Edinburgh at Christmas

Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities, and it’s even more special when it’s covered in Christmas lights.  I had daydreamed about visiting this year with Husband but ran out of time before Christmas.  And then out of nowhere, I was called to the Scottish capital for a work event which would require an overnight stay.  I only got a couple of hours to wander around, but it was enough to tide me over until my next visit.  Just.  

The flight to Edinburgh was easy, albeit a little delayed.  From the airport, I jumped on the tram which deposited me very close to my hotel on Princes Street.  I had an amazing view from my room, but wanted to go straight out to see the lights on George Street.  I’d seen the Street of Light in 2016 and they’re just as magical now, surrounded by other beautiful buildings that have been covered in decorations.  

After a quick burger from the Boozy Cow, I messed about taking photos through my open hotel room window, and then had to take a long hot shower – it was incredibly cold and I was struggling to warm myself up!  

The following day after a very constructive morning, I had a couple of hours to kill before my flight back so marched around the beautiful city to absorb as much as I could.  Of course, I had to visit Hannah Zakari as I do each time I’m in Edinburgh, but decided not to buy myself anything as I had very limited luggage space.  I visited the Christmas market which had so many amazing stalls, all the food so tempting.  But with the cold getting to my bones, I jumped back on the tram to get to the airport (which was lucky as security at the airport was chaos).

My time in Edinburgh was fleeting but just as enjoyable as my other trips.  I’ll definitely be back in 2019.  

Edinburgh Trip – single malts and stacked rocks

Arthur's SeatIt seems astonishing that just a 15 minute walk from our Edinburgh city hotel is a flipping volcano.  OK, so it’s extinct but it’s also extraordinarily beautiful and it would have been crazy not to visit.  We wanted to make the most of the beautiful weather we’d woken to, so quickly grabbed a coffee and headed straight over to Holyrood Park.

In hindsight, it was perhaps a little too hot to be clambering about on the hill, and despite wearing light clothes, we were soon sweating buckets.  We got about halfway, and I begged Husband to not go any further, so we joked that we’d managed Arthur’s Chair Leg.  Still, we had a lovely (sweaty) walk, and a gentle stroll back down into the city.  Edinburgh residents are so lucky to have this.

We walked along the slightly manic Royal Mile over to the castle and paid the (IMO) extortionate entry fee.  Knowing how much we spent to get in, I really didn’t enjoy the castle which was disappointing.  The views over the city were amazing, but we got a similarly amazing view in Gozo from the Victoria Citadella and that was free.  Perhaps not a fair comparison, but it’s what came to mind.  We were there for the one o’clock gun so watched that go off (meh) and then went over to the Crown Jewels exhibit.  I will admit to not reading any of the displays, so when we got to the end, I turned to Husband and said “so, what’s this about?”  It just felt so… boring.  I probably missed a lot of other history, but I just wasn’t feeling it that day.

We spent about an hour in the castle, and walked out underneath the big stadium seating that they were setting up for Tom Jones.  Literally underneath it, as the contractors were fitting the seats to the structure.  We didn’t really have a plan at this point, but it seems as though whisky was calling Husband’s name and we found ourselves crossing the threshold of the Scotch Whisky Experience.  I had been forewarned by Trip Advisor reviewers that it was cheesy and the start of it was super mega cheesy.  Our tour guide, a lovely Swedish man called Marcus, loaded us into our barrels (yes, barrels) and we went on ” swirling, bubbling barrel ride through a replica distillery as you become part of the whisky making process”.  OK then.  It did feel a bit like a really inappropriate kids ride!

Marcus collected us again at the end and we had a short video and ‘lecture’ about the different areas of scotch whisky, which was actually interesting.  I knew a little bit about it – a couple of years ago, Husband, Tim, Jaina, and I were treated to a tour at the Bladnoch distillery, which was a real treat as we weren’t charged and they gave us a lot to sample at the end.  But the Scotch Whisky tour gave us a bit more context and detail about the other regions.

Sidenote – I’ve just gone to the Bladnoch website to find that they’ve gone into liquidation.  I’m genuinely sad about this as they were lovely people who were remarkably welcoming to us that day.  I hope they can find a buyer!

After the video, we smelt each region’s whisky on a scratch card (sounds odd, but effective) and then decided which region we’d like to taste.  I decided on Speyside, and Husband chose Islay.  As a non-drinker, both tasted disgusting to me, but Husband enjoyed them very much.  We drank them in a room containing the world’s largest collection of Scotch Whisky, which was impressively large, and then were taken out to the bar.

Now please bear in mind that I just said I don’t drink.  So what better for someone like me than four more samples of whisky.

WhiskyWe got to taste our samples in the bar, which has wonderful views over the Edinburgh rooftops, and as I’m sure you can imagine, Husband got quite tipsy.  We hadn’t eaten anything since our breakfast croissant, and the whisky went straight to his head.  He made me drink one of them after I watered it down but it’s not for me.  We got to keep one of those glasses, which Husband now drinks his whisky out of at home, and I am very proud of us for not accidentally smashing them on the way back.  Hilariously, the tour level we bought gave us membership of the Scotch Whisky Appreciation Society, so I’ll be sure to put that on my CV.

After a quick stop at the shop to buy some Port Charlotte Islay Whisky, I manoeuvred him back to the hotel and we both had a little nap.  Shamefully, we could only managed the short walk to Nandos for dinner but I was too tired and he was too drunk to manage anywhere further away.  It was oddly quiet with only a couple of people in the restaurant.  I guess  chicken isn’t that popular in Scotland.

 

Edinburgh Trip – sweet potatoes and strippers

Thistle“I’m thinking of taking a week off before the crazy rush starts” I said to Husband at the end of May.  It’s true – I don’t get to take any leave from July to October as this is our insanely busy period, so I like to start with a week at home doing nothing.  Build up my energy to battle the summer.

“Great idea!”  Husband replied.  “Let’s go to Edinburgh!”

It wasn’t on my list (which consisted largely of ‘sitting around in my PJs’), but why the hell not.  So we scoured the internet for some good hotel deals, found literally nothing, and settled on the somewhat above budget Doubletree Hilton.  We booked the cheaper travel option – a 4.5 hour train journey from Kings Cross – and after leaving the house at 8am on Sunday morning, we found ourselves all checked in and eating our complimentary warm cookie by 4pm.

We had a view of… some crappy buildings which was a little disappointing, but the room was so quiet that we really didn’t mind.  Plus, we could pretend we were on an exclusive floor as the top floor was just for Hilton rewards programme members (allegedly).  VIP!

I was feeling pretty yucky from the train, which was a perfectly decent journey and didn’t feel that long at all, so I quickly jumped into the bath.  Grime free, we wandered out into a slightly overcast but humid Edinburgh to find some dinner.

As we walked towards Grassmarket, the area seemed familiar which was odd as I’ve never been to Edinburgh before but I soon realised why.  I had seen this area on a Channel 4 documentary about strippers – LOVELY!  The area is “home to three lap-dancing bars: the highest concentration of strip clubs anywhere in the UK”.  In all honesty, yes it felt seedy but we weren’t too worried.  It might have been different if we were there at a weekend, but if it wasn’t for the neon, you wouldn’t even know they were there on a week day.

Edinburgh CastleThis photo is a slight lie as it was taken the second day, but this is the view we had of Edinburgh Castle from around our hotel.  It was a little surreal looking up and seeing it there!  We decided to visit the next day, but for now, on to the pub.

We folded ourselves into a corner of the Holyrood 9A.  Husband had a porter, I had my usual soft drink, and we both had yummy burgers.  The sweet potato fries I had were amazing and I slightly regret not ordering five portions, but if I had done that, I wouldn’t have had space for the Chockabocker Glory sundae.  Heavenly.  I fell in love with the silver stag heads on the wall and decided I wanted to put them up at home, give our living room a Hannibal feel.  I loved this pub, and all the staff were super friendly.  It was the first of many great customer service experiences.

We waddled back to the hotel room (passed the strip clubs) and back to the hotel where we sunk into the dreamy mattress for a peaceful night sleep.