bon Vivant & Elephant Cafe]