Edinburgh

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.

Attractions

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?

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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.

Edinburgh Castle

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. 

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“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

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

Hanam’s 

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. 

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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

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.

Conclusion

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.

Photos


10 Comments

  1. February 26, 2017 / 11:48 am

    Giiiirl! Are you trying to convince me to come to the Isle?! Because this post is doing a great job of that. I kid you not when I say that I’d totally go to Scotland just to hear them sexy Scottish accent being spoken around me. I’d be happy enough to just plunk myself in a pub and just listen to people gab away in those lovely accent!

    *ahem* That aside, I will definitely refer back to this post if I ever do plan on travelling to Scotland. I’d totally go to Edinburgh Castle because I’m a fellow history buff — though I need to read more about UK history . . . though all the royalties alone confuses me, haha XD;;

    I can’t do whisky, either XD I’d much prefer wine and cocktails, thanks! The name, “Angels With Bagpipes” is so appropriate for Scotland, haha! I love it! 😀 I would totally go there! And yikes! So that’s the pink peppercorn incident! I’m so glad it was a mild reaction!!! *hugs*

    Thank you for sharing your Scottish trip 😀 Next, please visit Wales for me (or if you have, please go again! XD)!

  2. February 26, 2017 / 5:30 pm

    That sounds like a fun trip! I’m not a fan of whiskey, but I also don’t know much about it. I find tours like that really interesting, even if it’s for an alcohol I don’t like. The buildings you photographed are beautiful too! I love that old style of architecture. That’s great that you enjoyed the Edinburgh Castle so much.

    Yum, all of that food sounds good. Well, except for the pink peppercorn thing. I had no idea they were a member of the cashew family! How misleading! That’s scary to have an allergic reaction while on a trip, but at least it was mild, and I’m glad you’re ok. Looks like it was a good trip otherwise!

  3. February 27, 2017 / 3:37 am

    I’ve heard about a lot of great things that England has. You need to go out and enjoy all of the awesome sceneries for me!!! It’s great that you and Mutay got to enjoy Edinburgh. That guy sounds like a total jerk with being loud about the wrong price tag. I mean it’s not your fault soooooo why is he hating???

    Even though the entranceway was creepy, at least your flat was nice :). I enjoy wine more than whiskey ;). Whiskey is good if I just want to get a good buzz going and fall asleep XD. I know some people who can drink whiskey like water and I am {a m a z e d}… Oh, maybe because I have a really low tolerance…. Ho hum…

    Europe has the best cathedrals and buildings!! I love the detail they put into the architecture. I probably would’ve jumped if I hear gunshots too XD. At least it’s to signify the time XD.

    The food that you had sounds delicious! I’m already hungry reading about lamb fillet!!!! Smoked ham hock sounds delish too. Anything that takes a long time to cook up always sounds good. I love how you have to include alcohol in your adventures ;). I’m sorry to hear about your mild allergic reaction :/. At least it wasn’t too bad or anything.

    (You need to be my tour guide)

  4. February 27, 2017 / 5:29 am

    Looks like you had an amazing time in Edinburgh! I remember going there when I was little and complaining to my parents on how cold it was. I also lost my kinder bueno there so I remember throwing a tantrum 😅😭 Edinburgh castle was really fun, huge when you’re little but I remember over looking Edinburgh up there – it was ace! Thanks for sharing your photos, blast of the past 😉

    I love Scottish accents, they’ve always interested me. I lhad an English teacher with such a strong accent? The way she’d read “murderer” was always hilarious. 😭😂

    You should definitely explore outside of London more, i.e. Sheffield. I.e. Come girllll. I did that a lot last year and it is definitely a great experience seeing what else is out there in the UK 🤔 More trips abroad this time though!

  5. February 28, 2017 / 6:20 am

    Arrrh. That would have been so scary with it being dark at the entranceway and the lights flickering. You can almost imagine the intense horror music playing. Eeek.

    It’s good you tried the whisky and learned it wasn’t for you. I don’t think I would be able to handle that either. It would still have been interesting to see a lot of it. 🙂

    The cathedral and castle sound amazing.

  6. February 28, 2017 / 6:08 pm

    I think I’ve already said this before but I think that’s awesome that you get to visit all those cool places that are nearby! Edinburgh looks amazing. I don’t drink alcohol but I found the 5 steps to appreciating Scottish whiskey really interesting!

    That sucks you found out about pink peppercorns the hard way! I feel like they should have included a warning like “Contains Nuts” or something. Because I know plenty of people with a deathly allergic reaction to nuts and that could have been really dangerous!

    I also can see what you mean by the old and the new in your pictures! UK is such a old country, I think it’s really fascinating to see that blend of history in the cities.

  7. March 1, 2017 / 12:31 pm

    I’m off to Edinburgh this year and I can’t wait! From everything you’ve said it sounds amazing, especially all the food. You’ve got me looking forward to it now!

    We’re off on a whisky tour as well, but it involves five whisky tastes. I’m going to have to ask for a flask to keep it in, because if I drink all that I will probably die. And cry because my mouth is burning. I think I might need to suggest beer tasting instead (if that’s even a thing).

    All the historical stuff sounds great. It looks like you got some amazing pictures too! I love the church window photo.

    Omg, I can’t believe they didn’t make the peppercorn thing clear. Surely that’s really dangerous, especially if someone’s more allergic than you are. Hope you’re okay now, I definitely would have complained.

    Glad you had a great time!

  8. March 4, 2017 / 1:05 am

    Don’t feel bad. I’ve barely seen what the USA has to offer. I’ve traveled overseas, but I’ve never truly left my own backyard either.

  9. March 5, 2017 / 11:34 am

    I love that selfie at the end haha.

    This paragraph had me in stitches and just made me even more want to hang out with you in person.

    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.

    😆

    I think churches are really tranquil, too. I’m not religious myself, but my family is, and I still feel a bit weird in a church because I feel like I could be intruding on someone’s beliefs or I may not necessarily feel welcome there. I know, it’s weird.

    Who know pink peppercorns were related to cashews?! Holy hell, I’m glad you are OK though. And definitely relieved that it was not as bad as it could have been. Shame because the rest of the drink sounded quite nice and I would have given it a try myself!

    I never thought I’d like audio tours but I realised that they were in abundance at a lot of tourist attractions I went to in England last year! And for me it was usually at no extra charge too. I have this feeling that audio is too boring for me but I actually found it quite interesting learning so much from the audio. It was so, so different to just watching a video tour on YouTube, you know what I mean? You’re actually walking around the place and listening to someone. And you kinda go at your own pace so at the same time it is different from listening to someone and following a person who is a tour guide. 😎

    Rory sounds like a cool chap. I’m sorry that some of the whisky didn’t go down so well! I haven’t had whisky in a while, but hey, I actually like it. I‘m not sure how strong I like it but I usually like the super amber-coloured, warm ones. I can’t remember the smell of the ones I like. Probably malt? I’m no whisky connoisseur (shit I had so much trouble typing that word), so I don’t know all the little details (in fact you probably know more than me now) but I have tried a few.

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