We were in Edinburgh from October 23 to 30 for the wedding of a young family friend.
We flew BA 212 from BOS to LHR, then changed to BA 1434 for the short trip to Edinburgh. LHR was a nightmare since we had to go from international arrivals to domestic departures, passing through Immigration on the way in, then back through security on the way out. Security requirements are different everywhere now and frustrating: iPad stays in the bag in Boston, must come out at Heathrow; shoes off in Boston, not at Heathrow if you are sure they have no metal. And so on.
The big and pleasant surprise is that we got a highly edible full cooked breakfast on the 55 minute flight from LHR to EDI: sausage, egg, mushrooms, tomatoes, roll, butter Frank Cooper's Oxford marmalade, and coffee. Amazing!
We could not get into our rented flat until 4. Our kind Scottish relations picked us up at the airport, took us to their house for a nap and some tea and soup, and drove us to the flat. We rented the flat, No. 5 Chessel's Court at the head of Canongate in the Old Town, from Katie Kerr at www.greatbase.co.uk The flat was large (we were sharing with friends), beautiful (it's a restored 1760's building), convenient, and wonderfully equpped (7 foot sofa and all mod cons in kitchen). It had one quirk: the toilet in the master bath was open to the master bedroom. This was almost a deal breaker, but we rigged a screen and managed. Greatbase has many other flats of all sizes around Edinburgh, and we would rent from them again in a heartbeat.
I'll skip the wedding arrangements mostly and tell you where we ate and drank other than private dinners. Wednesday, our friends from Boston arrived, and we joined a group of Scottish friends for lunch at the Cafe Royal in New Town. We ate on the restaurant side, which is very attractive. I had guinea fowl (delicious) and envied a scallop and black pudding plate that the father of the groom had. Through jetlag, we overtipped insanely, but it was a very nice lunch lasting into mid afternoon. That evening we joined our Scottish relations for a Nepali-Indian meal at Ghurka, the one in Morningside. Food was good, though much of a sameness, perhaps because someone else did the ordering. Service excellent, and the waiter swooned at a very modest tip. A nice experience.
On Thursday, one of the Bostonians had to do a meet-and-greet at the university, so her husband joined us for a morning at Holyrood House. We then walked to the Museum of Scotland and had lunch in their top floor restaurant before looking at a bit of the collection. They have coffee bars and a bistro as well, but we had bouillabaise [sic] while looking out over the rooftops of the Old Town. They seem to have done a fair bit of rearranging at the museum since our last visit. That evening, we went to a restaurant on Dock Place in Leith called "A Room in Leith" for a dinner with the couple and their friends and family. The restaurant is attached to a pub called Teuchter's Landing. I had a Scottish game platter (grouse, venison, game sausages) and an absolutely fantastic cheese platter. Vast portions. You can bring your own wine (the restaurant is not licensed) but get beer and spirits and carry them in from the pub.
Friday morning, we went to the National Gallery, then walked across Princes Street to the Cafe Royal again, this time the pub side, for fish and chips, admirable fish and chips. Once the server got the idea that people sitting in a booth might actually like something to eat and drink (no, it was not a pub where you order at the bar or a window) all was jolly, and we got good advice from another patron on what to drink and what to see while we were in town. Friday evening, we went with family to a restaurant called Tusitala out toward Buckstone and Fairmilehead. It was bright, open, modern, with an extensive menu. Really very good, lots of salads and vegetables, but too American to make it worthwhile for the average visitor to go out from the middle of the city. Like all the places we ate, portions were large. Prices here were not bad, but in general, expect to pay in pounds what you would pay in dollars in a large American city.
The wedding was Saturday. It was lovely, the bride was gorgeous, the groom handsome in his kilt, and there were plenty of interesting hats on the ladies, including fascinators of all sorts. I can't resist the joke here about the Old Lady who said she hated going to weddings because of all those terrible fornicators! It got told more than once at the reception.
The reception and so forth were at the Royal College of Physicians, a 1760 Adam building at 8 Queen Street. This was a huge treat for an architecture buff because it has been beautifully restored. The dinner was excellent (more guinea fowl, which I love) and a ceilidh to follow. What more could you want?
On Sunday, we had a special treat. My wife and I are great fans of the mystery writer Ian Rankin. During our wanderings, I asked a police officer for directions, and our conversation turned to Rankin and whether there were Inspector Rebus tours. Oh, yes, he said, and told us how to find them. But as a policeman, he knew a lot of the cases that the books had fictionalized -- and he was training to be a tour guide when he retired from the force. So on Sunday at 1, we found ourselves at the World's End pub (my choice because it was near the flat) in Canongate having a drink and ready to begin an Edinburgh crime tour with special focus on Rankin's books. We learned about policing in Edinburgh, then and now, AND all about the World's End murders and their solution. We got overviews of crime sites from the drive in Queen's Park, toureed Rankin's and Rebus's neighborhood, stopped off at St Leonard's Police Station for a photo op, then were off to see the seamier side of Leith including -- eat your hearts out, Rankin fans -- the cells at Leith Police Station, We ended up the afternoon, where else, at the Oxford Bar. If you are interested, you can reach him at [email protected] A fascinating aftenoon!
Tea with the groom's family and dinner with our relations were ever so slightly anticlimactic though equally Scottish, from scones and meringues at tea to roasted lamb, potatoes, parsnips, Yorkshire puddings (and even some vegetables for the Americans) at dinner!
We had a quiet day on Monday, wandering hither and thither in the morning, spending the afternoon on the internet trying to see if our flights had been cancelled owing to Hurricane Sandy, though our friends went to see Britannia back in Leith (but not the scene of any known crimes!) That evening, we took the bride and groom to the Ship, a pub-restaurant, again in Leith. They were grossly understaffed for the crowd, unusual for a Monday,so it was a long evening. The speciality was fish, and the portions were large. I had an enormous pot of really delicious mussels, better than PEI or French, and my wife had a delicious smoked fish platter. Others enjoyed brown crab and scallops in various forms AND sharing my mussels.
Next day, we went through security easily at Edinburgh, took BA 1435 to LHR, and easily made BA 215 to Boston. The flight was jammed with people trying to get to NY and beyond, but we had a tailwind and made good time. It only got roughish from Nova Scotia to Boston, as we crossed the back edges of Hurricane Sandy, but we made a smooth landing despite lots of thunderstorms around us.
We have almost recovered from jetlag, and despite all the eating and drinking, I walked enough that I didn't gain any weight! A great trip!
Perhaps useful information: much of the center of Edinburgh is torn up owing to an endless light rail project. Allow extra time to get anywhere in the New Town. Ditto Waverly Station, where many of our customary paths were blocked by construction. The wedding was the last day of Summer time. Next day and from now on, early darkness may impact your travel and sightseeing plans, especially if you are going by car. And I would do a lot to avoid driving a car in Edinburgh.
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We were in Edinburgh from October 23 to 30 for the wedding of a young family friend.