My husband and I, along with our niece, headed to Europe once again. What places did we explore this time? Well, that is what we are going to talk about in this post. This is the first post in a series, so be on the lookout for our next installment!

Because of the vast number of great places to visit in and around Europe, the task of selecting our stops was a bit daunting. We did manage to narrow it down to 5: Edinburgh, Scotland; Naples, Italy; Amalfi Coast, Italy; Mykonos, Greece; and Athens, Greece. In this post, I will be covering our first stop – Edinburgh, Scotland. Scotland was our entry point and our exit point. We had 2 days on the front end, and 2 days on the back end before heading home.

Where We Stayed

The Leonardo Royal Edinburgh, Haymarket offers clean rooms, hot water, and luggage storage at no cost. They do not, however, offer transfers to and from the airport. They recommend you either take the Airlink bus or a tram. The airport is about 30 minutes (minimum) from this hotel. On both our entrance and our exit, we pre-arranged our transfers, and both times, they were at least 30 minutes late. Uber seems to be the best option for getting around town, but they were not all Johnny-on-the-spot either. The lesson here is, you are not getting anywhere in a hurry in Edinburgh, so plan some extra time for your travels.

Leonardo Royal Edinburgh
Leonardo Royal Edinburgh

The hotel advertises they have a restaurant/bar in the lobby, and they do, but it is not full-service, and their hours are limited. Also, we found them to be out of basic items – like bottled water – quite frequently. They also say they are within walking distance to all the downtown hotspots. If your definition of walking distance is 30+ minutes, then their advertisement is correct.

Where We Ate

Dinner at The Fiddlers Arms at the Grassmarket

This is one of the best places to try local Scottish dishes.

Kraken with Apple Juice
Kraken with Apple Juice
Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties
Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties

What We Ordered

  • We started with breaded deep-fried Brie served with cranberry sauce and salad
    Sorry, we ate it before we could get a picture ūüôā
  • A local drink called Kraken with Apple Juice
  • Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties
    • Haggis is a savory mixture of Sheep‚Äôs pluck (heart, liver, and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt)
    • Neeps and Tatties is mashed potatoes and mashed turnips, drizzled in a homemade whiskey sauce
  • Bangers & Mash (Local butcher’s finest sausages served in a Yorkshire pudding with mashed potatoes and homemade whiskey sauce)
  • Mac & Cheese Pasta and a three-cheese sauce served with garlic ciabatta bread. We added pulled pork as a topper.
Bangers and Mash
Bangers and Mash
fiddlers mac and cheese
Mac & Cheese

What We Ordered

  • Brioche French Toast: Custard-Soaked Brioche Stuffed with Maple Syrup, Salted nuts
  • Peppered Beef Brisket: Spinach, Poached Eggs, Red Wine Sauce, Kibbled Onions
  • Coffee
Loudons Brisket Benedict
Loudons Brisket Benedict
Loudons French Toast
Loudons French Toast

What We Ordered

  • Cappuccino
  • Banana, Honey & Cream: Homemade Buttermilk waffles
  • Crispy Bacon & Maple syrup: Homemade Buttermilk waffles
  • Millionaire Short Bread (this was excellent)
banana waffles
Papii - Banana Waffles
bacon waffles
Papii - Bacon Waffles

What We Ordered

This was an Irish sports pub with all the noise! It was bloody crowded, and therefore not conducive to picture-taking.

  • Battered Fish & Chips: Crispy Battered Haddock Fillet, Hand-Cut Chips, Traditional Mushy Peas, Tartar Sauce, Fresh lemon
  • Biddy’s Burger: Chargrilled Prime Steak Burger, Isle of Mull Cheddar,¬†Caramelized Onion Chutney, Gem Lettuce, Tomato,¬†Served in our All Butter Seeded Brioche Bun
  • Mini Mac & Cheese

What We Ordered

  • Burger of the Week: Bacon, swiss cheese, and pickles
  • Mac & Cheese
  • Chocolate Orange Brownie with Ice Cream
B&B Grill House Burger of the Week
B&B Grill House - Burger of the Week
B&B Grill House Mac and Cheese
B&B Grill House - Mac and Cheese
B&B Grill House Orange Brownie
B&B Grill House - Orange Brownie

What We Did

The Scotch Whisky Experience is an attraction at the top of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. They have an insane whisky collection here! We booked A Taste of Scotland, which included both a Scotch Whiskey tasting as well as dinner at the Amber Restaurant.

Edinburg Scottish whiskey experience
Edinburg Scottish whiskey experience
Edinburgh Scottish Whiskey Experience
Edinburgh Scottish Whiskey Experience

What We Ordered

Starters

  • Ham hock terrine with apple and sage slaw
  • Vegetarian Haggis bon bon with onion jam
  • Smoked salmon with citrus dressing served with sourdough toast
Amber Restuarant Starters
Amber Restuarant Starters

Mains

  • Roast loin of Scottish venison, dauphinoiso potato and seasonal greens;
  • Chicken Balmoral with whisky sauce;
  • Steelhead Oban trout with smoked haddock, in cullen skink and leek (soup)
Amber Restuarant Mains
Amber Restuarant Mains

Dessert

  • Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce
Amber Restaurant Dessert
Amber Restaurant - Dessert
edinburgh castle
Edinburgh Castle at Night

Old Town has the Edinburgh Castle at one end of the Royal Mile and the Holyrood Palace at the other end. We visited all of these! Tickets for Edinburgh Castle must be purchased in advance, as you need to select your entry time. In addition to the Castle tour, we also purchased tickets for the Afternoon Tea Experience (more on that later). The location of the tea is on the castle grounds, in the Queen Anne building. As such, you need entry to the castle in order to attend the tea. The cost of Castle entry with afternoon tea was about £50~54 (British Pounds). With the exchange rate, our cost was $64.00 (US Dollars) per person. Your mileage may vary.

Edinburgh Castle is a stronghold that was once the residence of Scottish monarchs and now serves mostly as a museum. It stands 443 feet above sea level and overlooks the city of Edinburgh from a volcanic crag called Castle Rock.

Castle Rock has been the site of human activity for at least 3,000 years. The first king of Scotland known to have made his residence on Castle Rock was Malcolm III Canmore. He reigned from 1058‚Äď1093. His wife, Queen Margaret, died in the castle in 1093, and was later canonized as St. Margaret of Scotland.

Saint Margaret’s Chaple (photo below) is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, Scotland.¬† It is an example of Romanesque architecture and built around 1130 in honor of Queen Margaret.

St Margarets Chaple
Edinburgh Castle - St. Margaret's Chaple

If you are planning a visit, here are some additional details that might be important:

  • Plan on a minimum of 3 hours to tour the castle grounds
  • In addition to choosing your entry time to the castle, you will also have the option of selecting a teatime, presuming that is also on your agenda
  • We recommend planning your castle entry at least an hour before your teatime, so you have sufficient time to walk to the tea location

For those not familiar with British culture, you may be wondering, “what is afternoon tea?” It’s just lunch, right? Well, yes and no.

Afternoon Tea is a tea-related ritual, introduced in Britain in the early 1840s. It evolved as a mini meal to stem the hunger and anticipation of an evening meal at 8pm. More information about Afternoon Tea can be found here.

Edinburgh Castle Afternoon Tea
Edinburgh Castle - Afternoon Tea
Edinburgh Castle Afternoon Tea
Edinburgh Castle - Afternoon Tea

AMUSE BOUCHE

Pea soup

SAVOURY SELECTION

Beetroot-cured salmon blini, Katy Rodger’s creme frakhe, keta caviar
Ayrshire ham and Glenrath free-range egg finger, Arran mustard
Cucumber finger, whipped crowdie, Mara seaweed
Mull Cheddar, leek, crisp onion puff

SWEETS

Sea buckthorn meringue pie
Blacketyside raspberry and Fairtrade dark chocolate macaron
‘Millionaire’s shortbread’
Fife strawberry and pistachio Battenberg

SCONES

Freshly baked buttermilk fruit and plain scones
Galloway Lodge Preserves strawberry jam
Clotted cream

What Else Did We Do?

Victoria Street

Victoria Street is known for its connection to Harry Potter. We shopped here (a lot) and bought some tweed – one of the things Edinburgh is known for.

Edinburgh Victoria Street
Edinburgh - Victoria Street

The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is the heartbeat of Old Town. It runs between two significant locations in the royal history of Scotland: Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The name derives from it being the traditional processional route of monarchs, with a total length of approximately one Scottish mile (1.8072576 kilometers, or 1.1229778 miles). The Royal Mile is the busiest tourist street in the Old Town, rivalled only by Princes Street in New Town.

Edinburgh Scotland Royal Mile
Edinburgh Scotland - Royal Mile

We walked up and down this many times while in Edinburgh – for shopping, eating, getting cold medicine, and Kleenex :-). You may also see street performers doing magic tricks, juggling, or playing bagpipes.

Arthur’s Seat is situated about 1 mile east of Edinburgh Castle. The hill rises above the city to a height of 822 feet, providing excellent panoramic views of the city, and beyond. When reading reviews online, the journey to Arthur’s Seat is described as, “a 15-to-20-minute stroll” – when taking the “easy path”. The people writing these reviews have either a) never taken the trip up to Arthur’s Seat; or b) have a very different definition of the word “stroll” than we do. If there is an “easy path”, we never found it, despite what the map was saying.¬† It was treacherous, rocky, very muddy and very slippery. If you have short legs, you may struggle finding proper footing in some areas.

We took the trail at Salisbury Crags, and it was anything but a stroll; it was a full-on hike, and not for the faint of heart! This stroll hike started in the city behind us (see the picture below) and it took us over an hour to reach the top. Others on the path were clearly as exhausted as we were. It was a bit chilly, and even the young whippersnappers had sweat dripping down their faces, but let me just say, the view from the top was absolutely spectacular! It was definitely worth the hike.

If you plan to take this “stroll” up to Arthur’s seat, be sure to bring your hiking boots.

Edinburgh Top of Arthurs Seat
Edinburgh - Top of Arthurs Seat

Holyrood Palace and Holyrood Abbey

Arthur’s Seat overlooks the Holyrood Palace and the Holyrood Abbey, and we visited both. The palace is where the royal family lives when they are in Scotland, but what was really of interest to me was the Abbey. It was founded in 1128 by David I of Scotland. My 17th great-grandfather, King James II of Scotland, was actually born in Holyrood Abbey in 1430. At the time of our visit, the Abbey was in ruins, but had started undergoing renovations.

Note that there is a cost to enter Holyrood. At the time of our visit, it was around $21.00 (US Dollars) per person.

holyrood palace
Holyrood Palace
holyrood abbey
Holyrood Abbey
holyrood palace
Holyrood Palace
holyrood abbey
Holyrood Abbey

Dean Village

Dean Village is considered the most picturesque part of town. It features a lot of hills, narrow pathways, and a babbling brook. We were not particularly impressed with this area. It is possible we were just there the wrong time of the year. After strolling hiking up Arthur’s Seat, the last thing we wanted to do was walk uphill.

Edinburgh Lesson # 1: Everything is up hill, and it is always raining.

Oops! That’s 2 lessons …

Dean Village
Dean Village

Shopping

Edinburgh is known for cashmere, tweed and tartans. Top shopping areas are the West End, the Royal Mile, Grassmarket, and along Victoria Street. We shopped all of these options, as well as in New Town.

We left Edinburgh with some cashmere sweaters, fine wool scarfs, and a bit of tweed. Overall, Edinburgh is a great city for shopping.

How We Traveled

Outbound, we flew from Cleveland to Edinburgh. We also used the Edinburgh airport to fly to our next stop РNaples, Italy. We will have a blog post about Naples soon!

Pro Travel Tip: If traveling internationally into Edinburgh (EDI), make sure you use the toilet before getting off the plane. There is no facility until after you clear customs, and as you may know, that can sometimes take hours!

Take-Aways

Myself

I was excited about going to Edinburgh, Scotland as this is a place where I have ancestral connections. I would recommend using Uber over taxis for getting around town. The hotel we stayed at was not bad. I do think it was a little farther from where I wanted to be, but prices go up the closer you get to town center. I would choose to stay elsewhere next time. I highly recommend eating at Fidler’s Arms. If you want good coffee, breakfast, and baked goods, go to Papii. If you have an interest in learning about Scottish Whiskey, I highly recommend taking the Scottish Whiskey Experience.

Edinburgh castle was a win for me. It is just so old and has so much history. I was both humbled and awestruck walking through the castle, seeing the architecture, and realizing how many generations walked these same steps before me. If you have time while at the castle, I highly recommend doing the Afternoon Tea experience. I also recommend making the hike up to Arthur’s seat – if for no other reason than to see the view of the city. That one is checked off my bucket list, so I do not feel the need to do it again.

The Holyrood palace is ok; I can take it or leave it, but the highlight for me was the Holyrood Abbey. Even though it is in ruins (but currently being renovated), you could clearly see how beautiful the architecture once was. Because I have family connections here, it made this stop a very special one.

If you are in Old Town or in New Town, walking is an option. If you want to go anywhere else, walking is probably not your best option. Four days in Edinburgh did not even begin to cover what the city has to offer, let alone Scotland in its entirety. Of all the places we visited on this trip, Edinburgh offered the best shopping experience Рhands down! There are numerous things to do in Edinburg, and this just scratched the surface. Lastly, Edinburgh seemed to be really big on reservations Рeven for breakfast. I would recommend planning and pre-booking as much as possible.

I would go back to Edinburgh in a heartbeat!

My Husband

MY GOSH, that was a lot of walking … up hill … both ways! All kidding aside, the highlights in Edinburgh for me were seeing the rich history, the architecture, and of course, the food! Edinburgh Castle was a fabulous place to visit. Walking through it was like a time-warp, and it was very easy for your mind to wander and imagine what life was like hundreds of years ago.

One particular item of interest to me was the “One O’Clock Gun“, which is a cannon fired at 1pm every day. Ignore the scowl on my face; I really am having a good time!

one oclock gun

We do need to have a [brief] discussion about Haggis – that traditional Scottish dish that tastes pretty good until you realize what you are actually eating.¬†Remember growing up when your parents would say something like, “you don’t have to like it, but you at least have to try it”? Yeah, that is Haggis.

No, it does not taste like chicken. The texture is a bit like meat loaf, and it even tastes somewhat like meat loaf, but I assure you, it is not meat loaf! I have never cared for organ meat, so I suppose my issue here is with the what, rather than with the texture or with the flavor (or flavour). Seriously though, I would encourage everyone to try Haggis at least once – if for no other reason than to say you checked that one off the list – like strolling up Arthur’s Seat.

Over the past few years, I have taken a liking to Bourbon, so the other highlight for me was the Whiskey Experience. In a way, Scotch is Bourbon’s older brother, so I was very interested in learning about where it comes from, how it is made, and of course, the history of Scotch making.

Fun fact: Our guide for the whiskey experience was from the United States!

Would I go back to Edinburgh, Scotland? Absolutely!

My Niece

My niece’s takeaway was not quite ready at press time. Check back soon, as we will post it as soon as we can!

PS (random)

We tried a local fudge called Tablet. This is a hard crystalized fudge with next to no flavor. It was interesting to try but would not buy it again.

scottish tablet edinburgh fudge
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