Earlier this summer my husband indulged me on a crazy whim. The Spice Girls had reunited for a brief 2 week United Kingdom tour and I bought tickets. Yes, I woke up before the sun and ordered tickets months ago for a reunion concert for a 90s girl band...in Edinburgh. Life is short, enjoy the ride. So this June we packed our bags, boarded a plane and headed for Scotland.
The city of Edinburgh is (in my opinion) an incredibly easy city to walk. That being said everything always seems to be at the top of a hill or giant staircase. Sensible walking shoes are a must. Some of our favorite things to do within the city include:
The Royal Mile
This stretch of touristy shops really is a must do. It slices through the heart of Old Town Edinburgh and leads up to Edinburgh Castle. Lined with every wool and tweed shop you can stock up on all your souvenirs in one span. Lochcarron of Scotland was the label I really loved. It is made in Scotland and the line had beautiful weights of shawls and scarves.
Check out the Tartan Weaving Mill and Experience, once you are allllmost to Edinburgh Castle look to your right and you will see a typical souvenir shop— but wait! It is three levels and it is here you can by yardage (or meters) of true Scottish tartan that is woven on site! While they don’t carry every clan tartan, they do have all the usual suspects as well as some overall Scottish ones.
While we are down in this area, the castle is well worth the trip. If you plan to visit multiple castles I would recommend the Explorer Pass to avoid the lines. Once you are in make a beeline for the tour group station in the main courtyard (to the right next to the gift shop)and enjoy your time. The tours are completely free and you get a full walking overview of the castle grounds. They can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and it is a great way to see all the highlights and hear the stories. They also have a great tea shop on the premises. If you get there at opening and all the exhibit lines are crazy, make your way to the cafe and have an early lunch.
You are in the home of Scotch whiskies. Do yourself a favor and pop in to a local bar or tasting room and order a flight. They are incredibly knowledgeable on the different flavor profiles and can guide you through the different regions of Scotch whiskies. We headed to the Whiski Rooms and tried different flights. I’m new to the Scotch world… so peaty things are rough for me, I much rather preferred the Speyside single malts. All the whiskies we were served came with a pitcher of water you could choose to add to your glass (note: there are purists who drink it straight, purists who swear if you add water it makes the whisky bloom, and purists that might throw you out if you ask for ice).
When you are in this side of the world you must make time for tea. We had a few different experiences I would love to share. First is the budget friendly tea. This is a great option for a late breakfast while you are wandering around and just need some extra pep in your step. A cream tea is a tea service (usually a pot for one person that has 2-3 cups in the pot) as well as scones and cream. It is perfect amount to tide you over after looking at 14893 woolen shops and museums, but not fill you too much to miss a haggis lunch. The second is truly a wonderful and extravagant experience. Book yourself a table at the Signet Library at the Colonnades. Built in 1822, the law library envelopes you in gorgeous bookcases and carpeting. There are sweet little alcoves and sofas. Start off with a champagne toast and enjoy as trays of savories and sweets are served to you on china fit for a queen. Remember that you can always ask for a secondary tray of either, as they are complimentary!
We hope you enjoy a trip to Scotland soon. They are truly some of the nicest and friendliest folks we have had the pleasure of meeting. Don’t be scared to drive either! Although they drive on the left, everything (after the first roundabout) went smoothly and the drivers are incredibly patient.