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Trip Report Summertime(?) in Edinburgh

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Well, the calendar said July anyway......
Spent a very enjoyable four nights in Edinburgh and managed to fill in many of the blanks from previous short visits (mostly rugby weekends, which seem to revolve around beer consumption and little else).

The Big Picture. Lots to see and do over the five days, overall prices in the city are on the expensive side, people could not be more friendly and helpful, weather on the cool side but it seems we were spared the rain that seemed to have featured prominently in the weeks before our visit. Apart from a taxi to and from the airport, we took a bus once and walked everywhere else; it is not a flat city but distances tend to be short between the various points of interest.

We Stayed. 22 Royal Circus, an address not to be sniffed at; small B&B sourced through the Alastair Sawday website. Pleasant place to stay in New Town; if you have issues of a canine nature, I would consider somewhere else.

Our Royal Engagements. Of the two, the Royal Yacht Brittania won out by a distance; well worth the trip out to Leith to nose around the now retired royal floating holiday home. Very well adapted to give the visitor a really thorough look at the ship and how it worked - both for the royals and the crew that sailed on it.
Holyroodhouse Palace was all a bit dull and gloomy for us, lots of wall hung tapestries which can't help, at their age, looking less than spectacular; furniture none too exciting either and the Queen's collection of paintings are to be seen in a seperate exhibition space, with an additional charge to see them.

Outdoor Pursuits. Climbing up to Arthur's Seat seemed the thing to do while we were in the vicinity of the Palace, at the bottom of the Royal Mile; thankfully our small ration of Scottish sun appeared to encourage us on our way. It would be nice if there were some simple maps available at the car park to outline the various routes for walkers to take as there is a difference in the gradients, not obvious on setting out. Still, an hour and a half got us up and down with plenty of time to take in the views.
Calton Hill is a bit of an AS Lite but still gives you a nice panorama of the city and the Firth of Forth.
Due to the inclement weather of the previous weeks, flooding had done some serious damage to the Water of Leith Walkway which would appear to be out of commission in some sections for quite some time to come. The section from Stockbridge to Dean Village is open and is a pleasant way to get to the Gallery of Modern Art by foot from New Town.

Galleries. Apart from the Gallery of Modern Art Two, managed to drop into the National Portrait Gallery (interestingly decorated inner atrium on ground floor) and the National Gallery itself (partly closed in preparation for a major exhibition, Van Gogh to Kandinski) which occupied us for part of a morning; main exhibition space was given over to classical works and unfortunately time didn't allow for seeing the Scottish section. All the galleries looked liked good spots for a coffee and a sit down. Not that we had the luxury of such indulgences - onward to the.....

Museums. Any number of hours could be whiled away in the National Museum, wonderful building now with the wing dedicated to all things Scottish; so much to be seen one needs to ration ones time to avoid viewing fatigue but a few hours just simply fly by. No point in advising what to see, follow your particular interests but you certainly will not see everything in a single visit.
A little less engaging was Surgeons Hall, more back in the era of the hushed silence and the glass case. More seriously scholarly than macabre, hard to figure who the museum would particularly appeal to. Aspiring medical students?

Pubs. Not in short supply in Edinburgh. Tried a few off the Royal Mile; the Bow Bar is a quiet unfussy place in the afternoon, old-style with a large range of beers that I had never heard of, pies for £2. The Halfway House and the Jolly Judge both seemed to have some locals about, despite being so close to Tourist Central.
Kay's is a homey little place in New Town, again a local friendly crowd.
The Cafe Royal is however the one to see above all others, you may have to skulk around for a while before getting a seat but the place is almost always buzzing. If you're eating, don't expect to get more than a single oyster for your £2 - there seemed to be nothing cheap on the food menu.

Restaurants. Something for everybody in Edinburgh. We were not intentionally avoiding Scottish places but we did stray gastronomically into Thai (Time 4 Thai) and Japanese (Bonsai), both of which we would happily return to. Iris is a pleasant spot in New Town with a French-leaning menu, relatively inexpensive.
Had a very nice lunch in Fishers in Leith; seafood chowder, mussels, fish cakes - simple well prepared fare.
Our blow-out was at the Castle Terrace restaurant - wonderful food at "wonderful" prices. Pull up your chair and savour what comes out from the kitchen. Mastercard will take care of the rest!

Other Highlights. Controlled our tendency to become sniffy about "tourist traps" and were rewarded by a very enjoyable hour or so in Camera Obscura, near the top of the Royal Mile. Endless displays of visual trickery with holograms, mirrors etc that should amuse all but those who are beyond amusement.
I'm sure it looks better on a sunny day but the Botanic Gardens still were worth visiting. Free entry to the acres of gardens with a charge for entry to the glasshouses; they are worth the entry fee - and it warms you up on a July day in Scotland!

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