Thank you to RyanAir for our 9€ flight from Dublin to Edinburgh. The only downside is that their flights tend to be really early. Our flight was at 6am which made our 3am wake-up call a…hmm, can I call it a nightmare if you don’t actually sleep?
We got into Edinburgh at 7am sharp and we were half asleep. But taking the bus from the airport into the city was a real eye opener. Even right from the airport the houses were gorgeous, like something out of a medieval movie or even a Harry Potter flick. And this didn’t stop, every street we crossed got more old and unique until the downtown centre where the buildings were towering over us in their beauty.
Another thing that seemed to follow us from Ireland were the winds. But being in Dublin was like a treat compared to what Edinburgh had in store for us. We had crazy strong wind and with that came rain and more rain with a mix of sunshine and then more rain. It was also pretty cold and that’s when the rain turned into snow. But that being said, it kind of gave to the overall appeal of Scotland.
Our hostel was in a great location. We were literally right across from the Castle. Our hostel was like a castle itself, the rooms big and grand and some more quiet rooms with golden details. We were in awe. Having arrived early in the morning, we took this advantage and started off with a free walking tour to get our lay of the land.
Free Walking Tour
Now there was a lot to cover on our tour but a few key stories stuck out, like, Bobby the dog.
Have you seen that Futurama episode where Fry tells the story of his dog and how he was his best friend, but fry got frozen in time and left the dog, and then they cut to that scene where the dog waits forever for Fry to return? Well, this is that dog. The owner died way before his dog and every day of the dogs life, he would lay on his owners grave. People of the town took notice and commemorated his memory.
Now also, in that cemetery where the dog Bobby went to visit everyday, also had a huge influence on Harry Potter. What a lot of writers do is use a cemetery for names. So in this cemetery you will find McGonagall, Moody and yes, you will even find Tom Riddle. Also, as seen in the picture above, “The Elephant House” is where JK Rowling wrote her Harry Potter book. Now this cafe apparently has a nice view over the city where you can see the castle and a prestigious looking school, maybe her influence for Hogwarts? The cafe itself inside has no tribute to Harry Potter but the bathroom has a bunch of fan writings and tributes to Harry Potter.
The castle cannot be missed. Literally. It sits on top of a huge igneous rock extrusion or what use to be the remains of a volcano and towers out above anything in the city. Of course there is a nice fee to enter the castle grounds, but there were many museums to visit and displays within the castle walls. What caught our attention was not how old the castle is, but how it remained in use up until WWI.
The sights from the castle walls were also impressive. The above photo you can see the main entry way for the castle and Arthur’s seat in the background.
I was actually shocked that it didn’t rain on us while we were hiking Arthur’s Seat. However we did get the strong winds, but it was quite mild that day.
There are a few different trails on Arthur’s Seat, none of them marked but you can find a few online and go from there, which is what we did. We wanted a full experience, so we climbed up from the backside and went down the front. Arthur’s Seat is a nice easy hike, but with the howling wind we had, we didn’t stay on the seat for too long. But going downhill we could enjoy some nice vistas the city had to offer.
After our climb on Arthur’s Seat, we decided to give Calton Hill a go.
Calton Hill gave us another great vista with a more up close and personal view of Edinburgh. The hill was charming with a lot of Greek influences and would be a nice spot to sit on the grass or even have a picnic. This however, was when a storm rolled in and we took cover on the hill for a few moments hoping the storm would pass but it just never seemed to.
The Scottish Whiskey Experience
Now what to do with all that cold weather and rain? Scotch of course!
We were so much happier with the Scottish Whiskey Experience than we were with the Irish Whiskey Museum. This experience started with a whiskey barrel ride which showed the important processes of making scotch. After that we were led to a room where they showed the different varieties Scotland had and the different notes each area had. After introducing us to the different kinds they had, they let us choose one to taste. We however, upgraded our experience and got to try all four!
After our first glass was poured we were then brought into the gallery which showcases the biggest collection of Scottish whiskies in the world.
And if you look close enough, in some of the bottles, it looks as though there is some scotch missing. Well, you’re not wrong, it’s lost to evaporation or as they say, this is the “angel’s share”.
Our drinking didn’t stop there. There was an overwhelming amount of nice places to go out in Edinburgh, and we somehow seemed to narrow it down to two: Bramble and Panda & Sons.
Bramble was incredibly hard to find and I think they like it that way. It was on a dark street in the basement and only had a small golden plaque next to the door. The inside was even darker but from what we could see, beautifully laid out. There was a lot of small ‘rooms’ and the walls were all plaster white. They had a big drink menu and it did not disappoint. The drinks were beautifully crafted and tasted even better, there was nothing on that menu that we recognized, everything was signature.
Panda & Sons
From the outside, Panda & Sons looks like an empty barber shop. But once inside and behind a bookcase, you’ll find a cozy little speak easy. We even sat in old barber chairs as we sipped our drinks. The menu was quite small this time but still offered great tasting cocktails
Edinburgh was one of my favourite towns that we visited hands down. However, traveling during Christmas always provides its challenges. A lot of places were closed on Christmas day including just about all restaurants and the places that were actually opened were crazily crowded. But despite that, we loved Edinburgh.