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Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh – the capital of Scotland and one of the most amazing cities that one must visit! It’s full of history and whiskey. In all seriousness this city was so charming and we loved walking through the streets of medieval architecture. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you would be obsessed! 

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in an Airbnb in Stockbridge which was located right outside of the main city center. It was the perfect little humble abode, and our host Nigel was so sweet. He even had wine and chocolate biscuits for treats when we walked inside. Speaking of walking, we could walk everywhere and we did. 

There was a cute private garden across the street that you had to have a key to get into it. We walked there every morning on our way to the city with the Water of Leith running through. People would let their dogs roam around or take a nice stroll in the crisp morning air. With the sound of the water and nature around you, it surely was what you’d think a secret garden would entail. 

Around the waters of Leith, stands St. Bernard’s well. The structure has stood for more than 200 years. It was said to have medicinal properties to cure a variety of ailments, arthritis and even blindness.

Our first day in the city it rained, but we walked around town and ventured to the Scotsman Steps – constructed between 1899 and 1902, Originally the steps were built as part of the building for the Scotsman Newspaper. The 104 steps are all a different color of marble and now offer pedestrians to travel between old town and new town. 

We walked along the Royal Mile for a little bit, but had brunch reservations at a place called Urban Angel which we had googled was one of the best brunch spots in town. It did not disappoint. 

After we had some food and caffeine in our system we walked along Princes Street and through the Princes Street Garden. We were trying to find the floral clock, which is a beautiful floral structure and the oldest running clock in the world. However it’s seasonal and ended in October. Each year it’s constructed along the lines of a theme. This past year it was designed for the 350th anniversary of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. A new display is planted every year! At the top of the hill in the garden you can see the Edinburgh Castle, which we did end up touring the next day. 

We walked up to the Royal Mile again and ended up running into the David Hume statue. Hume was a philosopher and historian who lived from 1711 to 1776 and considered one of the Scottish Enlightenment’s most famous and enduring figures. It’s said if you touch the gold toe on the statue it brings good luck! 

Near by the David Hume statue is St. Giles Cathedral. The origins of St Giles’ date back to around 1109. It was a parish church built to serve Edinburgh during the reign of King David I. The church was originally granted to the Lazarites, and its dedication was to St Giles as the patron saint of lepers (and subsequently of Edinburgh itself). Interesting enough, it is technically not a cathedral as it does not have a bishop. You can see the design and reformations in architecture inside the church. It’s remarkably beautiful with high textured ceilings and stained glass art in the windows. It’s free to walk in, but donations are accepted. 

Outside on the ground of St. Giles Cathedral, is the heart of Midloathian. 

The heart marks the location of the entrance to Edinburgh’s Old Tolbooth – an important municipal building that was around for 400 years and was last used as a prison until it was demolished in 1817. You’re supposed to spit on the heart for good luck, but I in the midst of a pandemic I think touching the gold toe of David Hume will suffice. 

On our way to dinner and drinks we stopped by the Armchair bookstore, which was really neat inside. It’s a family owned bookstore and is just a quirky little spot to step in and see. The walls are lined with tons of antique books and it’s offers a cute place of noiselessness and serenity. A book lovers dream! 

Bennett’s Bar is one of Edinburgh’s oldest and most historic pubs and our first stop for the night. It was considered a “Men’s Only” establishment, but woman could come by and discreetly get their drink on through what was known as the the jug bar. Women would would discreetly hand a palmful of coins to the bartender through the serving hatch in exchange for a bottle of ale to take home. We ordered whiskey of course, sitting at the bar itself inside. Shows you how much history has changed! Cheers to that. 

After Bennett’s bar we trekked a block or two away to the Wild Cat Bar where we had more whiskey. Wild Cat is just a cool vintage vibe. It gave us speakeasy feels. We ended the night hear after a couple drinks and then walked back to our airbnb. *We walked about 20 minutes to our flat every night and always felt safe in the area*

Our second day in Edinburgh we decided to try a place we had passed when walking the Royal Mile the day before, called Lailas. You can’t miss it, as a pink building set between the medeival-like architecture will surely catch your eye. Inside they maintain a really cute pink, astetic equipped with a neon sign, an instagrammers dream. Even their food is “pretty.” We had their chicken and PINK, yes pink, waffles and each had a cocktail to start our day. It was delicious! Highly recommended stopping for brunch here. 

We ended up grabbing a coffee to go next door at Southern Cross Cafe, to drink while touring the city. The coffee was hands down one of the best coffees we’ve ever had! We almost wanted to try alllll of their desserts and I mean ALL. They’re right in the window display, taunting you to eat them, but we just settled for coffee – after all we just had pink waffles. 

Coffee in hand, we went to go tour the Edinburgh Castle. On the way there though we ran into a street performer who was playing the bagpipes!! You can’t go to Scotland without hearing bagpipes, so that was exciting to see! 

Of the things to see in Scotland, The Edinburgh Castle is a must. It is one of the oldest fortified places in Europe. It’s history is a long rich one as the castle has served many purposes from the residency of Scottish Monarchs to a military stronghold and prison. Today it is a museum. The castle itself sits on top of an extinct volcano, believe it or not, and the views from the top of the city below are stunning. 

Of course after touring the Edinburgh Castle, we did what any tourist would do when in Scotland – we booked a whiskey tour (through the Scottish Whiskey Experience). This tour was one of our favorites on the trip, and we kind of just stumbled in as it’s near the castle. You learn so much history about whiskey from not just Edinburgh, but around the different regions in Scotland. 

Our tour guide took us through how whiskey is made and explained the different flavors and blends from each region in Scotland. We walked through a vault of over 3000 bottles of whiskey!! And depending on which ticket you decide to book for the tour (we did the GOLD tour to be able to do the tastings), you can taste test a flight of different whiskeys  at the end of the tour. It was really interesting to taste and note the different flavors and blends from the highlands, low lands and to the coast of Scotland. We really enjoyed the tour. 

After the tour, we walked around the Royal Mile and just took in the scenery and the views. By then we had walked up an appetite and were getting hungry! We went to a cozy coffee spot called Black Medicine Coffee and ordered their chili bowls! It was the perfect combo, chili and pita bread with a warm cappuccino. Definitely hit the spot on a  chilly day (no pun intended). With some food in our bellies, it was time to bar hop! 

We continued our own whiskey tour and started at a place called Devil’s Advocate. It’s a cool brick lined pub hidden down an ally way. We only stopped in for one drink and ended up booking a Ghost Tour to do later on in the evening! Before the tour we continued on to the World Famous Frankenstein Bar, seems fitting right? It’s a huge bar, with three levels and three bars and boasts a gothic themed decor. We ended up taking a shot of whiskey to calm our nerves for the Ghost tour, keep treading  below to know why! 

For the Ghost tour we read some pretty haunting stories about it online. Our tour was through the “City of the Dead Tours” and we did the “Double Dead Tour” with our tour guide named Ian. The Double Dead Tour takes you to two haunted locations: one inside the South Bridge Vaults and the  

Covenanter’s Prison in Greyfriars Graveyard which holds the the infamous Mackenzie Poltergeist

We were a little scared because per the website it reads:

“WARNING: Can cause genuine physical and mental distress.  You join this walk at your own risk.” 

Our tour guide mentioned to us of reports of hot and cold spots. Ghosts that pull and tug on your clothes. A little boy ghost who steals your belongings. Women have been known to be knocked unconscious inside the moseleum where the Mackenzie poltergeist  is, so you can imagine it’s a little nerve wracking to be in pitch black darkness, walking around a graveyard and standing in a room with an evil spirit, hearing these stories. Ian was great though! He is very knowledgeable and comical and made the tour fun!! 

I think after a ghost tour though, you totally have to take off the edge. Ironically we started drinking at the bar I mentioned previously called Devil’s Advocate, and we ended the night at a place called Angel’s Share. Even more ironic, Angel’s Share was a term we had learned about on our Whiskey Tour. The term Angel Share refers to the whiskey aging process. The whiskey pulled to the outside surface of a barrel evaporates, resulting in the loss of water and alcohol over time. Years ago, whiskey makers were confused why their barrels would become half empty so the affectionately coined the term “angel’s share” for the whiskey lost as their whiskey barrels aged. Who knew angels liked whiskey too? 🙂 

After bar hopping and our ghost tour, it was time to go home. Back at our airbnb, we were still scared from the ghost tour, that it took us a while to finally go to bed! 

In the morning we had a late start and went to get a covid test done. In the UK you are required to do a test on day 2 of your stay. Technically this would be considered day 3, but they say your first day in the UK actually starts as day 0. You can either buy a test to be delivered to your flat, or you can go to a pharmacy to buy one and drop it off in one of their designated drop boxes. We ended up ordering a test, but we were afraid it wasn’t going to come in time as the delivery date kept changing, so we went to go find a test to buy. 

**But if you are in Edinburgh, and didn’t order a test for home delivery, we recommend going to Newington Pharmacy and purchasing a test for $134. You do the nasal swab yourself and follow the instructions inside the box to package your sample and mail it off. Your results come back in an email in less than 24 hours. And the do have ubers in Edinburgh, which we did to get to the pharmacy instead of walking to save more time to explore* 

We wanted to go do Arthur’s Seat hike, but we wasted much of our morning figuring this all out, to get it done, so I hope the latter helps save the hassle. 

For brunch we did come across a cute cafe called Union Brew Lab. We ordered coffee, salmon toast and doughnuts. Oh my gosh the doughnuts here were incredible and the salmon in Scotland is so delicious and fresh! It was another cute and cozy place for brunch, or a cup of coffee and I can see why university students would stop in and tend to their studies there. Starbucks who?? 

We DID stop by the graveyard we had our ghost tour at from the previous night. It’s always less spookier checking something out during the day. The graveyard is  called Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. The story behind it is a  Scottish Terrier named Greyfriar’s Bobby who spent 14 years guarding his owners grave until he died. He was 16 years old. We walked around the graveyard and saw the tomb where we went in for the ghost tour. It still creeped us out just looking at it! 

Victoria Street is where we headed next. It’s a touristy street, so as tourists of course we went to go see it. Beautiful colored buildings line the street and it is a pretty location to snap a pic of Edinburgh. There’s many shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, but we just walked through it on our way back to our Airbnb. 

Back at our airbnb we just took some time to chill out after a hectic morning with the covid tests. Of course when we arrived at the airbnb that’s when we saw our original tests had been delivered. Oh well. Hopefully this post helps others with information about taking the Day 2 test. I did use the Day 2 test to get back into the states as we did our test on the 11th, and I returned to the states on the 13th, so the negative test was still good for the three days. *Apparently you can use the Day 2 test to get back into the USA if it’s within the 3 days as it worked for me upon my return. 

I will add, these rules are what we followed as vaccinated travelers. Unvaccinated I believe is a little different, so we suggest looking up the information online according to their COVID testing restrictions and policies from the government websites of the specific country you’re visiting. We always do our research before traveling, which is what we should have also done for getting tattoos. I know it sounds random but: 

We had wanted to get tattoos in Edinburgh, if you do want to get a tattoo most places require you make a booking first. Most places close at 6:00 pm as well, which we learned was a mandate for most tattoo shops. We didn’t end up getting tattoos we loosely planned, and we had gone to a few different places to see if they took walk ins. 

But it was our last night in Scotland, so we did what you do in Scotland. Have a good time. Insert round 3 of bar hopping. These were the bars we recommend in Edinburgh. All of them had a cool or quirky vibe to them and unique in their own way. We started off at:

Blackbird. Where we had soup and bread. The soup was delicious!!! And we ordered a round of whiskey drinks. I had ordered a drink called popcorn whiskey. It was a glass of whiskey that came with a glass of popcorn and I assume you’re supposed to throw some of the popcorn in your whiskey drink to try, but I ended up just eating it. 

Raging Bull. Was our second stop. This bar was very cool. It had a funky vibe and speakeasy feel with cool crafted cocktails. The bar is known for their espresso martinis which we ordered two different ones and I attest they are very good!  

Bryant & Mack’s Private Detective Agency was probably my favorite bar in Edinburgh. I’m big on speakeasies, and this was truly a hidden bar. It was located on the side of a building, down an alley way. You wouldn’t know that it was even there, without having looked up the place. It’s cleverly discreet. The only sign it’s there is a frosted window with the name of the bar itself on it.  We were greeted by the host who is an eccentric, yet cool dude. The bar is small. I’d say only 20 people could fit inside. Their menu is a selection of cocktails from gin, vodka, whiskey and bourbon that they change on a regular basis so the menu isn’t always the same. It’s cash only, but there is an ATM that’s about a two minute walk away. 

**For a full guide on bars in Edinburgh you can check out “Global_Hour” on Instagram and go to the guides section! 

We tried to go to one more highly rated bar called Panda & Sons, but it was too busy and required a booking. We ended up at a local pub nearby and then decided to go to this Indian Restaurant for food that was open late. It’s called Indian Lounge and only about a 10 min walk from our airbnb. The grilled salmon and tikka Masala Chicken are perfection! 

We noticed in Edinburgh that there’s a lot of Indian and Asian cultural influence. You can pretty much find any type of food you want, sort of like how New York City is, if you have ever been. There is something for everyone! 

Edinburgh was really one of our favorite cities we have traveled. We never did get around to trying Haggis – a traditional Scottish food, and we’d love to go back and tour the highlands. I think we did drink our fair share of whiskey, but it was so fun bar hopping around town and learning the history of Edinburgh through the tours we did. If you haven’t been to Scotland, put it on your list and go!! 

To that we say “Guyne yer sel” the Scottish term for “Go for it!” 

Have you been to Scotland? Let us know where we should go next time or leave a comment for things you did or enjoyed while visiting! 

December 9, 2021

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