It’s cold up North as us Southerners like to say but in the land of smoked salmon, whiskey and now gin – what should you see. With Burns Night coming up, you can drink a toast to the man whose words you sing every New Year’s Eve: Auld Lang Syne! Take your walking shoes – Edinburgh is a city for walking and it is hilly – in actual fact, Calton Hill was formed from volcanic eruption millennia ago. Solo for two days in the city what should you see, eat, drink, buy?
What to see?
There are choices to be made – there are two castles – Holyrood or Edinburgh Castle. I love a good castle even though I believe in a republic. Holyrood House is the Queen’s official residence when she’s up in Scotland. I’ve never been and it doesn’t do it for me:https://www.rct.uk/visit/palace-of-holyroodhouse
However, MY PICK IS Edinburgh castle this is where it’s at. I loved it when I visited it – the views are unparalleled, there are JEWELS (remember good old Mary Queen of Scots) and lot more. It is a great introduction to Scottish history. After walking around there you’ll want a wee dram of whisky! https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/
There’s the Scot monument that sits within Princes’s garden and also the small church where Agatha Christie got married. You can go into the church for free. You can also walk up the Scot monument but really 240 plus steps and if you are claustrophobic or a bit of a nervous disposition (eg me) avoid. https://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/venue/scott-monument
The Real Mary King’s Close is well worth a visit and somewhere that you won’t ever forget. It plunges you into a different side of what life was like in Edinburgh for its poorer residents. You’ll be struck by the height of buildings – residents used to live in these tenement flats – 10 stories high (5 of which were below ground) it is surreal. Most of that substandard housing has been torn down aside from Mary King’s close – you will get to see what the unground streets look like etc. You need to book in advance as it is all timed entry and only a small group each time for atmosphere etc – https://www.realmarykingsclose.com/
Also, one night after dinner go and do a ghost walk tour. It is one of the best things there is – walk through Fleshmarket close (yes as the name suggests) and hear the stories of the body snatchers who would sell bodies to surgeons to experiment on. DOn’t do a day tour only do night as Edinburgh is apparently one of the world’s most haunted cities. I did one years ago and blimey not again. Here is a list but your hotel may suggest one…https://theculturetrip.com/europe/united-kingdom/scotland/articles/the-best-ghost-tours-in-edinburgh-to-take/
These Boots Are Made For Walking
Do try and go down to the Meadows/Bruntsfield – this is where the first game of golf was played (I know they say it was St Andrews but apparently it was here) and lucky for you they STILL play golf there. It is free you just pay to hire the clubs etc – £5 http://golftavern.co.uk/events/short-hole-golf/
Obviously walk around the castle and all the steep lanes and closes that comprise the royal mile, high street, grassmarket. These are all so close together and do look up at the names that tell of a very unsavoury paste – Fleshmarket Close!
Neeps, Tatties and whisky (that’s turnips, potatoes and whisky to you and me)
Now WHISKY is obviously the big draw. There is a whisky academy where you can learn all about the amber nectar but go into any pub and someone will teach you. A dram (the measure) of whisky of an aged whisky/single malt is cheap – you know like £3 so you won’t break the bank.
I had the best brunch at Montpeliers in Bruntsfield. If you are there on a Sunday go there early in the morning (booking is advisable if you wanted to sit down at say 11am), haggis, black pudding the works! As a solo diner (perk alert) I managed to snaggle a table at 10.30am without a reservation! https://www.montpeliersedinburgh.co.uk/
Lunch – I ate at the Scran and Scallie which is run by these Michelin starred chefs and the darling of the Edinburgh foodie scene. The partridge was great. It is not in the centre of town and even though I like a walk this was a pretty big walk even for me. It doesn’t look like much but the food is good and they cater for allergies, my gluten intolerance. Where the Scran and Scallie is located where locals live – rich locals but there are interesting boutiques etc. https://scranandscallie.com/.
The Witchery – all the celebs and even yours truly has eaten here. It is so atmospheric. I don’t know if it is still as good as I haven’t eaten there in years. I think you could just pop in for a drink https://www.thewitchery.com/
White Horse Oysters and Seafood
HOWEVER – the place that stole my heart on this last visit to Edinburgh was the White Horse Oysters and Seafood which is in one of the oldest inns in Edinburgh – right in the city centre. It truly doesn’t look like anything from the outside but the food. Lord have mercy they have a satay monkfish dish – wow and the scallops wow. The Scots do seafood well. I also had a dram of whisky here etc and it is uber reasonable. The food is small plates but I reckon 3 and that is decent, 4 you would feel too stuffed. It is not overly expensive. Everyone is talking about this place and the Sran and Scale and by everyone I mean the locals. https://www.whitehorseoysterbar.co.uk/
My picks for food places would be Scran and Scallie – low key Scottish food and then White Horse and Oyster Bar in the evening (book this place it is very popular). If you are wanting an uber special treat then The Kitchin one night.
What to Buy?
Surprisingly whisky is not cheap in Scotland – especially since they have a problem with alcoholism. It is cheaper to buy it now in England (hush) however do drink loads of it in the pubs etc whilst you are up there! Gin is big in Edinburgh and there are some local brands but one that I love and the bottle alone is a work of art is Isle of Harris Gin and it has a little hint of the sea.
Chocolate – I just want to mention Coco – they have some funky flavours like ginger and rhubarb or haggis spice. Go check them out. The ginger and rhubarb is delicious – I won’t tell you how many bars I had. https://cocochocolatier.com/
The place to buy shortbread and tablet (which is a local type of sweet but NOT fudge ). It is so sweet it will make your teeth shake! Cranachan and Crowd at 263 Canongate – https://www.cranachanandcrowdie.com/
It is slap bang in the middle of tourist rip off hell but this is the real deal. I even bought biscuits etc there and the ladies there will point you in the right direction. It isn’t far from the station.