It has been a crazy last few months with many big things happening in my little family, including new job for my husband, refocusing my goals when it comes to my career, and lots of things shifting. They are all ultimately good things, but sometimes change can be difficult.
In the midst of everything going on, I was able to take a quick trip to visit friends in England and Scotland. I had such an incredible week of revisiting some of the places I used to live and often go. I was able to spend time to reflect on my journey of the last five years and where I am now as a person. I don’t think this trip could have come at a better time. It goes back to one of the reasons I love to travel–because no matter where I am going, I always seem to find a little bit of myself in the adventure of the unknown.
While I was there, I went to the magnificent city of Edinburgh. Though I have been several times, I don’t think I have ever stayed long enough to do it justice. This time around, I was able to experience so many new things, and add more things to my list for when I return.
I have compiled a by-no-means comprehensive list of some of the things I experienced this time around. If you ever find yourself in this beautiful city, be sure to check some of these out.
Is it any wonder I lead with what food to get here? I think I always classify a destination by what kind of food I could get there. And the UK is no exception—there are incredible places to get food here. Other than my favorite UK chains, Pizza Express, Nandos, and Frankie and Benny’s (shameless American-Italian cuisine with a British overtone), these are some other wonderful options to check out in Edinburgh:
THIS Starbucks: Yes, I know, they are everywhere. However, if you are looking for possibly the most quaint Starbucks with hands down the best view ever, I suggest grabbing a cup of something delicious at the Starbucks on Prince Street and just enjoy the atmosphere.
Wahaca: Being from Southern California, very rarely would I go to another country to eat Mexican food. However, Wahaca is an exception to that rule. A major exception. The chef of this super trendy Mexican street food restaurant spent several years living in Mexico learning the unique flavors. And the food is insane.
Passage to India: This is some of the best Indian food I have ever had in my life (disclaimer—I have not been to India, yet). I know, you don’t typically go to Scotland for Indian food, but the UK has a unique take on this cuisine. It is a wholly satisfying plate of food and really delicious flavors. My suggestion is to try the poppadoms to start, then get Chicken Tikka Masala with coconut rice, and a side of garlic naan for dinner. And there is definitely enough to share!
LoveCrumbs: After a day of touring Edinburgh and putting in a ton of steps, check out this adorable cafe for a tea or coffee and a piece of cake. I tried the classic Victoria Sponge and was in LOVE. The atmosphere is so chill and inviting. It was a great place to take a break and hang out with friends. If I lived here, You bet you could catch me in that place all the time, possibly with a book and delicious cup of coffee.
Anstruther Fish Bar: If you have a car or other means of transportation, then I suggest driving out to the little fishing village of Anstruther for the best fish and chips in the entire United Kingdom. Plan to wait in a pretty long queue since I am not the only one who thinks they are amazing. Also, try to snag a table and eat in—they are best piping hot!
Things to do in Edinburgh:
Arthurs Seat: If you want a great activity to get in a few (or a lot of) steps and simultaneously get to the best panoramic view of the city, I highly suggest hiking to the top of Arthur’s Seat. I have been to Ediburgh about six times, and I only just made the trek my last visit. It is an easy walk from the city center, as well as a leisurely hike to the top. I would suggest good shoes or boots with good traction.
When I hiked up with my friend, Faith, it was just beginning to thaw from a major snow storm the week prior, so it was very very muddy. Let’s just say we were sliding in the mud more than safely ambling up and down the trails. I highly suggest checking out the weather ahead of time and being prepared.
The Scotch Whisky Experience: This was one of the coolest things I have ever done—and I didn’t even know it when I was standing in line to buy our tickets.
It starts off with a little whisky-barrel ride going through the process of creating whisky, from harvesting the grains, all the way to the barrels they are aged in. After your little barrel ride, you step into a room with panoramic screens and are handed, essentially, a scratch n’ sniff card. You then watch videos describing the different locations of the Scottish distilleries and the scents (cue scratch n’ sniff) and flavors that make each of them unique.
You are then whisked away into the magnificent Scotch Whisky Collection room for a tasting of one of the whiskies you learned about. The room literally illuminates the nearly 4,000 Scotch Whisky bottles around you as you learn the process of tasting whisky.
The tour ends in a sitting room with a bar where you can order more whisky and relax for a little bit before hitting the gift shop. It was a fantastic experience, and I discovered a new drink to enjoy whenever I am out on the town with friends or even a date night with my husband.
The Edinburgh Castle: I have been to Edinburgh several times, and the castle on a massive hill in the middle of the city is one of my favorite castles in the world. I have very vivid memories of sitting at the Starbucks mentioned above and just staring out at the Castle on the cliff, aka Castle Hill. It was magical.
On my last visit, I was finally able to go inside the fortress walls and wasn’t disappointed. It is so magnificent. If you are there around 1:00 pm on any day except Sundays, Christmas, or Good Friday, listen (or watch) for the firing of the cannon. It is an Edinburgh tradition since 1861 to sound the “Time-Gun” at precisely 1300 as a time signal for ships.
You can also explore the dungeons to get a glimpse of life as a prisoner, or visit the Crown Jewels to see what it would be like to live as a royal. The Castle also houses the oldest building in Edinburgh, St. Margaret’s Chapel. It has survived since the 12th century and was built as a private chapel for the Royal Family around that time—and it is still used today for weddings and religious ceremonies.
Bonus: If you have time, I highly suggest taking the train over to St. Andrews. It is a lovely little town with the famous St. Andrews University (where William met Kate), as well as renowned golf courses and the location of the Chariots of Fire running-on-the-beach scene!
And just a quick note— one of my favorite things to do in the UK is travel by train. It is a moment to just check out and enjoy the ride. They are quick, convenient, and often a great deal. For the best rail deals, I suggest planning early on thetrainline.com. I was able to get a roundtrip ticket from Manchester to Edinburgh for about $27. Also consider getting a Rail Card if you qualify. It saves a ton on train fares and will pay for itself if you travel enough! It is good for either a year or 3 years depending on the one you get.