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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A Long Weekend in Edinburgh

Myself and my boyfriend recently celebrated our anniversary, so we used it as an excuse to go and spend a long weekend in Edinburgh.  I have been once before, but this time I had the chance to explore properly. It really is an incredible city with so many different sides to it, it has everything from old cobbled streets to trendy rooftop bars. Whilst being full of character with it's old pubs, cosy coffee shops and large performing arts scene. January isn't the traditional time to visit, with the rain and low temperatures - but we wrapped up warm and enjoyed ourselves none the less. Here's what we got up to, and my advice on where you should go if you are heading up there.

Where did we stay?

We had our first Airbnb experience, as we worked out it would be a lot cheaper - and I'm now a complete convert! Airbnb is not only ideal if you are on a budget, but it's also perfect during the colder months, as you have your own cosy space to retreat to when you are soaked to the bone or can't feel your fingers and need a cup of tea. Plus there is the obvious factor of being able to make your own food, which saves you forking out extra money on a massive breakfast at a hotel. Our host was actually kind enough to provide us with eggs, fresh bread, and home-made marmalade - plus juice, milk, tea and coffee. Which kept us going over the few days. 

I don't know who these people are who look good when they wake up

The flat itself was so lovely. It was cosy, clean and well decorated. It didn't have a TV, but I brought a tablet along, and we rarely needed it anyway as we were constantly out and about! 
You can find the flat that we stayed in here if you want to take a look 

The view from our flat. Pretty magical when it's just been snowing.

What did we get up to?

Edinburgh is described as a walking city, which is completely true. In my opinion the best way to see it is by walking around all day, as there are endless cobbled streets filled with coffee shops and restaurants. We took a trip up to the famous Edinburgh castle, we didn't end up paying to go inside but it's still worth the walk up there as you get great views of Edinburgh. The best views are supposed to be from Arthur's Seat, but when we were up there we crossed both Storm Gertrude and Storm Henry. So as you can imagine the weather was awful, 50mph winds combined with a temperature of 2 degrees and the occasional bluster of snow - I don't know about you, but a steep walk in an unsheltered environment is the last thing I want to do in that weather. We've been to The Lake District a few times, so had we been there at a different time of year then it's likely we would have done it as it is recommended as one of the best things to do in Edinburgh. 

View from Edinburgh Castle

The Potter Trail

As an avid lover of the Harry Potter books there is no way I could ignore Edinburgh's famous links to author JK Rowling and how much of the books were written there. So I managed to drag my boyfriend along on a walking tour where you were shown several parts of Edinburgh that inspired the books, and whether you like the books or not you'd definitely enjoy it. Our guide was charismatic and funny, and made trudging around a graveyard in the mud a lot more fun that in should be (spoiler alert! You'll have to go to find out why that inspired the books...). The tour takes between an hour and an hour and a half, there is no specific charge as such - you just pay what you feel the tour was worth, but I'll assure you that you'll want to hand over a fair bit of money. 

What a claim to fame
The tour also still had at least 30+ people on it, on a freezing, snowy, windy day January. And excuse the pun, but I think it's pretty magical that Harry Potter still has that kind of impact considering the last book was released nearly 15 years ago, and the last film 5 years ago. If you're reading this Joanne, you're an absolute legend. 

Look how excited I was about my wand! So excited I resemble Voldemort a little (my geek levels just peaked)
You can read more about it over at PotterTrail.com. It also has great reviews on Trip Advisor

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

At first glance this looks like a bit of a kids place, and it definitely is kid friendly - but you can still enjoy it just as much when you're an adult. The whole place is based around the theme of optical illusions, so there are endless fun, hands on things to get up to. And some of them make for some pretty hilarious photos, I was running around excitedly the entire time shouting "ROB LOOK AT THIS ONE". This is a great indoors activity as well, for when the weather isn't that great - but just to contradict myself, go on a sunny day if you can as there is a brilliant viewing platform that gives you views of all of Edinburgh. It costs £14.50 to get in (for an adult ticket), but it's totally worth the money in my opinion.

I found this far more amusing than the average person would


The view from the roof at Camera Obscura
You can find out more here, or on Trip Advisor

There's also loads of great outdoors stuff to see in Edinburgh as it's a very green city, we saw a bit of it - but I have to admit we didn't make much of an effort to see more as the weather didn't make it that appealing. However I hope to revisit when it's slightly warmer to get a good look at all of this (most likely for Fringe Festival, as that is definitely on my list!). 

What did we eat? (Too much food, that's what)

Myself and my boyfriend are massive foodies, so Edinburgh was pretty much the dream in that respect as there are endless fantastic restaurants of every cuisine. We visited some brilliant places over the course of the weekend, so here are my favourites. 


This is a tiny little Turkish Restaurant outside of the centre of Edinburgh, so you'd have to be staying nearby to make it worth it really. However the food is delicious, simple, no fuss authentic Turkish food that's bursting with different flavours - topped off with easy going and friendly service, the place is decked out with scented candles (the melted wax also doubles up as a massage oil, fun fact). Also anywhere that does halloumi gets an instant gold star from me, as let's be honest who doesn't like halloumi?! It's BYOB, which adds to the relaxed feel of the place (just don't do what we did and grab your Prosecco from a corner shop, I'm no connoisseur but even I knew it was gross). 

At least the Prosecco looks classy, eh?
You can find out more on their website

David Bann

Now this is actually a purely vegetarian restaurant, but that clearly didn't put anyone off as it was packed out on a Saturday night. Which I find pretty surprising as Scottish cuisine isn't traditionally veggie friendly! My boyfriend isn't vegetarian and he was actually more excited to go here than I was. But you don't need to focus on the fact that it's a vegetarian restaurant, as it's just great food regardless. Everything we had was delicious, and all the dishes had clearly been well thought out as everything on the plate tasted great together. It's definitely not a bargain dinner, but it is a great place to go for more of a fine dining treat. 

The Parsnip, Apple and Blue Cheese mousse. And below it, Red Pepper, Kale and and Kohlrabi Risotto
We also shared olive polenta with roasted vegetables and goats curd, as well as home-made hummus and home-made bread. But I have to confess, we were starving so demolished it before I had a chance to take a photo, opps! 

You can see the menu for yourself here


My sister-in-law used to live in Edinburgh, and recommended we go here for "the best views of Edinburgh". By the time we got there it was pitch black, so we didn't get to see much - but regardless it'd a great place to visit, and you'd probably never know it was there had no one told you. It's based at the top of an office building off Princes Street and is actually a Thai restaurant. We didn't eat here we just popped in for a cocktail, but according to Trip Advisor the food is brilliant. I can also confirm the cocktails are great! Tasty, well made and an endless list to choose from. They'll cost you between £8-£10, but it's worth just popping in for one purely because of the ambience of the place. May I also mention the service is fantastic, you barely even have to glance at the staff and they'll immediately come running over. 

Find out more on their website

Miros Cantina Mexicana

A tiny little place tucked away from Princes Street, it's got a great buzzy atmosphere tied in with friendly service. And the food, oh my goodness the food. It won't win any brownie points for health (although in all fairness mine had a decent chunk of veg and pulses in it), but if you're looking for some filthy carbs covered in cheese then this is the place for you. The food is also delicious, I find some Mexican food just tastes like tomatoes with some chilli powder thrown in - but the food here was incredibly flavoursome and satisfying. I had a 'Mexican Stack', which is just everything you dream of when you want some filthy food covered in cheese, I'd really recommend it! The nachos were also brilliant, and so much more than bog standard junk food nachos you find in your local pub. It was one of those moments where you finish your nachos and you are immediately sad they are gone. However bare in mind the restaurant is quite small, so larger groups may struggle. 

Drool over the menu for yourself on their website

La Locanda

This is placed conveniently just off The Royal Mile, and I have to say hands down this was my favourite meal all weekend. It's a tiny little Italian Bistro, and the food is authentic, simple Italian food that's bursting with flavour. We shared some bread with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar to start, the bread was warm and soft and the balsamic was thick and sweet. I'll be honest, there aren't an overwhelming amount of vegetarian options here - but there was a special I fancied so personally I wasn't too bothered. It was an Arrabiata Pasta with mozzarella and courgette, but I would go as far as to say it was the best pasta I've ever eaten, and Rob said exactly the same thing about his meatballs. Just genuinely delicious food, and such a welcome change from the bog standard pizza/pasta chains you see everywhere as the menu really gives you something different. The waiter was also incredibly friendly, keen and helpful. It generally had a nice atmosphere with groups of business men popping in for lunch, or lone troopers coming in for a leisurely coffee. All topped off with gentle Italian music in the background and large black and white prints on the walls.
If you are you going to eat anywhere on this list, then make sure it's here! 

From what I can see La Locanda don't have a website, the majority of their business must run off word of mouth. But they have a Facebook page and you can read more rave reviews on Trip Advisor if you don't believe me!

All in all it was an amazing weekend in Edinburgh, and I can't wait to go back. However Storm Henry did disrupt our journey home a little, so we got in over an hour later than we were supposed to. Virgin Trains dished out chocolate bars to say sorry though, which makes it all better. Plus I managed to see this amazing view from the train...

Not a bad sky huh? 
Oh and in case you were wondering, I've NAILED how to use my selfie stick


Have you been to Edinburgh before? What did you enjoy the most?
Emma x

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